Organization in Aperture 2


There is a post on the Pixelatedimage about organization in Lightroom, and I thought hey! I could do one about using Aperture. Truth be told, they have some similar concepts.

  1. Referenced, or library? I don’t keep all my images in the library. I like to keep them in a file structure on my hard drive. I do this for¬†three¬† reasons. First is for backup. I like to be able to backup my images with simple tools. I run an rsync script to my backup server. (more about backups later)¬†This also allows me to access the raw files directly from Adobe Bridge if I so choose instead of creating an “edit” copy for Photoshop from within Aperture. I like to be able to use Camera Raw on the raw files sometimes. Third, my library file isn’t HUGE. It still get’s plenty big. All the meta data, versions, and edits go into the library. Also, the files aren’t on my machine. I use an external drive to store the masters. More in the backup section.
  2. File Structure. I have created a structure on my hard drive that works for me. Actually, I have redone this a few times. I even started with the files in a library before changing my mind. Aperture will let you move files around with amazing aplumb. So, I have a “Aperture Masters” folder that I then have folders for different years in it, eg 2007, 2008, 2009. Then within this I choose to break it up into family, photography, work. I did it this way partly to make it easier for my family to get to and find the family pictures if they need to, on my computer, or on the backup server. The split of photography and work may not make sense to you. I don’t get much “work”, but I wanted to make it easy to distinguish me out shooting water falls from a client’s photo shoot. I could use tags or colors. I choose folders. To each their own. I may change my mind. Note: you have to actually make these folders in aperture, it wont mirror the file system.
  3. The import process. I usually have enough cards that I wait until I get them to my computer to upload the pictures. Before I upload the pictures, I create a new project. I usually name it something like “Apr 7 – night shots”. It would probably be better to use numbers on the projects so that May sorts before Dec, but I have been doing it this way anyway. I like the having the date and a very shot description to the project. This¬†will also be the name of the folder under the year¬†folder. Next is to make¬†sure that Aperture puts the pictures where you think they are going. On the right of the import screen there is a¬†place to choose library vs referenced, and if you pick referenced, you pick the file location. This highlights¬†a drawback to my system. I have to switch the path every time I switch an import session between family and photography. Yes I have forgotten¬†once or twice. A big pain. You can also select an import preset. I have one created that sticks in my city, my name and copyright as tags with every picture. I wish I had more to say on this. I obviously don’t quite get it, because I spelled my name wrong on the preset and can’t change it! If anyone knows how to manage these, please blog about it and point me to it. Thanks.
  4. Ratings. I rate before keywording.¬†I do a fairly quick pass through with the browser window open at the bottom, and the view window above. I use the number keys to rate the pictures. Aperture supports marking as rejects (9) or 1-5. I don’t really use 1 and 2. First time through I mark stuff as rejects (out of focus, etc), nothing, or 3’s. The 3’s are ones I am pretty sure are some sort of keepers. Now I can filter the browser to only show “*** and above”, or images rated 3 or higher.¬†I then switch to full screen mode. Now I only have one big image in the view window with nothing hiding the image. I then go through all the images and pick ones to promote to 4’s and 5’s. David only has 5’s, why do I have 3, 4, and 5? Partly because he shoots more 5’s than me. I will still keep 3’s that are family pictures, or include some 4’s in flickr. 5’s are ones that I might want in my portfolio at some point.
  5. Keywording. I only keyword my 3 and up rated images. I try to give them location tags too. Not exif data, but I have a hierarchy of location tags that include city names, and then parks or landmarks under them where the picture was taken, or what it was of. For family shots, I have tags for each member of the extended family. I often fail to tag with them, but it is great later on when I get asked if I have any pictures of Alex to go on the yearly family calender my wife is making.
  6. Tweaking. This is the adjustments part of the exercise. I am shooting raw, so the¬†things that I tend to do are white balance, exposure, levels adjustments, increase blacks, and sometimes some vibrance.¬†Saturation tends to go straight for the over the top bin. A little vibrance boost can be nice. I probably do a little more than I should here. I am getting better at nailing my exposure, but I often just use the D90 auto white balance, and it often needs tweaking. Sometimes I will create a new version to try something different. Maybe make a B/W image, or a different crop. These are not copies, just versions of the original that Aperture applies it’s raw recipie to, so they take very little space. Sometimes I am not happy with what I can do in Aperture and I send the file to Photoshop with the open in external editor command.
  7. Folders and Smart Folders. These are special¬†folders (both) that don’t really exist. They are just for orginization in Aperture. I will make special folders to agregate projects, or for just part of a project. It really doesn’t matter how many you make, copies of your images are not created. Just links. I have done with with vacations, or to group different trips to the same landmark. I love smart folders. I have one of 4+ of my kids for example. In Aperture you can create a smart folder just as if you were searching your entire collection, then save it. So I say that I want all images for the year 2008 that are 4+ with keywords Lily or Kate. Sweet. I also do this for flowers and my favorite images. One cool thing is that these smart albums are available to the OS and the iLife apps as if they were just a folder. When I sync my iPhone, I select the smart folders I created like Kate and Lily 2008, and Portraits, and Portfolio, and then they get synced. Sweet. No messing around picking what to take. Every sync they get updated with the latest images.
  8. Uploading. Next comes uploading to various places. If I have family pictures I use the Gallery plugin to send my images to my family website at If I have other interesting images, I will send them to my flickr account. First I change the browser filter to 3+, or 4+, then select the images, right click and pick my export plugin. The flickr pictures I first send to BorderFX. This allows me to add a border (funny about that) and put my name in the lower right corner. I export these to a temp folder. I then use FlickrUploader. Why don’t I use the plugin to send directly to flickr? I like to add my name to the images, and recently I have been adding borders to most of the pictures too. It does add an extra step though. I then delete the exported images from the temp folder. If I am planning on printing some images, I use the export versions command. I don’t have a good home printer, so I usually use whcc, or sometimes family pics at shutterfly and pick them up at Target.¬†¬†I export the images as jpegs at full size to a temp folder again, then use the ROES software with whcc. After they are sent, I delete the temp images.
  9. Clean up. This is more a step that I say that I am going to do, more than I do. I do delete all the temp pictures that I create when exporting, but do I really need to keep a bunch of not really good enough pictures. What should I do with the 1’s and 2’s that I didn’t rate. Why am I keeping them? Good question. Chicken I guess. Every once in a while I reject more than usual. But I often end of keeping them. If you don’t want to back up your rejects, you should actually delete them too.
  10. Backup. I don’t have a drobo. Scott Kelby just bought a new one (well, two) maybe I can dumpster dive for the old ones. What I have instead is a home built NAS. Well, actually I have a partial NAS. I am still rebuilding it. You can follow along (and build your own here, hope to have more soon). So the first thing I do, is from my mac, at the command line, I kick it old school (did I just write that?) and do a rsync command. This copies all changes (new files) from my iMac to my NAS. I just realized, I blogged about my backup strategy here last May. I am actually storing all my images on an external drive. I also use rsync to create a mirror to another identical removable drive that I periodically bring home, sync, then store off site. Then there is the library. It contains all the meta data and edits. I use the Aperture vault system and store the vaults on both my backup drives.

Well, thats my system. Or at least my plan. I will be one of the first to admit that I can get in a hurry and not keyword. I have shooting days from earlier this year that I haven’t even rated. My NAS is actually non functional right now (soon I tell ya, soon!!!), and I have had the “off site” drive sitting beside me for a couple of weeks. Sigh. Maybe it is more of a wish…