Apple Aperture 3 is the latest update of Apple's professional photo editing software.

When Apple updated its popular iPhoto app last year, Aperture 2, the company's professional photo editor, started to look almost left behind.

Fun new features seen in Apple iPhoto ’09 included face recognition, and geotagging linked to Google Maps. Apple Aperture 3 now includes both these facilities, along with several new tricks more obviously aligned for professional photographers.

The Apple Aperture 3 app now looks much more like iPhoto in its default layout, with the main photo browser and library lists all grouped into one large pane.

Lined across the top are easily identifiable icon buttons for Inspector (toggles the sidebar), Import, and New (including new project, light table, book, slide show, and web page).

Also here is Name, to quickly tag someone's face. On the opposite corner are Places and Faces shortcuts, which take you to the respective areas for labelling images.

We found these facilities' presentation and options more comprehensive in Apple Aperture 3 than iPhoto 09, and the ability to tag photos' location with external GPS devices is a real boon. Auto position assignment allows cross-referencing from a photo's timecode, making a sequence of photos all tagged from a single geo-reference start point.

Both geodata and facename metadata is embedded into a file in Apple Aperture 3, making this precious info transferable to other programs.

Apple Aperture 3's new filter search function will appeal to equipment geeks, as it's easy to search through archives of photos for a particular type of camera. And multi-focus point information, embedded from recent cameras, can be analysed from the Inspector.

There's a broader selection of adjustments available, including new curves and chroma aberration. Selective brushing allows the blending in of effects, with feathering of edges to aid final retouching.

Many presets are offered for tweaking an image, such as Cross Process, Vintage and even Toy Camera, and a live thumbnail preview shows you what to expect before rendering.

A neat part of the full-screen interface sees a vanishing head-up display (HUD). This smoothly slides to the side by clicking a lock icon, allowing unencumbered views of images on demand.

Slideshows effects from iPhoto 9 are included, only with complete user control over every aspect of the presentation. Ken Burns effects can be tweaked, blank slides introduced, three tracks of audio overlayed, and a complete slide show can be recorded as a MPEG-4 file for sharing with anyone.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Apple Aperture 3.5.1: Specs

  • Mac OS X 10.5.8 or 10.6.2 or later
  • Intel-based Mac
  • 1GB RAM (2GB RAM for Mac Pro)
  • 1GB drive space for application and documentation
  • 7GB for Sample Library
  • Mac OS X 10.5.8 or 10.6.2 or later
  • Intel-based Mac
  • 1GB RAM (2GB RAM for Mac Pro)
  • 1GB drive space for application and documentation
  • 7GB for Sample Library

OUR VERDICT

Apple Aperture 3 now craftily straddles the divide between heavyweight professional productivity and consumer photo browser. There’s still that powerful indexing and manipulation we saw in Aperture 2; but now with better social skills, whether finding people in photographs, cataloguing where in the world your pictures were taken, or sharing them with the world at large through Facebook and Flickr integration. And new brushes and editing tools should make this upgrade a delight for all photographers, from ambitious enthusiasts to full-time professionals.

Find the best price