DMA HOW TO: Get Great Color From Your Photos Using Aperture

By Jeff Sobel

Adjusting the saturation of an image can vastly improve your image quality. This technique is especially helpful when you want to adjust the color in the entire image, however not such a good solution for selectively adjusting color in only parts of the image. Today we’ll show you how to improve your image quality using Apple’s Aperture:  

Making Selective Adjustments
Aperture provides an often overlooked tool which is great for making selective adjustments. The Dodge and Burn plugin and it can be found in the Images>Edit With> menu, seen below:

The Dodge and Burn plugin can be selected in the image menu.

It’s a lot like sending your image to an external editor except that it’s more tightly integrated with Aperture. The name Dodge and Burn comes from the darkroom technique of using a card to dodge (lighten) or burn (darken) select areas of a photo print while it is in the chemical bath to manipulate the exposure of the photograph. 

The great thing about the D&B plugin is that it not only allows you to adjust light/dark but a half-dozen other effects as well, including saturation.

The Dodge and Burn plugin in Aperture 2 allows you to do the same thing with your mouse, without subjecting yourself to noxious chemicals. After working with Dodge & Burn you’ll quickly learn how to manipulate the color saturation in certain areas of your image while leaving other areas in their natural state (or manipulating those areas in a different way). 

Color Correction
A friend of mine got married last year in Golden Gate Park, the setting in the park was was beautiful—the grass and trees were a vibrant green. I found that even though I had a fairly shallow depth of field that threw the background out of focus the vibrant color of the plants was distracting the eye from the important parts of the image (the bride and groom!).

To separate the bride and groom from the background, we need to reduce the saturation of the plants and people behind the subjects. Unfortunately you can’t simply reduce the saturation in the whole image because that will take away from the bride’s amazing gown. That’s where the Dodge and Burn plugin comes in…Using the Desaturate setting I ‘painted’ desaturation onto the background. This process took some time but the end results are great.


mukh_1_thumb wedding photo edit
Here the color is consistent throughout the image. We need to mute the background to make the foreground subjects pop.



wedding photo edit 2
Now the bride and groom are the center of attention.

By applying the same effect to all your photos you’ll get a consistent look in all your photos—this can really tie an album together. Here’s one final example that has a similar look but was produced using a slightly different method. Instead of using the Dodge &Burn to desaturate the background in this photograph I first reduced the color by adjusting the saturation and vibrancy sliders in Aperture:


Before Editing Photo in Apeture


After Editing the Photo in Apeture
This image was finished by using Dodge and Burn and using the ‘Saturate’ setting to add color back into the photograph—carefully painting the bride’s dress and the flower lei each is wearing.

The Wonderful World of Color
Color can bring your images to life in amazing ways. By spending some time with the Dodge and Burn you’ll find it can do some pretty interesting things to your photographs. By developing your skills you can learn to create great digital images. Photography is not only a great way to capture a moment but a great way to set a mood.

Aperture is available for download from the Apple Store for $79.99