Learning Aperture, and my photo workflow to date

2022-12-03: I noticed several 404 errors for this old blog post, so I restored it.

Over winter break I got Aperture, Apple's photo "workflow" tool. I didn't really know what Aperture was, or why you might need a "workflow" tool. I thought Aperture would be a lot like Adobe Photoshop, where you do lots of fancy editing of your photos.

Well, it turns out tools like Aperture (and I believe Photoshop Lightroom) are their own thing: they are tools to help you go from the image on the camera to the completed roll.

As a way of explaining what Aperture is, I'll explain my "workflow" based on what I understand of Aperture so far. My logic here is that I shoot in RAW format, I want Aperture to have every non-horrible picture I have taken in RAW format, and then I send the best ones to iPhoto. iPhoto then has a JPEG, finished version of every nice picture, and I show my iPhoto library to people. iPhoto then sends the pictures to flickr, for now using the flickr uploadr.

  1. Take photos
  2. Import photos
    1. Connect camera to computer. I have my computer set up to run Aperture when my camera connects, in "space 2" on my computer
    2. Still in the "import images" pane, Tell Aperture to "stack" all photos taken within 15 seconds of one another. (An Aperture "stack" is a group of related pictures, e.g. if you took three pictures of the same building.)
    3. Still in the "import images" pane, review the stacks Aperture created and modify as needed (with command+K to stack, option+K to split stacks)
    4. Create new project(s) for the photos to be imported. Currently I am using the following folder layout: "YYYY >> MM >> DD PROJECT NAME" e.g. "2010 >> 01 >> 01 washington park" for shooting Washington Park on 2010/01/01. Also, I have a couple of generic projects for relatively timeless stuff e.g. "SUBJECTS >> ANIMALS >> FRED AND EMMA" for random pictures of our cats that I don't want to make into their own project.
    5. Import photos. Watch the import via the "Window > Show Activity" menu if needed
    6. Disconnect camera. On the camera, quick format the card. (For my Canon XSi, Go to Menu > first "wrench" menu > Format > uncheck "low level format" > OK.) This is different than my previous workflow, with iPhoto, where iPhoto would format the card.
  3. Review the photos
    1. If I imported the photos into only one project, then go to that project. Otherwise, go to "All Photos" and search by "Import Session" for all import sessions I just created. I want to make sure I look at all the photos I imported and don't miss any. Now I should be looking at all the photos just imported.
    2. Go through each photo, beginning with the first.
    3. Rate each photo: 9 = rejected, 1 = for my eyes only, 2 = OK to share with others.
    4. For non-rejected photos, white balance the photo. For a set of photos use "lift and stamp" to lift the correct white balance from a good photo and stamp it on the others.
    5. For non-rejected photos, check the exposure and use "auto-expose" if needed. (I am still learning about proper exposure, probably because I do too much spot metering vs. evaluative metering. Use option+shift+H to see the hot and cold areas that I need to pay more attention to next time.)
    6. Crop the photo with "C" if needed. Try to keep the 2x3 or 3x2 ratio, so 4x6 prints would come out OK.
    7. Straighten the photo with "G" if needed. (For some reason I take a lot of crooked pictures.)
    8. For each stack, "pick" the best photo with command+\
  4. Search for rejected photos (Library > Rejected) and delete them.
  5. Post the best photos.
    1. Create a smart folder for your project(s) called "two star" that only shows images with two or more stars.
    2. Aside: If you haven't done this before, then in Aperture go to "Aperture > Preferences" to the "Previews" tab and make the Previews the highest quality and don't limit the preview size. These previews are what iPhoto will import here in a minute.
    3. Open iPhoto. Go to File > Show Aperture Library.
    4. In iPhoto, find each "two star" folder, and drag them one at a time to the iPhoto "events" area. iPhoto will import each folder as its own event. (Note: I have iPhoto copy the images rather than link to them. Maybe I will eventually feel more comfortable linking.) My thinking here is that I want iPhoto to have all the "good stuff." iPhoto makes it easier to share the photos e.g. with slideshows and face recognition.
    5. Now the photos go on-line. Open "Flickr Uploadr" and drag the photos from iPhoto to the uploadr. Title them and tag them. I tag them with my camera plus the lens and any flash, e.g. "canon xsi 35mm 430ex flash" for an indoor flash that used the 430ex.
    6. Any photos that are primarily of people, select in iPhoto and export them: "File > Export…" with JPEG quality "High," Size "Large". Export them to the desktop, upload them in Facebook, and then delete them from the desktop.
  6. Done. Whew!