One of the biggest advantages of shooting RAW is the extra dynamic range in your files – but how do you recover those blown highlights? Here’s how to maximise dynamic range in Aperture, while minimising the impact on your overall exposure.

It’s done using Aperture’s Recovery slider, which pulls back extreme highlight detail without affecting the rest of the tones in the picture. Lots of RAW converters aim to do exactly the same thing, but in my opinion Aperture does it best. To me, the highlight recovery tools in other programs affect too much of the tonal range, encroaching on the midtones and reducing both the overall exposure level and the contrast.

Even in Aperture, you sometimes have to accept compromises, but I reckon if you do things in the right order, you’ll keep these to a minimum and get the best possible results from tricky exposures.

This shot is a great example. The side of the building is in shade, and behind it is a bright blue sky – only you wouldn’t know it at the moment because it’s been overexposed almost to a blank white.

Aperture highlight recovery

01 Check the histogram

Aperture highlight recovery

When I open it up in Aperture, the problem is obvious straight away. The histogram display, top left, shows that the bright sky tones have been clipped at the right-hand end of the histogram.

02 Full-screen mode

Aperture highlight recovery

I’ve swapped to full-screen mode here because it’s easier to see what’s going on – just tap the F key. I’ve also hit the Z key to zoom in – but did you know you can adjust the zoom ratio in Aperture? When you zoom in it displays a navigator panel (on the right hand side in this screenshot) and below that the zoom magnification as a percentage. If you drag left on this percentage value, you can reduce it to whatever value you like, and 50% is just about perfect here.