As you can probably tell, I love a deal. So, when I found out about Apple’s 30-day FREE trial of Aperture 3, its photo management and design software, I jumped on the chance. Aperture 3 is the most recent version of this software, just released this February. Note this program can only be used on Intel-based Macs running an operating system of Mac OS X v10.5.8 or v10.6.2 or later. Being a Mac devotee, and already familiar with Apple software such as iPhoto and iMovie, I figured that Aperture would have a similar interface and was eager to give it a try. I’ve never made a book with iPhoto, so given that iPhoto and Aperture books are printed by Apple, it was a good opportunity to try out Apple’s print quality. You don’t have to print your Aperture created photo books with Apple however, you can export your book as a PDF and print it with any photo book company that accepts PDF files.
Aperture does a lot more than provide a design tool for custom photo books, so for an overview of Aperture’s other features check out my Apple Aperture main review page. Here, I’m naturally going to focus on the photo book tool.
Here’s the stats:
|Cover:||Hardcover w/dust jacket|
|Price:||$85.75 + 6.87 tax + 8.99 (Fed Ex Ground stnd ship) = $101.61|
|Ordered/Shipped/Received:||June 21 / June 24 / June 30|
The Project – The Great Barrier Reef
One year later I’m still working on my honeymoon photo books. I say “books” cause this book showcases only one day of our two-week trip to Australia and New Zealand. It’s such a beautiful part of the world and a place I’d always wanted to travel to. It was so much fun experiencing it for the first time with my hubby and someday we hope to get back there. These photos also mark the very first time I’ve shot photos underwater – and what a place to shoot! The Great Barrier Reef is everything people say it is and more.
We rented a point and shoot camera with a specially made underwater housing at the last minute from the tour boat operator for about $65 USD and note that these were taken not while scuba diving, but just snorkeling. (I haven’t learned to dive yet, but want to!) These shots have a long way to go to measure up to some of the breathtaking underwater photos I’ve seen and aspire to, but I think they came out really good for my first time out. The Great Barrier Reef is just that amazing – I don’t think anyone can take a bad photo there! The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need an expensive or fancy camera. You just have to give it a try and take lots of photos. You’re only limited by the size of your memory card so just keep shooting. That goes for underwater photography or on land. One important tip I got from the resident tour boat photographer was to shoot where there’s plenty of natural sunlight and that definitely made a difference.
A final note about underwater photography – don’t delete your shots too soon and only do so in the field if you’re running out of memory. Many photos that I thought were for the trash, came out surprisingly better after adjusting levels in Adobe Photoshop. Everything shifts to the blue end of the spectrum underwater so you very likely have to do a little tweaking in a photo editing program. It’s not hard though. Most times I just hit the “auto levels” button and then adjusted brightness and contrast a bit.
For those who are interested, the camera we rented was the Olympus u1030SW which is a 10.1 megapixel camera. Wouldn’t have known but for the camera data that’s automatically recorded with the photos.
While it is supposed to be waterproof to 30 feet, it was also equipped with an underwater housing that allowed for complete control of all the functions. I loved my experience so much so, that we later bought an underwater point and shoot camera – the Canon PowerShot D10 for future trips under the sea…
The download from Apple’s site was pretty painless and before I knew it the program was up and running. I do have to admit one thing here, when it comes to using photo book software from any company, I don’t like reading directions. I occasionally check out video tutorials just to get a quick overview, but I like to jump right in and then if I have questions, I’m all over the FAQs and Google and we just go from there.
I found the software to be easy to navigate. I uploaded photos from iPhoto and selected one of 11 provided themes – “Journal”. I decided to go with the themed template and then tweak from there. You can fully customize your layouts in Aperture which should be expected given the cost of the program.
Once I selected my theme, a complete set of templates popped up to fill a 20-page book. Note that with Aperture’s hardcover books, not only can you customize the cover, spine and back cover which are printed directly onto the surface of the book, you get a matching custom dust jacket with inner flaps that can also be customized with photos or text. The dust jacket is included in the price.
