Monday, September 27, 2010

Slowly Getting Organized in Apple Aperture 3

view the final photo

My Aperture 3 library has grown into a giant bin for photos to go and never be seen again. Organizing would take so much time, that I just figured that I'd get to it someday. The library now contains around 60,000 photos and shows no signs that it'll magically clean itself up, so I've started to move in that direction with some simple steps.


1. Tack on only a small bit of time at the end of my current workflow
2. Start geo-tagging photos "good enough" - within 1/2 mile of where they were shot
3. Create more logical projects/albums broken down into shooting locations
4. Tag photos with at least very general terms, being more specific with those I'm exporting to Flickr


Find a photo to share

From time-to-time, I'll randomly browse my collection using the "Projects" view, looking for a photo to share.
Create a new album
When I find a project containing photos I'd like to share, I open the project, (which was most likely a single compact flash card import), then select all photos from the same shooting location. Assuming I want to keep these photos in their current project, I create a new album (Command-L for new album, or Command-N for new project), give it a name, and check the "Move selected items to a new album".

Geo-tag photos (think "good enough")
In the new album, make sure all photos are selected (Command-A). Then from the Metadata menu, select "Assign Location".

Search for the location in the modal window. If you find the exact match, use it. If not, you can click on one of the "Google Results", move and resize the blue circle, then give that location a name that will be available to you later on.

Assign General Keywords

Again, make sure all photos in the album are selected (Command-A). Open the "Batch Change" tool from the Metadata menu, or with the shortcut Command-Shift-B.

Make sure "Append" is selected so that we won't lose any existing tags. Check the box next to "Keywords", then enter some very basic tags that apply to all images in the album such as the location name, city, state, and anything else you can think of. Click "OK" to apply those keywords to all photos in the album.

Here, I'm adding the tags "Florida", "Kennedy Space Center", "NASA", and "Orlando".

If you care to specify more tags for other groups of photos, just select the subset of photos you'd like to add tags to, then follow these steps again. As long as you have "Append" selected, you won't delete any existing tags, just add new ones.

Create a general caption for all photos

Flickr recognizes Aperture's "Caption" field as the description under a photo. I generally use this to give the name and location of where the photo was shot.

Select all photos in the album again (Command-A). Open the Batch Change tool again (Command-Shift-B), check the box next to "Caption", and the radio button next to "Replace". I will also add the location's city and state in this step. Click "OK" to apply this description to all photos in the album. Here, I'm setting the value to "Kennedy Space Center, Orlando, Florida" to all photos in the album. I might replace or add to the description for individual photos later, but this is good enough for now.

Exporting to Flickr
Before I export an individual photo to Flickr, I select the "Metadata" tab for that photo (seen at the top of this post), set the version name to what I'd like it to be displayed as in Flickr, add tags that are more specific to this photo, and consider adding to, or replacing the caption, which shows up as the description under the photo in Flickr.

I'm still in the stone age when it comes to exporting to Flickr. I haven't looked for exporting plugins, and I hate Aperture's Flickr export, so I just manually export to my desktop, then upload using Flickr's tool. This works for me, since I usually like to set the photo order, and only upload 5 at a time anyway. Flickr will pick up all of the tags, captions, and GPS locations set in Aperture. This makes it easy to find photos in your library that are on Flickr. There might be a Flickr setting that I'm not aware of, but for now, I open each photo on the site and click "Add this photo to your map!". The popup window will already have the location you set in Aperture, so just click "OK" to make it public.
Keeping Flickr sets organized
I'll write more on this topic later, but I've recently started using the 3rd-party tool called SuprSetr to automatically manage my sets by keyword and other metadata. If I have a big album like my shots of Kennedy Space Center that I know I'll be uploading from often, I find SuprSetr very time-saving. I create a Flickr set in the tool named "Kennedy Space Center", and tell the tool to automatically add all photos that have the tag "Kennedy Space Center" into this set. Every time I run the tool and select "Refresh all sets", every photo with this tag will be added to the set, and reordered by interestingness, descending.

Future Goals

I'm looking for ways to keep track of what I've exported to Flickr. I haven't decided if I want to create a Flickr album or maintain a custom metadata field with tags such as "Flickr" or "Blog".


The steps above might sound time-consuming, but once you get used to the key shortcuts and have done it a few times, it really only takes a minute or so. Even if I'm only exporting one photo from a shoot to Flickr, I'll bring a couple dozen to several hundred closer to being organized with these simple batch steps. I can always add more detailed tags or GPS coordinates if I want to, but these very coarse brushstrokes really do make a huge difference in my library. If I see a photo in Flickr that I'd like to find in my library, I can use the name of the photo, its tags, or drill down through my map using the "Places" tool.

During this process, if I have time, I'll see if there are any photos that I can delete from my library. I'll let them stick around in the Aperture trash for a while in case I change my mind later.

If you're using Aperture, give these steps a try - it's a very powerful organizational tool - all you have to do is find a simple way to fit it into your routine.