traveling and meeting other cultures: ideas, destinations, reviews and tips
Apple Print Products - Aperture Books
Lightbox (21) Tags: aperture-3 digital-camera photography printing software Posted: Nov. 3, 2010 by Vassilik
The book was delivered to my home smartly packaged so that no part of the book (most important its corners could not be bended or damaged). Inside I found my album in clear plastic envelope inside a hard-sided book sleeve.
The book sleeve has the Apple logo - the only marking in the whole album that shows the Apple origins of the book.
Aperture books are available in five (5) sizes, from an extra-large (13 x 10-inch format) to small (3.5 x 2.6 inches). I ordered the largest (and alas, most expensive) but it turned out to be very impressive especially sitting on my coffee table (that is the whole point, isn't it?)
Extra-large format books are available only as hardcover ones - and for a good reason. Soft dust cover does not just wraps around the book. Instead, it is a part of it and you can start your narration right from the cover.
Dust jacket is made of rather heavy paper. It feels solid. The cover picture is the same as on the book itself. At least, I could not find any options to change this.
With this picture I wanted to show you some construction details of the book. I liked the texture and subdued colors of inner sides of the cover. All is done with taste and creates a nice prelude to the book content.
The journal theme (or template) available for Aperture books includes 45 ready-made layouts you can use (and each of them can customized even further). Several layouts with maps are also available. You can enhance map layouts with labels, lines and some other simple graphics. I just places on my map the names of places we visited.
This photo shows a blank (white) page on the left. It is another layout and formatting tool that you can keep in your arsenal of tricks to create a professionally looking book. I used blank pages to highlight the beginning of the new book section.
Another tip for making trip journals - usually, when you travel, you either buy maps or get them free (in hotels). Take a picture of your map and make it a part of the book. That may make the book more interesting. The quality of such pages with maps have turned out to be very good.
An example of a pano (that is how panoramas are called in Aperture templates) - this one takes one and a half pages. Yet another layout device to make the book visually entertaining to keep viewers attention.
I am looking at both pages - not bad at all. One thing though where Aperture (and Apple) could do a better job is to offer greater variety of fonts. On the other hand, I have to admit that I found the text tool is rather effective for its purposes.
Full-bleed spreads across two pages look gorgeous in the book.
Not a museum grade, but for the home use to show the album to relatives and friends its quality is quite acceptable. I was pleasantly surprised with this reproduction of a fresco in the printed book.
That is how I finished my book. Note that what seems to be a blank page on the right side is not a page - it is an insert that separates the content pages from the hard cover. You cannot place images onto inserts and you do not pay for the inserts; they are a part of the book construction.
Under magnification there is a dithering pattern visible on book pages (click the thumbnail to see it). As far as I can tell this pattern relates to the printing technology used by Apple printing service.
In this article I want to share my experience with using Aperture 3 book tool and Apple printing service that actually crafts those books and delivers them to you.
Aperture 3 Book Tool
Most likely you have already heard that the Aperture 3 Book software module is one of the best among similar tools in the market. Indeed, this is true. Its interface and controls are very intuitive. I practically started using it without any previous experience or learning. Clicking here and there I quickly localized all menu options and buttons I needed to start creating my first book. I confess - on several occasions I made mistakes. But looking back, I can say that I was confused only with issues related to either quirks (or bugs) in Aperture 3 or to the problems with my strategy in creating the book. I will tell you more about all this later.
I love Aperture 3 and experience with my first book could only confirm that this software should remain one of my main tools in processing and organizing my photos. If you do not know, here is a brief summary related to Aperture books. There are 11 professionally designed themes. Each theme consists of many page layout templates. You can further customize them by resizing and repositioning the photo and text boxes, and create borders of any width or color on photo boxes. You can add text using several fontsin various sizes and styles and create multi-column text boxes.
Books can be created with hard and soft covers and are available in four sizes: an extra-large (13" x 10" only hardcover), large (11" x 8.5" - both, hardcover and softcover), medium (8" x 6" only softcover) and small (3.5" x 2.6" only softcover). Books cannot be smaller than 20 pages (10 sheets) and larger than 100 pages (50 sheets).
This page was not positioned correctly when bound (or it was not cut correctly). I found two pages like this.
Apple Aperture book bindery work - reasonably good commercial quality.
Quality of the Book
With my expectations to get a coffee table thing, I can point to only one problem that I consider serious. Several pages in the book was either not cut correctly or not positioned correctly in the book's bindery. As a result, those pages have white bits around top edges (see also the photo on the right). The problem was obvious, but since I found it on only three pages (where on two of them it was barely visible), I decided to save myself the hassle of sending the book back and requesting a new copy.
This decision to close my eyes on the obvious flaw was also influenced by the fact that I was really pleased with the overall quality of the book. Bindery, finishing - all this looked like reasonably careful short run commercial quality.
Perhaps, if I wanted, I could find other imperfections. But I was really impressed with the way the whole book turned out. My wife was impressed as well. I showed it to several friends - none of them noticed any issues whatsoever. Unanimously, especially those who have never had experience in producing and ordering on-line books, they were surprised with the quality and commercial look of the product as well as its content.
It's not that without creating such large book other people did not like or did not pay attention to my photography. But it seemed as if suddenly, many of my photos framed into the book format acquired a new meaning and message.
Finally, I would like to note that the look of your book will depend tremendously on the theme you select. But I should say that those who designed the themes showed a great deal of taste in balancing the predominant theme colors with other details like the textured paper selected for inserts and the inside of the hard cover. I liked very much its neutral brushed metal look and texture pattern.
One of the pages in the book.
Screenshot of the same page as it appears in Aperture. Differences in colors are clearly visible especially in red hues. However, for the home use purposes, the quality of colors is more than adequate.