The program works similarly to other programs, with drag and drop capability. You can resize boxes, create your own layouts, adjust the part of the photo that’s visible within the frame and add captions. The font selection at over 300+ was very extensive and you could choose any color font. I kept my changes very simple and pretty much stuck to the theme. I altered the layouts to best showcase my photos which brings me to one of the best features of the program – the ability to easily create 2-page spreads.
In fact, the program has more than 10 different preset two-page spread layouts so you can easily drag and drop a photo and have it automatically stretch across both pages of the spread. In other programs that do not have this type of layout ready-made, it’s often a crapshoot if you do it manually whether it will come out right. Here, as with all books with a gutter, you do lose a good amount of the image in the binding of the book, so it’s best not to put anything crucial that you wouldn’t want to get swallowed up in the center, like someone’s face.
Another cool feature is the map function. It’s a nice element to have in a vacation photo book. Even if your camera doesn’t have GPS tagging, you can make a map with Aperture. Just type in the city and possible matches pop up on the map. You can label the map and also choose to have it illustrate a path connecting the cities to show the route taken on your trip.
Now for some cons.
1) I wanted to have more control over the width of frames for the pre-made inset photo boxes. I couldn’t seem to get them adjusted.
2) While the program autosaves and is non-destructive when you do edits (which means you should theoretically be able to go back and access an earlier version of your book), I couldn’t figure out how to get to the earlier versions, despite using the help and also “googling” the issue
3) More themes would be nice – I understand that customization is the main highlight of this program, but 11 themes don’t offer enough variety.
Print Quality and Book Construction
The book came in a nice white sleeve with Apple’s logo on the front. Note that no other logo appears anywhere in the book itself, just on the white sleeve. I don’t know if that’s the case with the softcover books however.
The dust jacket was made with sturdy paper stock, but I know it’s going to get some wear and tear. I’m not a fan of dust jackets, but since it didn’t cost extra, and because the inside flaps were customizable, then why not.
The case binding felt sturdy and was neatly constructed. A textured gray overlay is glued to the inside cover and extends across to act as a cover sheet and was a nice touch. The same paper is covers the back page and rear interior of the book.
The book’s interior pages are printed on 100 lb. text gloss. It felt very similar to the touch to Blurb’s premium matte paper (also at 100 lb.) and Shutterfly (100 lb.) and Snapfish’s (110 lb.) paper, but was no where near as heavy as the pages in MyPublisher’s Deluxe 15×11.5 photo book (182 lb.). Admittedly I was a little disappointed that Aperture’s paper wasn’t as thick as MyPublisher’s Deluxe but with MyPublisher’s book starting at $68.75 for a 20-page book and Aperture’s starting at $49.99, there is a significant price difference. My 44-page book would have cost about $116.00 with MyPublisher as compared to the $85.75 I paid for Aperture’s largest book, so as with many things, you get what you pay for. (b/t/w look how easy it is to calculate book price for similar sized books using our Photo Book Wizard! Enter the number of pages of your book and get an instant price before shipping. Try it for yourself!)
I found Aperture’s print quality to be very good and detail shots came out sharp. Colors were well saturated, though I would have preferred some pages to print a little brighter. If I were to make another book with Aperture, I’d boost the brightness on any photo that I feel would benefit from it. Overall, I was very pleased with the quality of the book.
Would I use Apple’s printing service again? Yes, I liked the product and liked the customization. More photo book companies should take Aperture’s lead and offer a two-page spread – can’t be that difficult! Would I pay $199.00 for the Aperture software? Probably not now, but maybe in future if more photo book companies create a plug-in so that I can easily create books in Aperture and know that when I upload to a given company that I’m going to get what I think I’m getting. Currently, some high-end photo book printers (that to my knowledge only work with pro photographers and not consumers) have created plug-ins for Aperture that greatly streamlines the process. They have created pre-set templates for each of their photo book products which makes the process more certain and you know you’ll get proper support if you have any issues.
I wasn’t able to find much detail on final Apple Aperture print quality on the Internet, so I hope this helps other Mac owners who are considering the program or want to print books with Apple. No reason not to check out the free 30-day trial!
What do you think of Apple Aperture? Add your comments below!
Check out the main Apple Aperture review page
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7/16/2010 Update: Have you wondered if there’s any difference in photo book print quality between iPhoto and Aperture 3? Check out my post.