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Creating New Auto Effects in Aperture 3.3

PhotoJoseph's picture
June 15, 2012 - 10:00am

As pointed out in the Aperture 3.3: ApertureExpert Review article, the new “Auto Enhance” feature is actually an application of up to five auto adjustments, including:

  • White Balance
  • Exposure
  • Enhance (*)
  • Curves
  • Highlights & Shadows (*)

This is what makes up the Auto Enhance feature

If you look closely though, the effects with the (*) don’t actually have an Auto button in the Aperture interface. However that won’t stop you from creating your own Auto presets, using just one (or more) of those Adjustments.

Build your own Auto Effect Presets

All you need to do is duplicate the built-in “Auto Enhance” preset, and remove the other effects. To do that, select “Auto Enhance”, click on the gear menu, and choose Duplicate Preset. Then, simply click the (−) icon next to all the other adjustments and rename your new preset appropriately. See below how I’ve created a custom “Highlights & Shadows (auto)” preset, like this:

Create your own custom Effect Presets based on Apple’s Auto Enhance

Now you have an automatic Highlights & Shadows effect to apply!

Remember, “Auto Enhance” is very clever…

It’s worth stating again that this “Auto Enhance” preset will not simply apply all five adjustments to every image. If Aperture determines that the image doesn’t need one of the adjustments, it won’t apply it at all. I’m not saying that it will apply it at zero settings — it simply doesn’t even enable the adjustment. This works even if you apply the Effect to a batch of images at once, making it an optimal Effect Preset to run on import.

Apple Aperture

I have yet to find Auto Enhance to do *anything* on the 70 or so images I’ve tried it on (Results and sample images in the hands of Apple engineers).

I can take an image, hit the auto enhance button and nothing will happen. If I hit the ‘Auto’ button on the exposure brick on the same image, it makes an adjustment. If i hit the Auto button on the enhance brick, it makes an adjustment, etc, etc.

But hitting the ‘magic’ button does nothing.

I think this problem is not just limited to me - as there’s a lot of people in the twittersphere and blogosphere saying the same thing.

It’s very weird - I really really want to see what it can do! (As a wedding photog, it could be a life saver - but I may never know!)


I have heard this… IIRC the fix was to trash the user > Library > App support > Aperture folder. Move it to your desktop and try again.

This will remove all your presets, so be sure to just move, don’t trash, this folder.

Try adding pieces back in one at a time after that.

There are definitely issues with presets that I’m trying to get to the bottom to right now.


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Yay - on an educated hunch, I took a slightly easier approach than yours - specifically:

1) Export all my custom presets
2) Trash “~/Library/Application Support/Aperture/Adjustment Chain Presets.plist”
3) Re-import presets.

Oddly, the new version of the file I trashed is 15MB, while the original was only 5MB.

And now Auto Enhance actually functions - I need to play with it now to see what all the fuss is about!

Now I need the 3 year old “High ISO/Magenta Halogen/Canon” Raw rendering nightmare fixing and I’ll almost be a very happy camper.

Thoroughly enjoying the speed of Ap 3.3, and after a long time on the phone with high-ups in the Aperture team at Apple yesterday, I have no fears about the future of our favourite app.

Cheers for your help on this one - it was very frustrating


Problem is you probably just lost any custom masks or textures in your presets. This is the issue I’m chasing right now :)


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My ND Grad presets still work - they’re the only ones I have with custom masks I think.

Everything seems to e working - maybe my method handled things better on the re-import of presets?

Is there a way to apply Auto Enhance to multiple images at the same time, after Import? I see I can do it at the moment of import, but want to be able to do it after import as well, in the way that each image will be treated with unique auto enhance corrections (as compared to copying and pasting adjustments). Thanks.

John - I think the only way to do that would be a Lift & Stamp. Run it on one, then lift the adjustments, and stamp the rest.

Should work fine.

Joseph - I’ve been in tough with the Aperture Engineers and have provided them my original Plist, exported presets and rebuilt Plist - hopefully with that they’ll be able to resolve that bug!

Ben- Lift & Stamp doesn’t work with Auto Enhance at least in terms of curves- it will apply the same curve that was lifted or a not apply a curve at all. It will not apply a unique curve to each image, at least from my testing.
Also, Auto Enhance does not touch the Exposure sliders, it bases itself on captured exposure. So if your Histogram is just where you want it, perfect. If not, if you adjust the Exposure sliders first, and then apply Auto Enhance, you’ll get more pleasing results. I’d love confirmation on this, thanks.

