One of the best new additions to Aperture 3 is presets. No longer do you have to wade through a very complex process just to apply a “look” as you did in Aperture 2. Now it is only a couple of mouse clicks away. Even better you can also utilize these presets upon import and potentially achieve a finished image quickly and efficiently. This has also given rise to a number of places who also sell and some that give away their personally developed looks through the internet. Not many of these has interested me. What has typically hampered me from purchasing them in the past is with a little time and effort I could develop a similar look myself or more importantly one that fit my own style and vision of photography better than something that was developed for someone else.
This changed when I saw the announcement from ApertureExpert.com regarding the addition of textures to two packages of presets that Joseph Linaschke was putting together. I have long wanted to experiment with textures and have done a little with OnOne Software’s Photo Frame. Though that piece of software does a nice job of getting someone started. There is one issue I have with it. Because it is a plug-in in Aperture there is also an increase in file size and workflow slow-down when using it. I have also done some experimenting in Photoshop CS5 with my own texture layers and some found at various places on the web. Again my only complaint there is it lacks the simplicity and tiny file size increases of having it apart of Aperture 3 itself.
When Mr. Linaschke announced that he was going to include textures in a preset for Aperture, I was a bit skeptical. At the same time he announced that they would only be less than $5 each, I was even more so. The only other presets I had purchased where some B&W film presets, which I have enjoyed, but for serious work I still typically open up Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and do the conversion there. Would I find these presets of value or just for experimenting as I did the B&W Film Presets?
After my very simple purchase from the ApertureExpert.Com website, I was first surprised at the size of the download and then I was also surprised when it didn’t arrive on my desktop in the form of a *.AdjustmentPreset file. On my desktop was a dmg file. So I double-clicked on it and OSX went about mounting the file. You can see the screen shot below. When you click on the mounted dmg you can see a very professional layout of this preset. Make no mistake based even with the low price, these presets are well done and very professional, you get that “feel” right at first and it doesn’t go away as I walk you through the rest of the review.
As can be seen in the screenshot there are two additions a User Guide which I provide a Table of Contents for in a screenshot and also a Guided Movie. The User Guide is brief and also includes information for ApertureExpert.com other Preset Pack Look’s. The Guided Movie is aimed at only the Textures Preset Pack. I have enclosed a link to the Guided Movie since it offers the power of how to use the presets and is the best selling point for any potential buyers of the product.
There is documentation in the on how to load the Presets so they are available in Aperture 3. After loading them they are easily accessed via the Presets button under the Adjustments pane. As with all presets you can see a small photo to see a view before you apply the preset. The previews load a little slow, but that is probably because of the large textures included inside of the Preset. As is stated inside of the User guide and in the movie the textures are from Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Custom’s site.
Using textures is very easy and having them readily available inside of Aperture 3 makes experimenting fun. Finding your vision as you use textures is not however. As you start to use the presets expect a learning curve as you work with the many curve’s adjustments that are available. The presets are meant as starting points, not end points. You’ll need to work with the Luma, RGB subtle and RGB extreme settings so you know which one to apply and when you like to apply it. I haven’t yet found much use for the Extreme settings, but I suspect as I get more and more involved in textures that there might be more value in their use.
When the preset is applied there are 5 curves settings and you can vary and adjust both the luminance and each individual RGB channel. Since this is a review and not a User Guide, I will keep my comments on their usage to a minimum. I will however add one point. Inside each Curve is a different texture. To achieve the final look that you see with your vision, I would encourage you to turn each Curve’s palette on and off and see how you like the results. You may find that having some off are better for what you see in each image.
Now we get to the value of the presets. At $4.95 for each preset pack they bring functionality to Aperture 3 that I currently don’t know exists anywhere else. In fact as I tried to re-create the presets I am uncertain how Mr. Linaschke even created them easily. I am assuming that he didn’t hand paint each of the textures in. Photo Frame from OnOne of course does more than just textures, but is a $259.95 program. You could always create your own and use Photoshop CS5 or any other Photo editor that is able to use Layers, but that means having to break-up your workflow by using a plug-in. You will also have to manage the large image file sizes. Though hard drives are inexpensive, it’s still nice to have all of those adjustments in one place. For those with even a passing interest in experimenting with textures, the value far exceeds what Mr. Linaschke is charging. I downloaded and received both packs, but for those that only want to experiment and to keep cost down I would suggest receiving preset pack #4. This pack offers a bit more breadth the preset pack #3. At $4.95 each I encourage you to get them both. It’s very rare that I have seen someone giving more value for the money spent, but in this case after using the presets, I would have paid $9.95 for each package.