Use Aperture’s Tools To Rescue Flat Images

8/3/2013 9:13:09 AM

The Enhance and Exposure tools can bring realistic brightness to photos that lack depth and suffer from dull finishes

Difficulty: Beginner

Time needed: 10 minutes

Sometimes you think you’ve got the perfect shot, but when you see the result on screen, it looks a little flat. This can happen with any type of image, but is a real problem with portraits, because you want your model to show clearly. If the image looks dull, then it’s difficult to see the face.

In the example shown here, the model’s white shirt shows up more clearly than her face, and her skin has a slightly green tone. The whole image looks muddy, but this can be cured with a few adjustment sliders. When the work is done, you have the option of leaving the background wall bright and colorful, or you can take its color away, so that all focus goes on the model’s face. Either way, you’ll see immediate improvements.

Step-by-step: Aperture Brighten images with Enhance and Exposure

1.    Study the light

Import FlatImage.tiff to Aperture. Click on the Adjustments tab, and look at the colored mountains to see how they change as you work.

2.    Change Exposure

Drag the Exposure slider until the right side of the mountains in the histogram just hit the right of the box. The image should immediately look brighter.

3.    Recover highlights

The white part of the image has become too bright, so drag the Recovery slider to the right until the mountain moves back slightly towards the center.

3. Recover highlights

4.    Set the Black Point

Drag the Black Point slider until the leftmost mountain just hits the left side of the box. This slider removes details from darker shadows.

5.    Adjust Contrast

Under Enhance, drag the Contrast slider to 0.15. Too much contrast will look cartoony. If the image needs more brightness, move the Exposure slider up.

6.    Add color

When you drag Saturation to the right, you add color, so a small adjustment to 1.1 adds the right amount of color without making skin look too pink.

Add color

7.    Vibrant image

If you want the wall to look bright, without spoiling the skin, drag Vibrance to the right. A slight increase in Definition can also help add contrast.

8.    Tint colors

The original image had a green tint, and this remains in the black areas. Click the Black eyedropper, under Tint, then click on a black part of the image to correct.

Tint color

9.    Alternative ending

The image looks fine, but sometimes you want to remove all the colors apart from the model’s skin. To create this effect, drag Vibrance right down.

Exposure and Enhance

Get to grips with the tools you need to brighten images


The histogram might look confusing, but if you follow the instructions in this tutorial, you’ll see how it can help you perfect an image. Watch how the mountains of color slide right and left as you make adjustments


The first steps to correcting your image begin in the Exposure settings. First, use the Exposure slider to get the essential look, then use Recovery to correct over-exposure and Black Point to add a hint of contrast


No matter what adjustments you make, they are meaningless unless your photo looks good. Although you’ll learn to use the Histogram readings, you need to check that your image looks the way you want it to look

Knowledge base - Perfect contrast

If you take a photograph of a misty lake, with a shadowy boat, the image looks good because there is low contrast. Sometimes too much can look bad. If you shoot somebody standing in full sunlight, the extreme contrast can look terrible. When you use gentle lighting, the end result often looks too flat and dull, so use the Enhance and Exposure controls to add brightness and improve contrast.


An extra level of control comes with the Enhance tools. They give you control of Contrast and Definition to get exact levels of darkness and light. Vibrance, Saturation and Tint give you control of color

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