My Aperture Workflow: 1 Year Later

It's been about a year since I shared my Aperture workflow. I thought it would be interesting to look back at where I started, find out what's changed and what's worked well. Overall, the workflow I started with last summer is working well. My major steps remain the same:

Import | Rate & Reject | Keyword | Stack | Locate | Adjust | Export

Since last summer, there have been two major changes to my workflow. First is using multiple computers for processing my photos. The flexibility of taking portions of my main Aperture library for "mobile" work has significantly increased the rate at which I can organize and process images. Similarly, when I'm away from home, I'll start a project on my laptop. I use Aperture's export/import and library merge features a lot.

Secondly, I am now more than ever exploiting the "self-documenting" nature of my workflow. I use the color labels to track where a version in the workflow. I do this per version, not per project . In my opinion, this facet of my workflow became crucial once I introduced a "mobile" flow into the mix. At a glance, I know where an image is in the flow, and can pick up right where I left off. It's also flexible so I don't have to work through an entire project at a given time - I can work the best images first. Quite often I have a veritable rainbow of color labels in a single project.

An illustration is in order (yes, I'm a geek):

My Aperture Workflow, July 2012

I have learned that I must treat a given workflow step on a given version as 'atomic'. Otherwise I could lose track of the state of that image. This is primarily a concern with the Keyword and Adjust stages of my workflow. I can't, for example, add keywords for the subject and return later to add details such as a place or a human expression. Too error prone, and no good way to sanity check the state of an image. Fortunately, this is at a version level. If I'm interrupted (which is often with young kids :), I only need to finish the workflow step for the version I'm on. In a pinch, I'll toss a flag on the image and hope I remember where I left off.

What about all those export/import lines?

My main Aperture library is on the Mac Pro. The project hierarchy is strict. I use a referenced library. The Mac Book is the mobile platform. Things are looser on the Mac Book as projects and libraries are transitory in nature. And as such, the Mac Book uses managed libraries. Everything is ultimately merged back into the main Aperture library on the Mac Pro and backed up. I'll import photos to either to the Mac Pro or the Mac Book, depending on where I am (in the house, or on the planet :). So lots of lines between the Mac Pro and Mac Book. I've done posts about the export/import processes before, but to summarize:

  • If I import to the Mac Pro and export for on-the-go work to the Mac Book, I'll export the project as a library, including the masters, work it on the Mac Book, then merge the changes back to the Mac Pro. Full details on this procedure are here.
  • If I import to the Mac Book, I'll again export the project(s) as libraries and import them to the Mac Pro. There's some additional steps I then perform to rename the originals and relocate them into my referenced hierarchy. Full details on this procedure are here.

It's plausible a project makes multiple jumps between the Mac Pro and the Mac Book. I don't recall having done this, but nothing in my workflow prevents it. I find I'm doing more of my Adjust work on the Mac Book. I don't have a great monitor on the Mac Pro, and I'm not shackled to my desk to do post processing.

And since last summer, I've fine tuned a series of Smart Albums to track the main workflow stages as well as a few cross-checks to help avoid mistakes. It wasn't as simple as just checking the color label - I am human and can still make mistakes in applying labels.

I'll share the Smart Album filters in another posting, hopefully next week.


The Smart Albums are now posted.