Finally if there are elements re: exposure you want to disregard, with the crop tool temporarily select just the area in frame that interests you Exposure-wise, make Exposure adjusts, deselect crop and then apply Auto Enhance. Make sense?

Correction on last post- Auto Enhance does make adjustments to Exposure, but not always what you’d want- from what I can see it starts off based on in-camera exposure and then adjusts and takes it from there. But using the crop tool to avoid areas you don’t want included in Auto Exposure calculations before Auto Enhance does help AE to give me what I’m looking for.

Correction again, sorry, I think Auto Enhance does its thing with Exposure regardless of what I do, other than using the crop tool to tell AE what area I want it to base its calculations on.

LOL JohnK…

folks please remember, support discussions should happen in the forum.

To answer the “how to apply to multiple images at once” question, select the photos and go to the menu Photos > Add Effect. THis is how you batch apply a preset. If you select the preset from the menu in the Adjustments tab, it will only apply to the primary selection.


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I’d like to thank you for your brilliant review and comments regarding the new Aperture. You have saved me a TON of time trying to find solutions to problems that did not really exist.


Ry Glover

LOL Ben,
I do apologize for the multiple postings, though do remember you said Lift & Stamp would work with Auto Enhance applying individual adjustments, and it didn’t. Thus the trouble shooting. However your last input is right on- “Add Effect” works just fine. Plus I can create my own preset that includes Auto Enhance but not Exposure. So if I wish I can correct individual Exposure first, then apply Auto Enhance.
Much appreciated, and a good reminder for me to never try and figure these things out at 5 in the morning!

Ry, happy to help :)

JohnK, 5am and pre-coffee. That’s usually when I make my best mistakes!


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thanks a lot for your great website! Very helpful!

May I ask you something about the auto fix?

I love this new feature but don’t understand how the “auto” works with the Highlights & Shadows. Highlights are not used auto and the Shadows are most of the time at 31,6. How does Aperture 3.3 calulate the “best” value? Why are the Highlights not used?

I would like to have the auto fix feature + sharping with my value. How can I do this?

I know how to duplicate the preset, how to remove something but how can I add sharping to this?

I hope you understand what I mean ;-)

Thanks a lot for your help!

Greetings, Mike


When you apply an “auto” Effect Preset, as long as you don’t alter it, if you then save that as an effect it will still be auto. You know it’s auto because it’ll say “(auto)” next to the name in the Effect Preset editor [screenshot].

So, apply the auto that you want, apply the manual sharpening that you want, then save that as a new preset. Just double-check it that the one you want to be auto is still auto.

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thanks a lot for your answer!

I tried it that way, but without success.

I appled the auto effect preset to a orginal raw and saved it - but there where just two auto commands applyed…

This way didn’t work for me.

Do you know how I can access the Highlights & Shadows with the auto option? Is there any hidden menubutton?


Greetings, Mike

P.S I also tried to export the auto preset and edit it with the texteditor - but I can’t read spanish ;-)


I just tried this and it worked fine for me.

1. apply the “auto enhance” preset to an image (if H&S isn’t applied, try another photo). I applied this from the menu, not the button, don’t know if that matters or not
2. remove all but the H&S adjustments
3. add sharpen and dial in as you like
4. save as a new effect

This is what I got: [screenshot]


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Hi Joseph,

thanks for your support again ;-)

I tried it your way and get the same result.

But the “other” auto settings aren’t then in the preset. I wannted all the auto presets + my custom sharping. I think this doesn’t work.

Anway thanks for your help!

Greetings, Mike


I thought you wanted a preset that was just H&S auto plus your sharpening.

The same steps work if you just don’t remove all but the H&S. Admittedly you will need to find an image that all five apply to when you click auto so they are all there.

Hm actually, I found that I could manually add the missing auto enhancements if they weren’t added automatically (you will need to at least ensure that auto enhance and auto H&S are applied, since there is no manual auto button), then manually add sharpen and save a new preset. When I did this though the manually applied auto presets were always applied, unlike the true auto where they won’t be applied if Aperture determines they are not needed, so watch out for that.

But otherwise I don’t see what the problem is… apply auto everything, add your manual settings, and save as a new preset.

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