One of the key reasons I picked up Aperture over Lightroom was the prospect of free education.
And not just the regular Apple workshops within company stores featuring 60-to-90 minute lectures on products like iTunes, iPhoto, and Keynote.
What I wanted was access to Apple’s Pro Labs, which are the company’s in-depth classes on professional programs like Final Cut Pro, Logic, and of course Aperture. Pro Labs aren’t available in all cities, but I’m a NYC resident with access to several major Apple stores.
Pro Labs consist of four two-hour sessions giving students a total of eight hours of 100% free training with a highly-qualified instructor.
I walked in to the first session expecting to be the lone amateur in a group of professionals, but nothing could be further from the truth. In my group of six students, I was just one of two who owned a DSLR camera, and the only one to already own Aperture. One girl didn’t even own a digital camera at all!
No problem – Apple welcomes all, and the instructor even invited an onlooker to join the group.
Apple’s teaching material, much of which was presented in a Keynote slideshow, started out a lot more basic than I thought it would. The first class partially served as an intro to digital photography, discussing things like how a camera works, RAW vs. JPEG, stuff like that.
My teacher also discussed the major differences between Aperture and Photoshop, with an emphasis on how easy organizing one’s photos is with Aperture. Not surprisingly, Adobe’s Lightroom (a direct Aperture competitor) was not mentioned once through the entire 8 hours of training.
Given that I joined a “Pro Lab,” I thought I’d be in for something more advanced, but the lesson was valuable in that it ensured even the greenest beginners understood the lingo we’d be using in classes down the road.
In the second class, we began to learn more about how to organize photos in Aperture – how to keyword, manage projects, rate photos, and things like that. I’d used Aperture for a while before starting the Pro Lab class, but this class made an enormous impact on my workflow speed – particularly since I learned the value of some key Aperture shortcuts, namely the V key.
The third class, which featured a guest instructor, was all about adjustments, particularly when it came to color. Our new teacher was an absolute whiz with color theory, and taught us some really helpful things about how different colors across the spectrum offset each other. It made me look at the concept of white balance in a whole new way. We also went in deep with the level controls and screwed around with new Aperture features like presets.
However, I did space out a bit in this class when I discovered the new skin smoothing brush in Aperture 3 and started retouching a rough face in one of the sample projects.
Our final class showcased Aperture’s image exporting features. We learned about adjusting our colors for different printers, how to output web pages, how to send pictures to social networking sites, and make slideshows. Frankly, the whole class annoyed me because it showed off a ton of Aperture 3 features and made me regret not making the big upgrade yet!
In all, the Apple Aperture Pro Lab class is a fantastic way to do two things:
1) Learn all the most important Aperture fundamentals
2) Find out if you like Aperture
My recommendation is to take the class, even if you already own and use Aperture. You are bound to pick up at least a few tips and pointers that will improve your workflow. And if you’re a total beginner, you’ll come out of the Pro Labs knowing how to import, organize, edit, and output your photos – a complete workflow.
And did you forget that it’s all free! Just for the heck of it, I may take the Final Cut Pro Labs to see if it’s a program I’d like to add to my arsenal.
My only complaint is the name – Pro Lab implies that it teaches advanced concepts, while the reality is that the class was 100% focused on the fundamentals. I’m not complaining – but I think Apple should emphasize that these classes are targeted at beginners.