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Apple Aperture 3 Review

Aperture 3 is designed for high-volume photographers who put an emphasis on processing, organization, and file management. Aperture 3 is a very reasonable alternative to professional photo management products because it offers solid editing capabilities. Buy Now

Natalie Gialluca

Natalie Gialluca

Photo Editing Software Expert

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Updated: January 11, 2014

The Good

Extensive organization and file management options:

The strength of the Aperture 3 program rests in its library system. From the extensive keyword and metadata features to the photo stacking tools, the product has numerous organizational options. Some of the image file management options include tethered image capture, which will speed up your image handling, and vault creation, which provides additional storage alternatives. Pairing these features with the usual import/export, merge, and file location choices gives Aperture the leg up when it comes to file management. Plus, all of these possibilities operate in an easy and efficient manner once you master them.

Facial recognition and geotagging metadata features:

The facial recognition feature provides a quick and easy way to tag and organize your images by the bunch. You will have to go through a brief teaching/learning process with the program first, but it's well worth it. In addition to all of the usual catalog features, the Aperture library system also includes a location-based, GPS geotagging system with the usual pushpins in a Google Map.

Filter effects preview:

When you scroll through the effects options in Aperture, a mini-preview window fluctuates to show the changes made on an image before they are applied to the actual image file. The good thing about this feature is that it may save you the hassle of having to undo on a regular basis, which will prevent a number of potential headaches from happening in the first place.

Exceptionally detailed help articles and video tutorials:

While they lack in-person support, Apple delivers when it comes to their help articles and video tutorials by putting together an impressive collection of information to answer questions and serve as an overall guide. Explicit help articles are found as a part of the Aperture Online Knowledge Base,which also includes FAQs, a link to the community forum, and targeted video tutorials where you can gain a wealth of information by walking through the 'how-to' processes.

Nice selection of image sharing and publishing alternatives:

Sharing options are facilitated by including direct Facebook, Flickr, and Photo Stream integration into the product. Printing everything from custom presets to contact sheets, saving to Web galleries, operating slideshows, and ordering prints online are all part of the Aperture 3 package.

iCloud Photo Stream 30-day running image backup:

The iCloud Photo Stream is an online backup that keeps a running 30-day collection of your images on Apple's iCloud. You can upload, store, and integrate your other devices with iCloud so you will always have your latest photos at hand without taking up space on one of your devices. To get iCloud working, all you have to do is sign in and the automatic syncing will take place in the background as you work.

The Bad

Limited photo editing options:

The image processing functionality, while still very effective, doesn't quite reach the professional level of the competition. Moreover, a lack of anything beyond basic photo editing is less than ideal when you believe you are purchasing a photo editing product. As a piece of stand-alone photo editing software, Apple Aperture fails to measure up to even basic software packages. However, for most photographers, it will function as good as or better than any other product when it comes to image organization and management, while still providing more than adequate image processing experiences for many users.

Somewhat confusing, although familiar, interface:

As you would expect, Aperture follows the traditional Apple interface path to the letter with the standard gray theme and minimalist approach. Unfortunately, this inflexible setup overreaches to the point that it can be difficult to find and execute specific tasks. Many simple actions are hardly what most people consider intuitive. Some of the functions that are performed automatically in other software packages can take multiple steps to complete in Aperture. However, the product does include a number of nifty features that simplify the process once you find them.

Comparatively weak image processing:

If you need strong image processing functionality, then Aperture 3 might not be the product for you. However, if your primary needs fall in the areas of image organization and file management, and you are not bothered by a comparatively clunky interface, then Aperture 3 provides solid functionality wrapped in a solid product.

No in-person support option:

Apple does not provide any in-person support contact (email, phone, or live chat) options for Aperture 3, which can be frustrating if you are having problems with the functioning of software or learning how to use it. They do offer an exceptional assortment of detailed help articles and video tutorials to address these concerns. However, this can take time to navigate and find what you need. If you value in-person customer support and think it may save you some time, you probably want to avoid using Aperture.

