My Very Own Aperture 3 Review

by Mike on April 18, 2010

UPDATE – Aperture 3 is now just $79 if you download it through Apple’s Mac App Store

UPDATE – For the lowest price on Aperture 3, check out Amazon. The price usually hovers around $167-175,┬ábut just hit $159.99 making it by far the best deal on Aperture 3. Scam sites can’t even match this!

As a person who runs a blog devoted entirely to Apple’s Aperture software, I have had no excuse for not upgrading to Aperture 3. But yesterday, my upgrade finally came in the mail and I’m now very happily running Aperture 3 and wanted to write a review.

Aperture 3 Review Quick Summary:

  • easy to use
  • snappy performance (most of the time)
  • skin smoothing is awesome for people pics
  • curves feature is a much-needed and welcome addition
  • presets!
  • awesome bang for your buck
  • fantastic organizational features
  • faces and places

Get the best price on Aperture 3

…and the full review:

The Installation Process

The Aperture 3 installation process was very smooth for me. No hiccups, no error messages or anything like that. Once my Macbook got going, I rambled over to the recliner and watched Thrashin’. The updating process was complete by the time the movie finished. So it took less than an hour-and-a-half, though keep in mind that my image library is JPEG-heavy. RAW files will slow you down.

Image Quality

Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but my pictures somehow look better on screen than they did in Aperture 2. I’ve heard nothing but glowing things about Aperture 3’s RAW conversion quality, but I don’t know what’s going on here. My JPEGs have a crispness they didn’t before. Again, this could all be in my head but I really like what I see.

Please Turn Off the Faces Feature NOW!

Please, turn off the Faces feature by going to the Aperture menu, then selecting preferences, then General. Uncheck the Faces box, and you’ll see speedier performance out of Aperture 3. Besides, it’s more efficient and smarter long-term to keyword your images in Aperture. (will discuss in a later post) In Aperture 4, this feature should be turned off by default.

Skin Smoothing! YES!

For me, this feature is worth Aperture 3’s price alone. The new adjustment brushes are pretty awesome but the skin-smoothing one takes the cake. It is an absolute breeze to use and it will spruce up any portrait in literally less than a minute. Just select a pic with someone’s face in it that needs a little, um, help, go full-screen with the F shortcut, then hit Z to zoom in on the face. Then hit H for HUD, select adjustments, then quick brushes, and you’ll see skin smoothing at the top of the menu. Play with the brush size, softness, and strength options, and start painting the effect on! (hint – a little goes a LONG way)

I Love Curves!

No, I’m not talking about Joan Holloway here. I’m talking about the fact that like Photoshop, Aperture now has a Curves feature which gives you fast control over the color and contrast in your photos. This is a feature I’m going to be working with quite a bit because it can do what several other image-processing controls do, all at the same time. Thanks Apple!


Yes, Aperture can finally do presets! This is really big for Aperture users, especially since you can preview the effects of presets as you scroll the Presets tab within the Adjustments menu. Built-in presets include the black and white conversion options (yellow, orange filter, etc.), white balance, color options, and basic enhancements. Within, there’s some fun stuff like a toy camera preset for all the Holga and Diana F+ lovers out there.

Full-Screen Browser

In Aperture 3, you can now browse through your photos in full-screen mode, which is great because it allows you to see everything just a little bit bigger and without any distractions.

Better Slideshows

I am a slideshow junkie and Aperture 3 has made some improvements here, mainly the addition of an export feature so you can quickly turn slideshows into videos, and the ability to integrate video files. It looks a lot like iMovie now, which is a good thing for me. However – I’m looking in the direction of Final Cut Express as a slideshow solution going forward because I simply want more bells and whistles. Windows users have many more options here.

Flickr/Facebook Integration

I’d like to think that this feature would allow me to abandon my Flickr Uploader and the goofy Facebook photo-uploading process forever – but it appears that Aperture 3 defaults to create new albums on Flickr and Facebook when you click the buttons on the toolbar. I’ll have to investigate these features further before screwing around with it. For now I’ll use it for uploading entire albums at a time.


Aperture 3 can recognize GSP and location data embedded in your photos’ metadata and create a map of where your photos were taken. Not a big deal for me because I’d rather just use keywording and until GPS capability is built into a camera I own, it’s not worth the hassle of handling it all manually. I’ll pass.

What’s Missing?

The number one feature I’d like to see in Aperture 4 is a lens distortion correction filter. I’d also like to see Aperture, even in a scaled-down version, be made available for the iPad. And some folks might like an HDR feature, though there is a plug-in available. Beyond that, Aperture 3 does just about everything I need, and does it quickly and easily. Maybe it would be helpful to have a tailor-made eye/teeth whitening feature?

The Final Verdict

I love Aperture 3. I can download hundreds of pics, pick my favorites, delete the crap (I produce a lot of crap), and get to editing in a matter of minutes. From there, Aperture can do everything I need – black & white conversion, sharpening, noise reduction, cropping, curves, levels, skin smoothing, and retouching.

Most importantly, Aperture 3 keeps my photos organized, which I believe is the number-one problem facing amateur photographers. The days of having folders and sub-folders and sub-sub folders are gone. If I want to work with the original version of a photo, I just hit the M key and start over with zero hassle.

The combination of powerful image-editing tools and world-class organizational features in one affordable package makes Aperture 3 way better than Photoshop CS5, at least for me.

My only complaint is that Apple should set the minimum memory requirement to 2 gigs – and having at least 4 is ideal if you’re going to be doing a lot of editing.

Two thumbs up – if you’re a Mac owner that loves to take pictures, Aperture 3 will make your life easier, which is worth way more than $180! Just turn off Faces. Seriously.

Order Aperture 3 on Amazon

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron May 3, 2010 at 10:24 am


Nice review – and helpful, too.

I just upgraded to Aperture 3 and support for Foveon X3F files is still missing. This really should be a match made in heaven, with the superior image quality of Foveon and processing of Aperture. The two small players could really push this big, I think, and there have been a lot of blogs and other input to Apple pushing it.

Any word if anyone at Apple is listening?

Thanks again –

Ben July 15, 2010 at 6:19 pm

great review, thank you!
I’m still tossing up between the 2 packages, despite being almost convinced on Aperture 3, there is 1 very important function missing from it, a function I use a lot – it cannot stitch photos together?!?

Tony July 24, 2010 at 10:54 am

On photoshop you can do layering. Is there anything on Aperture 3 that does the same thing as layers on photoshop?

Phil July 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Tony, I’ve used AP3 for 4 weeks now, rather heavily. No, it does not have layers like Photoshop. I will use CS4 or CS5 for special images that need layers. AP3 is not meant to replace Photoshop, but it is like Camera RAW ‘deluxe’ with ‘Bridge Deluxe’ too. That’s a crude description, but I see AP3 replacing my use of Bridge, but not Photoshop.
Even though you don’t have layers in AP3, you can do something that mimics it to an extent. You can create multiple adjustments for a specific image. E.g, if you apply a curve adjustment to the sky, and want to apply a different curve to the water, then just create another adjustment curve, and ‘paint’ the curve to the water. Not as elegant as layers, but accomplishes the same thing. Hope this helps.

s austone December 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

But A3 doesn’t have layering function; that is a big difference from Elements 9
Do you think Apple is planning on adding that feature?

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