January 14, 2009

JPEGS in Aperture

Sometimes less complicated is good. A reader sent me this quote and inspired this post.

ECONOMY IN ART IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OF EFFORT AND EFFECT.
–JOSEF ALBERS

I recently purchased a Panasonic LX3 digicam. It shoots in JPEG or RAW mode, but while waiting for the RAW converter in Aperture, I have been shooting JPEGS. As someone who’s spent the last several years shooting exclusively in RAW, this was a shock to my system.

But then, I realized, it was also a bit freeing. It meant images would not have to be decoded by Aperture. It meant that images would pop up on the screen more quickly and be easier to work with. It meant that even if I worked in the highest quality JPEG mode, I’d no longer worry about spending time waiting for complicated changes to take effect.

What I sacrifice in quality, I get back in speed, convenience and time. While this isn’t a trade off I’ll want to make every time, I am enjoying the camera and find that Aperture’s ability to work with JPEGs. is impressive.

For instance, Aperture will treat my imported JPEG as my master file. Just as it does with RAW files, Aperture will look at my JPEG as a digital negative. It won’t make changes to my original. It will in fact be untouched.

Back in the Photoshop days, if I worked with a JPEG file, I had to save an extra version of the file if I wanted a protected original. Over time, this meant storing at least two images for every one I wanted to keep. Eventually, hard disk drives get filled up that way.

In Aperture, you can use a workflow that would be a train wreck in Photoshop.

1) Import a JPEG into Aperture,
2) make changes,
3) close the file,
4) re-open the file,
5) make new changes or delete old ones,
6) close the file again.

Since Aperture doesn’t apply the changes until you export the photo to a printer, web page, book, e-mail, etc., you have no reason to worry about “stepping on” your JPEG. You won’t be degrading the JPEG in Aperture when you save it. In Photoshop, each time you save and re-save a JPEG, you’re degrading it. Not so in Aperture.

With the exception of the RAW controls, every command in Aperture that works with RAW files, also works with JPEGs. It just works faster. And of course, all the compare, select, keywording and publishing tools work with JPEGS too.

Please note, this post is NOT about advising you to shoot in JPEG mode rather than RAW mode. It’s about letting you know that if you do shoot in JPEG mode, you can still use Aperture’s cool features to manage your digital photography.