My Aperture Workflow Filters



A few weeks ago, I posted an update to my Aperture workflow. I'd said I'd share the Smart Albums I use to track photo versions as they make their way through the workflow. It's coming later than I'd hoped, but better late than never. 

Preparing this post uncovered has been really beneficial to me. I found some flaws in my filters and now have fine tuned them.

I'll assume you know how to create a Smart Album. For workflow albums, make them for your entire library - you want to check all the photos in your Aperture library, not just those for a specific project. At right, you can see the Smart Albums I use for tracking my workflow. These follow my workflow of:

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

The Workflow folder has the smart albums I use to keep me on track. The albums correspond to the bars (" | ") between my workflow steps. The Cross Checks I use more when export and merging libraries. I'll show them below as they may be useful to you too.

You can ignore the "Needs Captions" and "Needs Revisit" albums. But for the curious...I'll use captions when exporting images via the free Picasa Plug-in for Aperture as the caption gets picked up as the title of the photo in Picasa. Although, admittedly I don't caption everything I post. And more recently, I've been doing drag-and-drop to share work to Google+. As for "Needs Revisit"...well, that's all the cleanup I'm still doing as a result of not nailing down my workflow before I'd imported a bunch of photos into Aperture - particularly in the arena of consistent rating and keywording, . Eventually, that album will go to zero and be deleted. Dancing in the streets will ensue. 

Now...on to the album filters.

Workflow Smart Albums

There are several common themes to the albums:

  • All the filters are for the entire library
  • I always filter out my "Needs Revisit" (Gray label) photos. I know I'll revisit them in the future, and when I do I'll feed them into my standard workflow.
  • For all of the workflow (WF) albums, I use an "All of the following that match" semantic. A version must match every criteria listed to be displayed in the album. As with all things Aperture, there's multiple ways to get the results you want. Keeping the match criteria across these albums is more for me - one less detail to tend to, one step closer to sanity.
  • "Stack picks only" is never checked. The purpose of these Smart Albums is to find all versions that slipped through one or more of my workflow steps.

You'll also notice that by and large the color labels do not factor into the filters. I use the color labels as a visual indicator of where a version is in my workflow. But the purpose of the color labels is to drive my behavior - set the underlying metadata (keywords, places, etc.), make adjustments, share the photo. It's the underlying modifications to a version I want these albums to check for, not the colors. And...I can always make a mistake setting a color label.

Lastly, while I believe that the filter criteria does a solid job of isolating versions to a single album, I don't expend much thought on ensuring that. Generally speaking, I follow my workflow pretty well. So, for example, if a photo hasn't been keyworded yet, it probably hasn't been adjusted yet either. So it may show up in multiple Workflow Smart Albums. I start with WF1 and work through them in the same order as my workflow.

Needs Rating

A very simple filter. If the photo is unrated, display it. I consider "Rejected" as a rated (and lousy :) photo.

Needs Keywords

Another straightforward filter. Of course, I want to show all the versions where keywords have not been applied. In addition, I show only versions that have been rated. Any photos that missed a rating appear in the prior Smart Album.

An Achilles Heel of this filter is the binary nature of the keywords filter. Keywords are either applied or not. A version that hasn't been assigned all keywords you may want for it will not appear in this album. With nested keywords, it's plausible to make more elaborate, cascading smart albums to find versions with missing keywords. But that quickly gets complex and I don't believe it would be 100% effective either.

My workaround for this is to treat the keywording workflow step for a version as "atomic" - an indivisible step in my workflow. Once I start keywording a version, I can't stop until it's done. And that's not all that bad - I'll spend maybe 10-20 seconds keywording a version at most.

Needs Stacks

This is an admittedly weak filter. Other than "Stack picks only", Aperture doesn't provide a data point to check if a photo is stacked or not. And even if it did, not all photos are put in stacks. My only recourse is to check against the color label. In practice, I've found myself stacking and rating at the same time, so rarely is a version tagged with a yellow label.

Needs Location

The key filter for location is checking if "Place" is empty. To limit the contents of this smart album, also filter for only rated and keyworded photos.

Needs Adjustments

You're probably seeing the pattern here....the next album in the flow adds a new criteria. For Adjustments, add a filter for versions where adjustments are not applied. To focus the smart album on adjustments, maintain the filters for rated, keyworded, and placed versions.

As with keywords, the adjustment check is yes/no by nature. Thus, versions that have some adjustment applied, but is not yet a finished product, will not appear in this filter. While the filters in Aperture allow incredible flexibility in checking against every type of adjustment, I don't have an adjustment that is universally applied to every version in my library. As with keywording, my method of dealing with this is treating the adjust workflow step for a version as atomic.

Another quirk is dealing with versions that you don't want to adjust. Maybe you got it perfect in camera (which makes you a far better photographer than me). Another, perhaps more practical example, is bracketed exposures for HDR. Unless there's obvious dust spots on the bracketed shots, I'll process them in HDR software and then do adjustments on the resulting tonemapped image.

There's workarounds for this. Ignoring versions in this category an approach, but not scalable. Over time, there's more and more versions to ignore and the smart album that is intended to help close the workflow gaps is no longer viable. Using a "NoAdj" keyword is an alternative, although requires some gyrations in the smart album filters. I've not expended much thought on this, but at least adding another Keywords criteria to exclude "NoAdj".

What I've started doing is clicking on an Adjustment and then not using it. For example, check off Retouch in the inspector but don't do any retouching/cloning. Aperture considers the image having an adjustment applied and thus will be excluded from this smart album.

I created a "Null Retouch" effect and apply this to my HDR exposures.

Needs Export

Last is exporting images. The Photo Usage filter has a check against versions that have been exported as not. As with the prior filters, this criteria is appended to the prior checks.

I've backed off exporting immediately after a version finishes my workflow. Part of this is to save disk space, part is I'm considering to drop this step from my workflow. As of right now, I'm leaning toward doing a yearly export to JPGs and archiving those in some fashion as an extra paranoia backup.

Cross-Check Smart Albums

In one of my very first posts, I explained why I run a referenced Aperture library. And as my workflow has become more complicated and I source libraries on different systems. I have the burden of getting my originals into my referenced file hierarchy. And I use a Smart Album to help me find the stragglers. Very simple criteria - is the file status managed or not.

Another cross-check I have is for some basic metadata. When I import photos into Aperture, I'll use the Metadata Presets in the Import Settings to set basic IPTC data for the incoming pictures. One of the fields I now always populate is Contact Email....but I didn't always do that (particularly when I first starting using and learning Aperture). I'll use the Smart Album below to find photos that I missed.

And the "Date Stamp" cross-check is used to find versions in Aperture that have incorrect time stamps. I covered that in an earlier post.

That's it. Hope it was worth the wait.