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By Derrick Story | Thursday, June 26, 2014

Moving from Aperture to Lightroom

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Every time I pack up and move from one house to another, I say, “I’m never doing this again!” Moving is laborious, tedious, and at times, frustrating.

Switching from Aperture to Lightroom can feel the same.

Our photo management system, whether it’s iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, or another app, contains a lot of our work. Yes, the images are there, but just as importantly, so is the labor associated with them.

Image edits, captions, keywords, albums, slideshows, and various other expressions of our images represent the time that we’ve invested in our photo libraries. When considering a move from one application to another, we need to take all of this labor in to account.

Some migrations are easier than others. For example, moving from iPhoto to Aperture requires just a couple of clicks, and everything is retained. Migrating from Aperture to Lighroom, on the other hand, is more complicated.

Redirect a referenced Aperture library

Ironically, relocating the master images is the easiest part of the project. If you’re running a “referenced library” in Aperture (meaning that the masters are located outside of the library container), then you simply need to point Lightroom to those photos and import them. Be sure that “Add”is selected in Lightroom so the masters aren’t moved. I explain this in my previous article, “One Library Shared by Both Aperture and Lightroom.”

Even if you’ve been using a managed library in Aperture, it’s easy enough to move the masters out of the Aperture project container to make them accessible to Lightroom.

Click on a Project on the Aperture Inspector, choose Relocate Originals from the File menu, and the picture files will gently be moved from the library container to a folder of your choice. From that point, all you have to do is import the pictures into the Lightroom catalog, and you’ve relocated the inhabitants from one app to another.

As easy as this is, the catch is that you don’t benefit from any of the time and labor you’ve invested in tagging and correcting your photographs. If those are important to you, read on.

Retain image edits and metadata

Retaining your image edits and the accompanying metadata such as caption, credits, keywords, and star ratings requires additional effort. This is information that you added to the original files; it’s stored in the Aperture library. (By the way, this challenge is formidable going the other way, too. Lightroom keeps information in its catalog, separate from the images.)

If you want to meld this data with the master picture files, then exporting is the answer. You have a few options to consider. Which you choose depends on your priorities.

Original RAW File with IPTC Metadata: This option is for those who want RAW files in the new application and value the captions, star ratings, and keywords connected to the RAWs.

Export Originals

In Aperture, choose File > Export > Original and select “Include IPTC” from the Metadata popup in the Export dialog box. You won’t get any editing that you’ve done to the picture—but you do get the metadata, including star ratings, which you don’t get using the Relocate Originals approach. Unfortunately, Flags don’t make the transition.

Edited File with IPTC Metadata: If the work you’ve done on the photo is more important than having the original RAW file, this is your option. You’ll be able to export the edited photograph in a TIFF, PSD, or JPEG format, including all the corrections and the metadata. Select: File > Export > Version > [desired file format]. The RAW file will remain in Aperture. I suggest that you hang on to it here. More on that later.

JPEG with Edits and IPTC Metadata: If you’re a JPEG shooter, select File > Export > Version > JPEG Original Size. You will essentially move the file as you currently see it in Aperture to a new folder ready for import into Lightroom. And yes, you get the metadata, too.

To tell you the truth, this approach is also worth considering for RAW shooters. You’re bringing high-quality JPEGs with edits and metadata into your new Lightroom Library. Just hang on to those original RAWs in case you need them.

If it helps you to see these options in a video, watch Exporting masters and versions from my course Aperture 3 Essential Training.

Tidy up after the move

Cleaning Up in Lightroom

Depending on which method you choose for getting your images out of Aperture, you’ll have to do some cleanup work with them in Lightroom. Don’t procrastinate on this. (Remember all those boxes you ignored in the garage for months after your last move?) The longer you wait, the less you will remember.

Examples of this housekeeping include creating Collections for sets of images that may have been housed in Albums in Aperture, building new Smart Collections for your best shots, and adding flags or color codes as needed.

I also think it pays to be organized during the exporting process. By doing so, you’ll save time and tedium when setting up your new place in Lightroom.

No silver bullet

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “Prepare my Aperture Library for Migration to Lightroom” command in Aperture. Nor would we expect one; how many moving companies would set up your new house just the way it looked at the previous location?

After you’ve completed the process, I suggest that you archive your Aperture library on an external hard drive. This leaves you the option of returning to it if you misplaced something in the move.

What would I choose—if I had to?

Export Original JPEG Size

If I were making the move to Lightroom, I would use the JPEG with Edits and IPTC Metadata approach for the legacy content. That way I get my image edits and metadata in a high-quality file. I would also archive my Aperture library in case I wanted to go back and retrieve a RAW file.

Oh—and one more thing

In case you’re wondering, Aperture is where I currently store all of my images. I do like Lightroom and use it. But I think Aperture is a stronger organizational tool.

Plus, like I said: I hate moving.

Derrick Story is a professional photographer, author, and teacher. Check out his courses on lynda.com.

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