One of the most important tasks you perform in Aperture is importing images. New users often overlook critical import settings that will impact their workflow. Issues such as where your master files live and the data that’s going to be added to them are easier to deal with up front, rather than once a library is bulging with images.

What requires some advance planning is deciding where the master image files will be stored, and then choosing the right settings to put them there.

Referenced or managed library?

The first decision you have to make is where your master photos are going to live. The simplest method is to use the managed library approach. In this case, Aperture copies the master files from your memory cards into its Aperture Library container. By default, the container lives in your Pictures folder, but you can move it anywhere.

When you import images into Aperture you can add them to an existing project or create a new one. You can also group projects within folders to reduce clutter

The advantage of this approach is that when you back up your Aperture library, everything is in one place: your masters, previews, metadata, and all the work you’ve done. It’s neat and tidy.

The disadvantage, especially for people who capture videos or Raw images, is that your Aperture container can swell to hundreds of gigabytes, putting a stranglehold on your hard drive.

This is why some prolific shooters opt for a referenced library instead. This method keeps your master images outside the Aperture container and on, for example, a separate hard drive that’s connected to your Mac. With this approach, your Aperture container grows at a slower pace, because it’s generating only previews, thumbnails, and data. The big files are stored elsewhere. The disadvantage of a referenced library is that you have to back up both your Aperture container and the various places where your master files live.

The general rule of thumb is that if you’re a light shooter or someone who captures mainly in JPEG format, go with a managed library. If you’re a photographer who shoots in Raw mode and fills up big memory cards, you should opt for the referenced library approach.

When you connect your camera or memory card reader to a Mac with Aperture open, the Import window box will appear. In the Import Settings pane on the right, you’ll see an area labelled Aperture Library. Look for the Store Files pop-up menu, and from it choose the location for your master files.

To create a managed library, select In The Aperture Library. For a referenced library, select Choose from the pop-up menu and navigate to the location where you want the files on the memory card copied. A second pop-up menu will appear, letting you choose a subfolder. We recommend selecting Project Name so that your master image folders will have the same name as their corresponding projects in Aperture.

Project destination and name

Aperture’s Import window shows existing projects and albums on the left, navigation for picking files to import in the middle, and import settings on the right

All photos added to Aperture must live in a project. When you import, you can add images to an existing project or create a new one. This is where it pays to have a clear philosophy on your library structure. For example, it’s a good idea to create a new project for all major shoots. The projects are then grouped within folders to keep clutter to a minimum.

In the Import window, choose New Project in the Destination pop-up menu. In the field below it – Project Name – we’d typically use a standard naming convention of mm-yy-name for the new Project. If you want to add the images to an existing project, navigate to the desired location in the Library pane on the left side and click on the name of the project where you want the images to reside. Aperture will automatically fill in that name in the Destination field.

More import options

There are a wealth of customisable options under the Import Settings pop-up menu in the upper-right corner. Here’s a little detail on some of the options there.

File Info  At first glance, File Info seems like just a basic info box, but additional information will appear here when you start working with other options such as File Name and File Date. To see the File Info details for any photo you’re importing, just click on the image’s thumbnail in the import browser.

Rename Files  During import, you can instruct Aperture to append those filenames or replace them altogether. In the Version Name menu, you can choose from a handful of preset formats or configure your own preset.

Time Zone  If you forget to adjust a camera’s internal clock when you travel to different locations, your time stamp will be incorrect for the entire trip. Fix this oversight via the two pop-up menus in the Time Zone area. In the first, choose the time zone your camera was set to. In the second, select the actual time zone where you took the pictures. Aperture will adjust the time stamp for you.

Metadata Presets  One of the most powerful features in the Import window, the Metadata Presets area allows you to add custom metadata to your images as they’re loaded into Aperture.

Adjustment Presets  In the Adjustment Presets area, you specify changes to, say, white-balance settings, and Aperture will make those changes for you at import.

File Types  When you have a variety of media on your memory card, such as video and still images, you may want to separate them during import. You can quickly sort through these different types by checking the appropriate box or boxes in the File Types area.

Raw+JPEG Pairs  If you capture images in both Raw and JPEG formats at the same time, you can manage which file type is imported and which is the master by enabling the Raw+JPEG Pairs option. If you’re shooting in Raw mode, keep in mind that Aperture automatically generates a high-quality JPEG preview for each Raw shot after import.

Actions  Aperture Actions let you run AppleScripts on images as you import them into Aperture.

Backup Location  Send your master files to two separate locations during the importing process with the Backup Location setting.

Managing import settings

You can turn these individual controls on and off via the Import Settings pop-up menu in the upper-right corner. To keep your Import window uncluttered, decide which controls you need, turn them on, and then leave everything else unchecked. This will help you focus on the images and the proper data to go with them.

Also, take a few moments to create custom Metadata Presets – such as one for your personal work, one for a specific client, and so on. By doing so, you’re more likely to have important information attached to your images, because it was so easy to do during the import process.