Aperture 2.1 Plug-Ins; Workflow Enhancements For Mac Users

Workflow has become an important topic in photography. I know it is for me. After a shoot, I’ll rummage through photos on a MacBook Pro trying to pick a few that are worth publishing on my Flickr page, saving several for my permanent archive, and using a small handful for Photoshop experimentation. Of course, you can browse photos on the digital camera itself right after you take a series of photos. And, Adobe has hinted that they may start working with camera makers to implement some rudimentary Photoshop-like editing functions on the camera itself. But every step you take after pressing the shutter release becomes part of a workflow. That’s why Aperture plug-ins exist. They simplify workflow by adding routine chores to Aperture, extending the product with more editing prowess, and make your workflow easier.

Aperture 2.1

Plug-ins also allow you to perform batch processes on a series of photos, and Aperture—which uses a nondestructive model where the program never touches original raw files—automatically creates a series of edited images you can easily export. All of these plug-ins are available as trial downloads at www.apple.com/aperture/resources, so you can try them out and see which ones best suit your needs. Each has a different final cost; I’ll price them out for you during my overview tour here. Be sure to check out the full, and growing, list on the Aperture portion of the Apple website.

By the way, if you have an idea for a plug-in you could even create one yourself. It’s fairly easy to create if you know how to do basic programming, understand the Cocoa API for Macs (basically, writing programs that use the Mac OS), and have a good idea for a plug-in. The plug-in SDK (Software Development Kit) is free and available at www.apple.com/aperture/resources.

Silver Efex Pro
All Photos © 2008, Jamie Larson, All Rights Reserved

Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro ($200)
As with any effects plug-in, the main goal is to simplify workflow so that you don’t have to take a trip to Photoshop. It’s always easier to stay in one program because it focuses your attention on the editing job at hand. I like Silver Efex Pro because it does exactly what I need it to do—turn vibrant color images into tonally interesting black and white photos. Silver Efex Pro does more than just remap colors into grayscale. In a photo of a statue, for example, I noticed how the clouds lost none of their original color vibrancy—a common problem when changing to a grayscale view. There are options for overexposure, antique, pinhole, and a Holga treatment (a toy camera made in China).

You can also make your own interpretation by adjusting brightness, contrast, and structure (grain), then naming the setting for use with other photos. As with most plug-ins, the quality of the effect depends greatly on the source image. In my statue image, with puffy clouds and a sculpted gentleman pointing to my left, the BW effect worked perfectly.

Noise Ninja

PictureCode’s Noise Ninja ($70)
For the low price, Noise Ninja works wonders—if your problem is noise in a digital photo. And what a problem it is: noise is so prevalent that it’s an easy way to distinguish professional photos from amateur shots. Reducing noise is easy in Photoshop, but in Aperture it’s a more manual adjustment. In a photo of daisies, for example, I found that the excessive noise in the middle of the flower made the image look unbearably blurry, but using Ninja Noise corrected the image without introducing new artifacts or blurriness. The plug-in can be used as a batch process on hundreds of images. On a MacBook Pro (2.6GHz dual core) with 603 raw images in Aperture, I reduced noise in all of them in just 15 minutes. Each image is just a hair under 10MB, so I was impressed with the speed and quality of the filter.

Noise Ninja