Aperture Workflow Update - Importing An "Externally Sourced" Library

Note: With Aperture 3.3 just released, there's some terminology changes. I'm still using older terms here, preset instead of effect, master instead of original. Like anything new, it'll take me a little bit to internalize the change.

In my last post on workflow, I talked about having added a MacBook into my Aperture workflow. It's been very useful, and I'm getting through more and more of my backlog of images as a result. Up until recently, I've always added photos to my library on my main system (a MacPro), then exported to the MacBook.

I've been more mobile in recent weeks, and had the need to create a library on the MacBook, get cracking on processing, then merge everything into the MacPro master repository later. From the perspective of my master repository, the library is "externally sourced". (Hey...if you've got a better phrase, I'll take it! :)

I've done this a few times now, just a couple of weeks ago with a visit to Stanford University. I've worked out enough of the kinks to share the steps. And hey - even if nobody reads this, I've written it down and can follow it later. :)

On the MacBook

  1. Sync some vital Aperture items so my mobile system is on par with the MacPro. I'll export and transfer things like keywords, presets, and plugins.
  2. Create a project in the default Aperture library and import the photos. Keep everything managed. I'm much looser with the organization and hierarchy of the MacBook since everything there is transitory. In fact, the project name is more often than not "Staging Area".
  3. Work through the images using my standard workflow.
  4. Once done, weed out the rejected photos, trash them, and then export the project as a library. This helps keeps the library size down and speeds up transfer back to the MacPro. Update: Trashing the rejected photos isn't enough. Gotta empty the trash, too.
  5. AirDrop the library to the MacPro.

On the MacPro

  1. Make sure Keywords are locked. More on why shortly.
  2. Import the project into Aperture.
  3. Rename the project to conform with my naming scheme and move it into the appropriate place in my project hierarchy.
  4. Rename the versions and masters. I did a post on Renaming Referenced Masters. Step 2 applies here.
  5. At this point, the masters are still managed. Time to relocate the masters. Read this earlier post for some details on that, and a smart album that acts as a cross-check.
  6. Clean up the keywords. This is really annoying and it would be fantastic if Apple can do something about this. Read on...

Fix Up Keywords


When the library is imported, the incoming keywords don't get reliably matched with the keywords already in the master Aperture library. I haven't divined why some keywords match up and others don't, but overall it's not reliable. And I'm left with manually merging keywords. In the keyword HUD, you can merge the keywords from the "Imported" area to the correct area in the keyword hierarchy. This is a pain and a step I'd just as soon not have to do.


The manual keyword merge is why prior to import I check that keywords are locked. By locking the keywords, all the unmatched keywords are corralled in an "(Imported Keyword)" area. It makes them easier to find. If you don't lock the keywords, every unmatched keyword is stuffed at the top level of your keyword hierarchy.

The keyword quirks aside, the library merge tools in Aperture do permit a flexible workflow, sourcing photos from a variety of places, and folding them into a unified master repository.