Review Supplement: Raw Rendering, Highlight Recovery in Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture

In the June issue of Professional Photographer magazine we published a look at the Raw Rendering capabilities of Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture, written by Professional Photographer Technical Editor and Contributing Editor to Andrew Rodney, along with commentary from Ben Long, author of "Real World Aperture" (Peachpit Press) and co-author with Orlando Luna of "Apple Training Series: Aperture 1.5 (Peachpit Press).

One point of contention in the article was which application offered the best means in highlight recovery, getting something from nothing in a raw file. We provided our two experts with a digital image featuring blown highlights and asked them each to use their favored application to do their best in bringing back as much information as possible in the highlights without negatively affecting the rest of the image. We asked Long and Rodney to aim for an aesthetic balance between what's possible and what looks good and natural.

200706we_blowndsc_0355 At right is a low-res JPEG created from the NEF file with blown highlights provided to Rodney and Long. It has Adobe Camera Raw default settings applied. The image was taken at Bandelier National Monument using a Nikon D40 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens at 1/80 second, f/4, ISO 400. ©Joan Sherwood

Click here to download the original NEF file for your own highlight recovery attempt.

Read on to see the hightlight recovery results from Aperture and Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom highlight recovery results from Andrew Rodney.

Apple Aperture highlight recovery results from Ben Long.

Here is the area of highlight exposed at  1/500 second, f/4, ISO 400.

It appears the difference in highlight recovery comes down to a matter of preference. Both Adobe and Apple provide application demos, and the best way to evaluate each is to give it a thorough test run with your own files. In addition to the quality of the application’s rendering, being comfortable with the user interface counts, as does ease of use and the additional functionality you need.


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Comments (2)

In my opinion, Lightroom seems to recover much better than Aperture from this test.

I like the look of Rodney's Lightroom results, too. It's got a nice richness to it. However, the interior looks very different from the original image. The color and exposure of the interior in Long's results with Aperture more accurately reflect the original.

The challenge was to bring back as much of the highlights without negatively affecting the rest of the image.

Rodney's effort changed the overall image significantly, but ended up making my mediocre image look better all-around. Long's results closely preserved the overall image with the exception of the regained highlights.


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