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Aperture’s Handling of Colour in 5D Mark II Files, and a Preset to Fix it

For the longest time I’ve been unhappy with images from my Canon 5D Mark II. On the one hand the resolution is great, and you can certainly get some great images from it, but on the other, I’ve found that dealing with the Raw files is always hit and miss. I’ve posted about this here before, but even that work around wasn’t an ideal fix. The other night I was out taking some pictures in the city centre here in Dublin as the sun went down and I got some great shots that I was really happy with. Well, that is until I got them into Aperture. They just looked wrong, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

I knew they had looked much better in camera, so I resisted the urge to throw it at the wall and I checked the jpegs (I always shoot Raw + Jpeg) and sure enough they looked MUCH better. But still, that just backed up my theory that the cameras raw files were lousy. For some reason though, I decided to try the files in Lightroom just to be doubly sure, and when I loaded them In, I was amazed at how much better they looked.

Building Aperture Default

Here’s the default Aperture version. Now, You may think that is not too bad an image, but the building is supposed to be a red brick building (and no, it’s not a white balance issue)

Building Jpeg Version

Here’s the Jpeg version. The colours are the actual colours of the building, and the whites are more natural looking.

For comparison, here’s the Lightroom version:

MG 6300 2

(Note the added benefit of built in lens correction)

After I got over the initial shock I decided I wasn’t going to take this lying down so I started to analyse what was wrong. The problem seemed to be mostly with the colours. (Before anyone asks, this has nothing to do with the camera profiles in Lightroom – even set to the Adobe default the colours looked much better). The colour rendition of the Raw files in Aperture was way off. It seemed that the reds in particular were off and the greens were slightly wrong too. I’ve always found my 5D images to be yellowy in Aperture and this bore it out. I had taken some images of red brick buildings and these in particular had a very yellowish cast..

So, using command tab to flick back and forward between the two programs I used a colour adjustment in Aperture to tweak the colours until I got it to line up pretty well with the ones in Lightroom. I then saved it as a preset and tried it on a few more images. It took a good bit of trial and error but after 5 versions I finally got the preset right. I’m not saying it’s perfect but it seems to get you in the ball park.

MG 6300

This is the Aperture version using the preset.

If you’re a 5D Mark II owner feel free to download the preset and try it out for yourself. If you had been following my previous workflow for 5D users this doesn’t really work with that, so you’ll need to set your boost and hue boost back to defaults, although you can still use that control to help you out. I’ve included all the versions of the preset that I worked on. One of the things that I’ve found is that Aperture reports a different white balance setting than other pieces of software so I have versions that correct for that too. Feel free to try them for yourself and let me know how you get on.

Just as a side point, I know that Raw files always look different than their Jpeg counterparts, but usually the colours are reasonably right. For me this problem only seems to affect the 5D Mark II images. I have two other cameras that I use regularly, A Nikon D90 and a Panasonic GF1. In both of those cases I think the colours actually look better in Aperture than they do in Lightroom, particularly the GF1. I just think Apple’s engineers didn’t profile the 5DII as well as they did for other cameras.

By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the final version of that image after a few more tweaks, and running it through PTLens to fix the distortion.

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15 Responses to Aperture’s Handling of Colour in 5D Mark II Files, and a Preset to Fix it

  1. Florian April 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Thomas- Thank you! As a new 5dII owner I really appreciate this. Just out of curiosity, I have downloaded the presets and I am a little confused having not seen any of your previous work-arounds. Which is the new preset you just developed? I realize the 5D’s must be much older versions.


    • Thomas Fitzgerald April 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      The old one was in a different post. The ones I’ve included in the preset download here are all variations of this preset. They have slight variations of colour temperature for various settings – so for example use the shade fix on scenes where you’ve shot using the shade or cloudy white balance. Use daylight for daylight ones and the last one – “best” is an overall fix for most situations but it doesn’t have a white balance adjustment. Sorry, I probably should have made that clear allright!

  2. Florian April 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Thomas- Thanks for the clarification and all of the help you provide. Cheers.


    • Thomas Fitzgerald April 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      No problem !

  3. The Photo Ninja April 28, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    I’m really sorry to hear that aperture didn’t give awesome colors right out of the gate.

    One of the reasons I switched to aperture was because on my d700 the aperture colors looked amazing out of the box. I thought it would be that way on all cameras.

    Perhaps that was naive on my part. Has anyone else been displeased with the colors out of any other camera with aperture?

    • Michael Barkowski May 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Colors out of the Samsung NX100 in Aperture range from disturbing after a second to immediately horrifying, generally with a magenta cast in a variety of situations that can not be fixed with white balance. I’ll try doing as suggested in this article and see if it’s a good workaround.

      Bibble doesn’t support Samsung NX100 at all yet. The Gimp (free) seems to do a fine job on the few images I tried in it.

    • Martin June 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      I have a Canon G12 and the reds in Aperture are way off. They veer towards magenta. I’ll try to see if I can get a preset that is more realistic if yours is not appropriate – thanks for the tip

  4. Nigel Honey April 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Interesting. I find the colours of the 5dmk2 out of the box in Aperture to be far better than those on Lightroom. I bought the colour checker passport to do profiles for the 5D2 in Lr, and the results from that are very close to what Aperture gives out of the box.
    The whitebalance number issue is ridiculous. Why not the standard numbers? Having said that, I had shots taken under horrid green and pink neon lights, in camera custom WB handled it, Aperture handled it, Lightroom could not come close.

  5. The Photo Ninja May 10, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    I switched back to Lightroom with an xrite color checker passport for better color and d5100 support.

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  10. Josh August 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Thank you for the great article. I’ve been trying to adjust Apertures color balance for my 5d2 files as well. For an overall one size fits all fix I’m adding a hint of blue via levels or curves, then opening a color adjustment and pulling my reds a little toward magenta, and my yellows a little toward red. I still think the canon jpegs color is a little better, but I can’t seem to get closer without creating unrealistic skin tones. Is this similar to the approach you’re using? Any additional hints you could share? Thank you!!!


  1. My Semi Annual Software Rant | The Aperture Blog - May 21, 2011

    [...] there are serious shortcomings in Aperture’s implementation. First there is the colour issues. I’ve done my best to address these with my own attempt at a colour profile but it’s still far from perfect. Canon’s own (rather terrible) DPP software does a much better [...]

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