Creative Effects with Adjustment Presets

by Charlie Miller

Late last year, when Apple was showing off the great new features of Aperture 1.5, I was lucky enough to work the Aperture booth at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. There were about 20 Macs running Aperture and Apple had created a custom configuration to show off some of the new features of 1.5. Some of my favorite customizations were the Adjustment Presets that had been set up to create artistic and creative effects.

I recently recreated some of my favorite Presets and I’ve had a fun time exploring the effects that can be achieved with this technique. For each of these, make your adjustments to a sample photo and then click the Preset Action pop-up menu and choose Save as Preset.


A few Presets I’ve been experimenting with lately:

  • High Contrast, Muted: In the Exposure Adjustment, drop the saturation to .50 and move the brightness up to .20 and the contrast to .35 or so.

  • Desaturate Cools: In the Color Adjustment, drop the saturation for green, cyan, and blue to -100.

  • Desaturate Warms: In the Color Adjustment, drop the saturation for red, yellow, and magenta to -100.

  • Invert Colors: This one’s more fun than practical, though it can yield some interesting results: in the Color Adjustment, drag each color’s hue adjustment to 60 and the range to 2.00.

One thing to keep in mind: Each adjustment has its own Preset Action pop-up menu. So there’s no way to create Adjustment Presets that apply multiple adjustments at once -- say an Exposure Adjustment and a Color Adjustment at the same time.

Are other Aperture users creating Adjustment Presets for creative effects as well? Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Here’s some examples of the Presets above:


Original Image


Desaturate Cools Preset


High Contrast, Muted Preset


Invert Colors Preset


Edward Cheung
2007-06-02 16:01:29

You mention that there was a custom configuration Mac that was running Aperture. What was the specs/set up for this Mac?


2007-06-02 16:10:52
Simple, but sweet. I've never played with the color adjustment, but I will now. Thanks!
Graeme Smith
2007-06-02 21:57:33
Maybe not a "creative" effect, but I have one to darken and saturate blue skies.
2007-06-03 00:02:00
Brilliant post, actually it would be cool if there was some location, or post, that everyone could add their own presets.


2007-06-03 07:38:55
I think often times the creative abilities of aperture get glossed over or neglected a mention. Bravo for pointing them out. Aperture has some nifty features working with these RAW files, and so much emphasis (rightly so) is given to organization, workflow, & proper color management that we forget photography is such a creative endeavor.
Charlie Miller
2007-06-03 09:41:46
Edward, these were standard MacPros and MacBook Pros. The custom configuration was in the Aperture setup: preconfigured Adjustment Presets and Export Presets.
Charlie Miller
2007-06-03 09:43:04
Daniel, not a bad idea. I will investigate the possibility of an Aperture Preset repository, but for now why not post them in the Comments??
2007-06-03 09:54:45
Cool - I'll give that a try today. We need a place to post all these neat little ideas.
2007-06-16 14:12:49
Great presets!
Does anyone know where one can find more presets?