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Import your images from Aperture into Lightroom

Following on from the first part in this write-up, here’s what I did to get my images from Aperture into Lightroom.

This is a fairly manual process, there’s no magic involved that makes anything easy, you will have a fair bit of work on your hands reorganising your photos.

It’s quite easy to import your images into Lightroom, but it was very time consuming to reorganise them – however not as bad as I initially expected. If you’re using Aperture 2, this process will actually be a lot easier than if you’re using Aperture 3. Aperture 3 keeps it’s photos arranged by date (as Lightroom does by default) whereas Aperture 2 keeps the photos arranged into folders that match your album structure.

First, launch Lightroom and set up a new catalog. Configure where the photos will be stored and make sure that it’s somewhere with plenty of free space – you will need at least as much disk space free as your Aperture library takes up.

You can store your Aperture catalog on a different volume to the image files and this can help speed things up. If you have, for instance, a small SSD as your boot drive and a large hard drive as your data drive (as I do) you can keep the Aperture catalog on the boot drive (for my collection of around 10k images, the catalog file is less than 100 MB and the thumbnails take up around 4 GB.

Locate your images in the Aperture Library

Open your home folder > Pictures folder and locate the Aperture Library.

Right-click on the Aperture Library and Show Package Contents.

You can ignore pretty much everything in here, except for the folder called Masters.

Import the images into Lightroom

This is pretty easy – simply drag either the whole Masters folder, or if you have many thousands of images, you might want to drag in one year (or even one month) at a time. Drag the folders into the Lightroom window and dump them in the main area.

Now, Lightroom is very different with the way it handles imports, and the way it deals with the files. In the top and centre of the Lightroom window, you will have the options to Copy as DNG, Copy, Move or Add.

If you click on each of these options, Lightroom will explain what they do:

  • Copy as DNG: Convert to DNG in a new location and add to catalog.
  • Copy: Copy photos to a new location and add to catalog.
  • Move: Move photos to a new location and add to catalog.
  • Add: Add photos to catalog without moving them.

What you’ll want to do is either Copy as DNG or Copy. If you’re 100% sure you don’t want to ever go back to Aperture, and you have a recent backup of your Aperture catalog, then you can Move them, if you’re just trying out Lightroom and not too sure if you’ll stick with it, you can Add them, but I don’t recommend doing this, as it may cause issues with Aperture and Lightroom conflicting with each other.

I copied my images into Lightroom – there are pros and cons to the DNG format – read more about DNG on Adobe or check out the Wikipedia entry on Digital Negative files. I opted to not convert to DNG as I wanted to keep my RAW images untouched.

Organise the images in Lightroom

This is where the time consuming part comes in.

If your images were in Lightroom in JPEG format, then a lot of metadata will come through with them, such as keywords, copyright etc. If your images are all RAW then you won’t get much except for the images themselves.

Lightroom, by default, will then reorganise your images into subfolders per year and by date below this, eg:

– 2011-01-04

This, for me at least, made it relatively easy to then go through and sort them out by event. It was rare for me that I shot more than one subject or more than one event in a day, so I really just had to look at the first few photos to be able to tell what the event was. It was actually very good in the end to go through my photo library like this – there were a number of images that needed to be deleted and I had quite a few events in Aperture that contained  photos from more than one event so it was great to clean these up.

In the end, I went with a library that was organised at the top level by year and then by event within each year. Where Aperture would import all the images from your memory card into one event, even if they were spread over a number of days, Lightroom will import each day into a new folder, even if it’s within the one import session.

It took me a few sessions in front of the keyboard, over a couple of days to sort it all out, so it wasn’t a quick process by any stretch. It was an easy process however and I’ve now got a photo library that’s organised a lot better than the original one was in Aperture.

1 thought on “Import your images from Aperture into Lightroom

  1. There’s a better and easier way – just “relocate” the files within aperture and use the settings for “save files in folders with name of project”. Then you should have all your original (raw-)files on the hard drive sorted into folders named by project.

    If you, like me, named them like “110213 – blablabla” and nested in yearly folders then it would be no bummer to drag all the folders into lightroom and let the files on the hard drive externally from lightroom.

    So you have saved a lot of time because you have not to rename all of your folders and search for the files – instead you see the right folder names in the LR folders bar 😉

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