I’m excited to see Apple add a Dodge and Burn filter to Aperture, but I’m disappointed in the way they implemented it.
Dodge and Burn has been at the top of my Aperture feature wish list for some time. Thus it was with great delight that I saw this useful feature listed for the Aperture 2.1 update which was released on Friday. Almost any photo can use at least a bit of selective lightening and brightening, but until now the only way to do this was to use the Edit with External Editor feature in conjunction with Photoshop or some other image editor. This meant that most of the time I usually skipped this part of post-processing.
So finally we can use Dodge and Burn within Aperture. But wait, why isn’t it listed along with the other adjustments in the standard HUD?
Instead, it’s listed under the Image menu.
The window for applying dodge and burn looks like this:
I could care less where it shows up in the UI. But this UI difference reveals a key difference in how the feature actually works. The Dodge and Burn in Aperture 2.1 doesn’t work in the same non-destructive way as the other adjustments. Instead, a new version if your image is created, and the changes you make while doing your dodging and burning are applied to that new version, modifying the actual pixels of the image. A quick inspection of the Aperture library in the Finder shows what’s going on:
Highlighted in blue is the original RAW image (14.1 MB). Highlighted in red is the new version that was created when I applied Dodge and Burn: a 76.8 MB Photoshop file (the format used can be set in Preferences).
By this point I’m sure you can see why I’m disappointed in this. One of the key features of Aperture is the non-destructive way Aperture records the instructions of the edits you have done to an image, instead of modifying the actual pixels of the image, and applies them in real time. This saves space (you don’t have duplicate pixels), and allows for powerful features such as Lift & Stamp. None of this is possible with Dodge and Burn.
I realize there are probably technical reasons for this, but I don’t completely understand them. Aperture already does pixel-level editing with its Retouch and Spot & Patch tool. What is so different about dodging and burning?
I should point out that overall I am excited to see Apple continue to respond to photographer’s needs, and add features like this. A welcome addition is that Aperture’s new tool also allows you to adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness and blur. Most significant to this update is the fact that any third party can now develop editing plugins for Aperture, which will open up a multitude of possibilities. According to Ars Technica [BTW, does anyone else think they have a terrible name?], a number of third parties are already developing plugins, including PictureCode’s Noise Ninja. I will be especially happy to see this, since I find Aperture’s noise reduction quite unacceptable.
Update: Adobe today (April 2) announced Lightroom Beta 2, which adds similar editing features, but implements them the right way (in my opinion) within the existing workflow. Read more on Ars Technica.