Zero digital painting/drawing capabilities:

Since Aperture 3 is primarily an image processing and file management software, it doesn't include any painting or drawing capabilities, which is not terribly unexpected for a product of this type. It is still worth noting that you will need an external program to handle these types of edits if you want to go with Aperture.

The Details

Free Trial N/A
Platform Mac
Price $79.99
Upgrade Cost N/A


Advanced Editing

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  • 16-Bit Image Editing - You can edit 16-bit images.
  • Advanced Color Image Operations - You can perform color image operations such as color correction, color zones, color transfer, and vibrance.
  • Audio Editing - You can perform basic audio editing within the software.
  • Black-and-White Conversion - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using any number of methods.
  • Blur - You can soften the detail of an image.
  • Color Adjustment Tools - You can use a tool to replace missing color or match existing colors.
  • Color Management - You can maintain color quality as an image moves from device to device.
  • Color to Grayscale - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using this specific method.
  • Effects - You can add general effects to an image.
  • Exposure Adjustment - You can adjust the exposure of an image.
  • Filters - You can use any of the standard filter types to alter images.
  • Image Correction - You can brighten shadows, fix unwanted flash, and repair backlight effects.
  • Image Zoom - You can enlarge or shrink the view of the image, in part or in total, as needed.
  • Nondestructive Editing Environment - You can make changes to image without altering the original version.
  • Post-Processing Effects - You can create effects after processing to include framing and vignetting.
  • Reshaping, Manipulating, and Resizing - You can enhance, enlarge or reduce images, cut images to predefined or custom formats, and measure and mark image content.
  • Retouch Brush - You can remove blemishes, dust and other unusual elements from images while maintaining its integrity.
  • Saturation/Warmth - You can control the strength and warmness of a color
  • Selection Options - Once you have made a selection, you can set aspect ratios, adjust selection sizes, move selections, turn the selection into a mask and/or add feathering to the edges.
  • Sepia Enhancement - You can add a sepia (brown-gray) tone to an image.
  • Shadow and Highlight Adjustment - You can control the levels of shadow and highlights in your image.
  • Sharpen - You can enhance the detailed edges within an image.
  • Watermarks - You can create savable, personalized, and usually semi-transparent watermarks for your images.
  • Add Grain/Noise - You can add graphical identification metadata to your images.
  • Blend - You can blend areas of an image together.
  • Collage - You can create a collage of images.
  • Control Points - You can use control points, a series of small squares placed on the edges and corners of a rectangular selection, to modify a selection by dragging the small squares as needed.
  • Distortion Control/Correction - You can reduce pincushion and barrel distortion effects.
  • Generate Mosaic Images - You can create a single large image made from a number of other smaller images.
  • Gradients - You can create smooth transitions between adjacent colors.
  • Layers - You can make changes to images on individual sheets that can be stacked to form the combined image. Each layer can be adjusted without changing the other layers.
  • Masks - You can protect certain areas of an image from being modified.
  • Photo Text Entry - You can type right on the image you are working on and see the text in real time.
  • Selection Tools - You can use different tools to select an area of the image to work on, including the circle, square, wand, and/or lasso.
  • Support for Custom Palettes - This software supports custom color palettes.
  • Templates - You can create project or metadata templates.
  • Text Effects - You can add effect to text, such as drop shadows, 3D, perspective, curved text, and path text.
  • Transformations - You can trim, skew, scale, flip, mirror, rotate, and/or add perspective to an image.

Digital Painting

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Learning Materials

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Professional Editing

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Standard Editing

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Standard Photo Management

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Advanced Photo Management

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File Management

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Third-Party Integration

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Aperture 3 costs $79.99, and there is no free trial available. However, the retail price includes access to the iCloud Photo Stream, a 30-day running image backup and disseminator.

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