I don’t actually think you should stop using Aperture. In fact, in my own work, I’ve pretty much abandoned all of my other workflow tools and am using Aperture exclusively. However, people keep asking me questions about renaming master files, or organizational questions about how to keep files arranged in the Finder. I try to explain that, very often, these issues are irrelevant because Aperture will handle them for you and, very often, the would-be Aperture user fesses up: “yeah, but what if I stop using Aperture one day?”
The Aperture library still scares a lot of people. In my talks, It’s apparent from the questions that people ask that many still think that committing to Aperture will invariably set them up for some terrible problem in the future, should they ever need to abandon Aperture for another workflow solution.
So, in an effort to ease the minds of those who are hesitating to completely embrace Aperture, I’d like to explain exactly how you can stop using Aperture, should you ever decide to. Hopefully, once you see that you can easily extricate yourself from an Aperture-based workflow, you’ll be more willing to completely throw yourself into Aperture.
Should you ever decide to stop using Aperture, your first goal will be to extract all of your images from the Aperture libary. Aperture’s non-destructive editing architecture means that you need to take care to copy out both your master images, and any edited versions that you may have created. If you take only your masters, you’ll lose all edits, ratings, and metadata that you’ve assigned. If you’ve been saving copies of your master images before you import them into Aperture, then you may be able to skip this step. However, to be safe, you might want to export all your masters anyway. After all, you can always sort through them later.
To export masters, first select a project, then select all of the images in that project and choose File > Export > Export Masters. Select a location and Aperture will write out copies of your master files. Then move on to the next project. Since you’re exporting on a project-by-project basis, you can easily export your master files into separate folders, allowing you to build up an organizational scheme in the Finder as you go.
Next you’ll want to create copies of the edited versions that you’ve created. You can choose to do this for every version in a project, or selectively export only the images that have been edited. Select the versions you want to export and choose File > Export > Export Versions. Pick a destination and an export preset and your files will be exported. Again, because you’re going project-by-project, it’s easy to keep your exported images organized.
For these export steps to work, you need enough disk space to hold all of your masters and versions. If space is tight, there’s another approach you can take.
First, export your versions as described above. Then, in the Finder, navigate to the location of your Aperture library. By default, the Aperture library is kept in the Pictures folder of your Home directory. If you don’t find it there, check your Aperture preferences to find out where it is.
Control-click on the Library document and choose Show Package Contents. A Finder window will open showing the contents of the Library. In the window’s Spotlight field enter the file extension of one of your master file types (NEF, PSD, CR2, CRW, JPG, TIFF, ORF, etc.). All of the images in your library that have that file extension will appear in the Spotlight window. You can then drag them to a new location. You’ll need to do a separate search for every file type that you’ve used in your library. If you use this technique, your Aperture library will be very messed up when you’re done, so make sure that this is the very last step that you perform in your process. This procedure will also work if you one day find yourself with an Aperture library, but no usable copy of Aperture.
While the versions that you export will include any metadata that you’ve assigned, you can also export metadata as a tab-delimited text file. Select the images that contain the metadata you want to export, then choose File > Export > Export Metadata. Aperture will prompt you for a location and a filename and will then write a text file to that location.
As you can see, using the tools that are built in to Aperture, you can easily extract all of your master files, edited images, and metadata. If you don’t have Aperture you can still access all of your master files directly from the Finder.
So, for those of you who are still worried about how to one day leave Aperture behind, post your fears here and we’ll see if there’s a solution.