Often when I go out shooting, I end up shooting a ton of images in a short period of time. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of kiteboarding photography, and it’s common for me to end up shooting 1,000 or more images within a couple hours (the “before” picture has over 1,000 images in it). Once upon a time, it took me longer to edit shoots like these than it did to do the shoot! Thankfully, Aperture has simplified the process. Although everyone’s editing workflow consists of a lot of personal preference, I wanted to share mine in hopes that it’ll make yours smoother!
Personally, I prefer to make a project for each shoot (although if it’s a multi-day shoot, I’ll also create albums for each day), and I’ll use folders to group related projects. My MacBook Pro is my primary machine, and when working on its internal hard drive (which has my working set of images), I prefer to import the images directly into the project and not use referenced files. For me, it’s easier to just remember that all of my images are in one place. When I import the images, I tag them with basic metadata (copyright, location, basic keywords, etc.) right away by setting those values in the importer.
After they’re imported, if I want to start editing right away, I’ll cancel preview generation (Window > Show Task List, select preview generation, and click Cancel) so that Aperture runs a bit faster. Plus, since I end up deleting a lot of images, I’d rather avoid generating more previews than I need. However, if I don’t need to edit right away, I’ll let Aperture finish generating previews so that I don’t need to generate them later.
To start editing, I switch into full-screen mode (with the film strip on the left to maximize my working screen space). On my first pass, I sort my images into three categories: delete (out of focus, awful composition, not worth keeping, etc.), keep, and definitely keep. I mark images that I want to delete as rejects, “keep” images I leave alone, and I rate “definitely keep” images with three stars. Once in a while, I’ll also do basic tweaks (primarily straightening horizons) to some images as I edit. The point of this first pass is to reduce the number of images that I really need to look at while getting an overview to the images I shot. Plus, by marking images that I really like, if needed, I am able to quickly show the best results of the shoot.
The second pass is where I spend time with each image. I’ll first do any needed cleanup (exposure adjustments, crops, etc.), and then I rate the cleaned-up image. On my rating system, five stars means “near perfect,” four means “really great,” three means “worth showing,” two means “not worth showing but worth keeping for some reason,” and one means “not worth showing, and I’m only keeping for some small reason such as a unique subject.” I’ll also assign more specific keywords as I edit my images on the second pass, although sometimes I do wait until I’m completely done editing a related group of images so that I can assign keywords in bulk.
As I go through, I’ll also mark different images that I want to work on more in Photoshop. For images that I want to combine, I’ll stack them. Otherwise, I’ll either make a mental note of the images (if I’m feeling lazy) or copy them into their own album.
Once I have my edit done, I’ll generate previews for my images if I cancelled preview generation earlier. At this point, as you can see in the second screenshot, the project looks a lot more sane–there are fewer images, and every image is adjusted, rated, keyworded, and ready to sell.
The last part of my process involves backing up my images. I have an external firewire RAID array for my images, and I keep a master Aperture library on that drive. From the library on my internal hard drive, I export the project to my RAID array. Then, to avoid having to duplicate my project by using Aperture’s import command, I do something sneaky:
- Quit Aperture
- Control-click on the Aperture library on my RAID array and select “Show Package Contents”
- Drag the exported project into the window from step 2, into the Aperture library on my RAID array
- Double-click the Aperture library on my RAID, and when Aperture prompts me about the unknown images, I tell it to recover those images
If I were to use Aperture’s import project command instead of the above steps, Aperture would duplicate my project and images (which can be slow), and I’d need to delete the original project from my RAID array to avoid having two copies of it.
Lastly, I will make a folder on my RAID array to hold my images, and I’ll use the Relocate Masters command to move my master files out of the project package and into the folder so that I can browse them outside of Aperture, too.