03 Maximum Recovery
Now the first thing to try is the Recovery slider. Push this to the right and watch the histogram at the same time. You’ll see the extreme highlight region of the histogram pull back, and if you’re lucky the remaining ‘tail’ of the histogram will pull back completely.
In this case, even the maximum Recovery value doesn’t quite achieve that, but you can still see from the histogram that it’s recovered a lot of blue data in that bright sky. It’s still not quite enough, but it means that in the next step – the Exposure slider – we will need a much smaller adjustment.
04 Exposure adjustments
If you’ve used the maximum recovery value and it’s still not enough, you’ve probably extracted almost all the extended highlight detail in the RAW file already. You can use the Exposure slider to recover more, but be warned that you may simply be recovering ‘dead’ data – you’ll get off-white highlights rather than any more detail.
Here, I’ve dragged the Exposure slider back to deepen the blue tone in the sky, but you’ll see that the histogram now ends just a little bit before the right-hand edge of the scale. This RAW file has delivered all the extra highlight detail it’s got, so to go any further with this adjustment would make the image darker still with no gain in highlight detail.
05 Shadow enhancement
The strength of the adjustment needed to make the sky look good has left the rest of the shot looking quite dark, so I’m using Aperture’s Shadows slider to lighten up the dark tones. This is not the shadows equivalent of the Recovery slider – there isn’t one, in fact. Instead, it’s a bit like the Shadows/Highlights adjustment in Photoshop, attempting to lighten the existing shadow tones in the picture without affecting the rest.
It works reasonably well, but can reduce the contrast unacceptably, so you’ll probably need to increase the Mid Contrast value too. It’s a balancing act in that you have to balance the brightness improvement against the overall image contrast.
06 The finished picture
This is a lot better. The RAW file had captured the blue tone in the sky, and Aperture’s Recovery and Exposure tools have done a great job in bringing it out. This has resulted in a slight darkening of the image, but not enough to harm it unduly, thanks to a subtle but useful Shadows adjustment.
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