Yesterday, I have been shooting photos at a christmas market -- especially a band that played there. Since everything happened in the evening and it was quite dark, I thought using RAW instead of JPEG could be useful so I would have more details for later adjustment.

After importing the photos from the SD card to Aperture, I was shocked because the photos looked massively different when viewed in Aperture compared to what my camera showed me as a preview.

To eliminate the possibility that there is just a difference between the color profile of the camera and that of my computer’s display, I opened up “PictureStyleEditor”, a software that shipped with my camera, loaded one of the photos from yesterday’s session and compared how it looked. In PictureStyleEditor, it looked just like the preview on the camera’s display, so I wonder what’s wrong with my Aperture setup.

My camera is a Canon EOS 550D (in some countries: EOS Rebel T2i or EOS Rebel Kiss X4), I’m using Aperture v3.4.3 on a Mac OS X.8.2 driven MacBook Pro. I shot the photos just using RAW without additional JPEG output.

Here is a screenshot with Aperture on the left and PictureStyleEditor on the right: comparison between preview of Aperture (left) and PictureStyleEditor

On other pictures, the difference was even greater but since there were people on them, I didn’t want to upload these as an example.

I’d like to get the look of the camera preview/that of Picture Style Editor as a starting point (for editing) in Aperture. It would be great if someone could help me figure out why they look so differently although stemming from the same file.

EDIT: Here is another example which shows the problem way better. I asked the photographed person if it’s okay to upload this photo – it is. Uninstalling and reinstalling Camera RAW didn’t help, by the way.

On the left: Apple OSX Preview, on the right: PictureStyleEditor (that looks the same as the cameras’s onscreen preview) better example

  • \$\begingroup\$ You can't even see the inlay interval markers on the left. Very different! Maybe Aperture does some "auto adjustments"? There seems to be less detail in the skin tones. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 0:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ My guess is the default camera profile/picture style/tone curve that Aperture is importing with simply does a poor job with highly saturated colors. I don't know Aperture, but try to find a setting similar to Lightroom's Camera Profiles feature. The Adobe camera profile in LR tends to over saturate a bit, and I usually choose Canon Standard or Canon Neutral to get more original results, and tweak from there. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ RAW can be interpreted any way by software. This is just an example of that. This has been covered on this site before - photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8707/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 3:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This may have been covered, but it seems similar to me to the question I asked a few weeks ago: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/29165/… While I can understand (at some level) that different programs interpret RAW files in different ways, I ... don't like it? I guess I should try a Lightroom demo (or something similar) to see if other software makes the problem go away. (And @PattaFeuFeu should do likewise.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael H.
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 17:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @khedron - I understand, but maybe understanding fully what a RAW file is would help you. See - photo.stackexchange.com/a/8361/4892 Specifically the parts with corrections, demosaicing, and the final conclusion. If you look at that question you linked to, and the two I have, we have lots of info covering this already, even specifically around Apple Aperture. Good question at any rate, but I think it is a duplicate of these others. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 19:07

4 Answers 4


There is nothing wrong with your Aperture setup. RAW files are like film negatives, they need to be processed so they can be viewed/displayed as intended. Your camera does not show the RAW file when you press play and preview the image but rather a JPEG image that has been processed in-camera. This is known as a sidecar file.

The software that came with your camera is effectively processing the image the same as your camera would. Camera manufacturers provide software to "develop" your RAW files in the same way that your camera would. Different manufacturers of software have different processes or algorithms to process the digital-negative or RAW file.

Searched "raw files look different" in the searchbar:

Further reading: Why do my photos look different in Photoshop/Lightroom vs Canon EOS utility/in camera?

How can different RAW converter programs give different results?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, as well, for your answer. I understand why there is a difference. I still don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me before when shooting with RAW -- the pictures always looked pretty much the same compared to what the camera showed. So basically, I can’t use Aperture in this case if I want the RAWs to be -- at least as a starting point -- to be like the JPEGs of my camera? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ You just need to configure Aperture with "base" settings. You will need to set your defaults: Colour Profile (Standard/Neutral Etc...), Process Version (2012, 2010?). Aperture comes out the box with default settings and invariably you need to change these to suite your workflow. If you load your RAW's in the Canon sofware or other software for that matter then your results will be affected by different presets. This is the same as taking film negatives to 2 or 3 different labs to get processed, they will look different. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chanstarco
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ But how do I change the colour profile and what is the “process version”? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the end, I just threw away my RAWs and converted them all to JPEG using Canon’s “Digital Photo Professional” that is being shipped with many of their digital cameras. I still had to do a lot of changes – especially the white balance was pretty messed up –, but with some results I’m quite satisfied. Here is one of the exports: picture on 500px \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 21:32

Aperture < Preferences < Import < Standard Previews

I began noticing the same issue. I work with social media nearly 100% of the time so I don't shoot in RAW that often because I need to generate decent photos quickly and get them online (my iPad data plan would hate me if I started uploading those file sizes too haha!).

Following the above path helped my issue, though, when I do work in RAW so I would suggest you check those preferences. If you haven't made edits on your most recent import and still have the files on a memory card, I would delete them out of your library, change the import preferences and re-import them to see if it helps. I think it will give you the inspector view you're looking for.

Hope that helps!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn’t notice the behaviour of my question post on any photos I did after that. I’m still rather clueless as to why that might be. Previously, I set Aperture to use the camera previews as it felt much faster in everyday usage. I’m giving the standard previews a try now, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 6, 2014 at 9:05

This is probably due to differences in conversion algorithms between the two programs. Since Raw photos need to be converted to a JPG to be viewed, the program (or the camera) does a simple conversion preview. PictureStyleEditor probably uses a more sophisticated algorithm that is closer to your camera's. OS X probably has less focus on RAW images and thus has a less complex algorithm.

I hope that this helps.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It helps to understand the “why is this happening”, but doesn’t make my pictures any more usable. If the pictures stay as they appear in Aperture, they are far away from being useful for me and I might as well trash them. :( \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Raws don't need to be converted to jpg to be viewed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Really? I remember reading that they do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Evan Pak
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 2:47
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ RAW need to be converted to an image to be viewed. This image is just a bunch pixels. Since RAW processing is costly, these result pixels are often saved in one of the common image formats, most often JPEG. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 8:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Any time an application is displaying a RAW file on an 8-bit monitor (the overwhelming vast majority of monitors on the planet), it is converting the RAW file to an 8-bit format for display. While it does not necessarily have to be jpeg, it does need to be an 8-bit per color channel format. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 20:30

The main difference is that Aperture and most other raw converters ignore the in camera settings for things such as white balance, contrast, saturation, etc. at the time the photo was taken. Instead, each application applies what their designers considered to be a good default starting point for a particular camera.

Canon's in-house products such as Picture Style Editor and Digital Photo Professional read the in camera settings and apply them at the time you first open an image taken with an EOS camera. You are free to change them as you wish, but it is nice to have the settings selected when the picture was taken as the starting point.


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