Aperture and Lightroom offer a whole new way of working. They are both powerful image-cataloguing tools and RAW converters which have non-destructive image-editing tools built in.

Sometimes you still need other image-editors or plug-ins, but both programs are designed to work with these – most mainstream plug-ins now come in Lightroom and Aperture versions as well as the traditional Photoshop plug-in format.

What’s more, both Aperture and Lightroom support ’round-tripping’. This means that you can send an image to your external editor, make your changes, save it and have it appear back in Aperture or Lightroom as a new image alongside the original.

It’s a really quick and simple way of working, and as an example I’m going to locate an air show shoot I’ve got stored in Aperture, send a picture to Silver Efex Pro for a vintage sepia treatment and show how Aperture handles the edited file. This is just an example. It works just the same with other plug-ins or external apps, and you can do exactly the same thing from within Lightroom.

Aperture and plug-ins

I like this shot. The main subject is the old car, but I framed it to include the figures in the background, gazing up into the sky at some unseen object. I thought it had an odd, enigmatic look – but it doesn’t work particularly well in colour.

01 Aperture tweaks

Aperture and plug-ins

First of all, though, I want to check this picture out using the editing tools in Aperture. It’s a RAW file, so this is my chance to make sure it’s got a full range of tones. I’ve spotted that the brightest parts of the sky are clipping, so I’ve used the Recovery slider to bring these back (the right edge of the histogram is no longer clipped) without affecting the tones in the rest of the image.

02 Opening external editors

Aperture and plug-ins

Now I can right-click the image and choose my external tool. These come in two types: external editors and plug-ins. Aperture supports just one external editor – you set it in the application Preferences, and I’m using Photoshop CC (see, I’m not biased!). But you can install as many plug-ins as you like, and these appear in the sub-menu directly below.