From the photographer's standpoint, one of my concerns was color reproduction. I had very vague ideas about color management with printing Aperture books. One of the things I've heard is that the books are printed in a wide gamut Adobe RGB color space. Probably, that's true since images in the book turned out to be very close to my intent (how photos looked on my monitor while I was creating the book).
Contrary to my initial concerns regarding possible muddiness and lack of vibrancy in finished product, none of these problems appeared in the book. Amazingly, where I slipped with the quality of tonal ranges while preparing pictures, those problems appeared in the book. Where I was more careful in image processing, my efforts returned with adequate results.
My overall observations regarding color reproduction are that images tend to have a bit warmer tonality. This was especially noticeable with reds. To see what I mean, you can look at these two images (photo as it apperas in the book and Aperture screenshot of the same book page - see also thumbnails on the right).
Using Aperture to Layout the Book
As I mentioned above, using Aperture book software (in my case Aperture Ver. 3.1) is very straightforward and intuitive. You start with selecting menu options to create a new book and selecting a theme and the size of the book (Aperture user interface shows nice previews of available themes). Once this is done, can start creating pages of your book by selecting photos and placing them on slots on page layouts. Each theme will offer plenty of ready-made layouts - and are free to select any of them as well as replace one layout with another to achieve the best result.
I think I will not make a mistake if I say that ready-made layouts will cover all your needs. And if you are still not happy, you can create your own (the best way to do this is to start off with one of the existing ones that is close enough to what you want and modify it). In my book I used the "Journal" theme which seems to me suitable for an album dedicated to traveling. "Photo Essay" may be another theme that fits the photo narration about places you have visited.
One particular concern I had with my first Aperture book related to gutters. If you are not familiar with this terminology, in editorial design, a gutter is the blank space at which two pages are bound in a two-page spread. The problem here for home-grown book designers like myself is to decide how much of additional space you must leave on the gutter side of your image to compensate for the part of the page that goes into binding. I've seen different recommendations from just do nothing to up to 3/4 inches.
In my experience, I found that the best approach is to nothing - in other words, not to try to outsmart Aperture. There are several reasons for that:
What I Would Do Differently
I have to confess that this has been not only my first Aperture book, but my first book with a lot of content. In particular, on 96 pages I ended up in placing 217 photos. The reason I talk about this relates to the time I wasted because of lack proper initial planning. When I started, I thought it would be enough to through into the Aperture album a bunch of photos (yes, Aperture books are just a special type of Aperture albums and as far as their content is concerned you can treat them as such).
My expectation were that it would be easy just to drag them into their appropriate pages and viola, the book is done (as it would be with 30 - 40 photos). Well, dragging images using Aperture was not a problem. But I quickly realized that without having a specific plan how to organize the content of my book I would keep dragging and changing layouts without effectively narrating my story. Eventually, I ended up with creating three sections (call them chapters) dedicated to the main destinations I wanted to cover in my book. By the way, I found that blank (white) pages (blank page is also included as one of the page layouts) serve nicely as a device to start new sections.
The lesson learned - no matter how wonderful software is, your book (especially if it has a lot of content and a story to narrate) is your creation. No Aperture can replace you as its author.
Aperture Related Problems
This leads me to some Aperture issues I discovered while adding, moving, resizing, repositioning and removing photos while creating my book. None of them are critical; nevertheless, they were annoying and instead of helping made my effort just a bit more difficult. Disclaimer - in my dealings with Aperture I discovered that more often than otherwise what seems to be a problem is just a poor knowledge of features available in Aperture. So, if this is the case, please let me know, and I will be glad to admit that I simply did not know how to handle these problems.
The first though seems to me like an Aperture bug. I found that under certain conditions (reproducible 100% of times - I just do not want to confuse the readers with the exact sequence when it happens, but believe me this sequence is not something unusual), I lose the "book" view (this is the same preview that mimics gutters with full spread). Instead, I can only see regular Aperture "Split View" or "Browser" views. The only way to get back to the "book" preview is to select in the Library pane/browser another project (any selection actually) and after that select again your book project.
Second frequent (and annoying) issue was the fact that I could not find any way to navigate in the "book" view from images at the bottom part of the screen to their locations in the book. (The opposite navigation, from an image in the "book" to this image in the bottom section work fine).
Finally, I have to say that I am not happy with the way how additional fonts (and sizes) can be selected in Aperture books. For example, fonts available in "Journal" (using Text (T) tool) are difficult to read. It is true that if you highlight any text typed in a book, and click Command-T, you can change the font and any of its attributes. However, I could not find any way to make the font selected as your default font or, what could be even better, to add your own font to the list of those available in the theme selected. Without this feature, changing fonts using Command-T makes font management very difficult.
Ordering the Book
Ordering the book is very simple with Aperture - just click on the "Buy Book..." button (top right of the screen). What seems odd though is the full book preview is available only from the "Buy Book" screen (which also requires an Internet connection). This approach may be a good way to remind Aperture users that full book preview is an extremely important step - no book should be ever ordered without its final previewing. But a stand-along preview option (not hidden behind "buy book" button) would be nice. Final previews are generated as PDF files. For a 100-page book, on my Mac Pro it takes about 8 minutes to generate PDF.
The Apple price for my book turned out to be $177 including taxes and shipment. It is not cheap. But I am thinking that similar in scale project, if done on my Canon Pro 9500 printer, would cost more on a good quality paper. The quality of prints would be higher - no doubt about this. But when I start thinking about my time spent in printing, and, more important, the hassle of storing prints in archival boxes (where fewer people would ever see them), I vote for on-line book printing. Would I do it again with Aperture? Absolutely - it's very friendly, and anyway it is my software of choice to process and organize photos.