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By Derrick Story | Monday, May 12, 2014

The Unlimited Laptop and Aperture

The Unlimited Laptop and Aperture

If only our laptops held more photos. Life would be so much easier if we could combine the speed of today’s solid state drives and the vast storage of spinning platters. So how do you cope with the thousands of photos captured on that once-in-a-lifetime vacation abroad?

I face this situation all the time—not because I’m constantly on vacation to exotic lands, but because I’m an event photographer who spends a lot of time on the road. I travel with a MacBook Pro 15-inchRetina display laptop with a 256 GB SSD drive. I wouldn’t give up the speed of solid state storage for anything. And thanks to Aperture’s versatile library management, I don’t have to.

Here’s how I manage gigabytes of photos annually with just my laptop on the road and external storage at home.

Be clever with your library

The foundation for this workflow is the Aperture library container that lives in my Pictures folder. This is the home for my photos and the information that goes with them. The great news is that I can have multiple Aperture libraries and switch among them. And even better, I can merge multiple libraries into one. That’s the secret to this sauce.

Back at my studio I have the ginormous master Aperture library living on a Drobo 5D with Thunderbolt connectivity. If you read my recent post, How to Organize Your Aperture Library, you saw a screenshot of the mother ship for my images. That library would never fit on a laptop. It stays home.

Think of it this way: The Drobo is my base camp where all of the supplies are stored, and the MacBook Pro is the backpack I take on adventures.

When I pack my bags for a trip, I make sure my laptop has enough free space for the images I’ll be capturing. I figure 100 GBs will do the trick in most situations. I open a clean Aperture library (File > Switch to Library > Other/New). This is where all the photos, captions, keywords, and slideshows from my trip will live.

Lots of memory cards (they’re cheap, you know)

When I’m on the road, I bring enough memory cards to get me through the trip without having to erase any of them. This is a safety measure to protect my pictures. One set of images lives on my computer in the Aperture library. The backup set remains on the original memory cards, stored in a different bag than my laptop.

I don’t reformat those memory cards until my Aperture library has been backed up at home. My rule is that I want images to live in at least two different locations at any given moment. Three is better.

Safe and sound at home

Once I return home, I plug the Drobo 5D into my MacBook Pro and open the master Aperture library. I can now merge the vacation library on my MacBook Pro with the master library on the Drobo. I go to File > Import > Library and navigate to the vacation library living in the Pictures folder of the laptop.

Aperture then begins the process of integrating that library into the master. Everything is retained, including the Project name, Album structure, metadata, image adjustments, slideshows—everything.

When the merge is complete, I copy the vacation library that is still on my laptop to a different external drive. This is my extra backup for the Drobo. Once everything is copied to new homes, I can trash the vacation library off my laptop and reclaim that disk space. I can now safely reformat the memory cards and put them in my camera bag, nice and clean for the next assignment.

Works the other way, too

The ability to merge Aperture libraries gives us the flexibility we need when using fast laptops with limited storage. And it works the other way, too: You can export a project from your Master library (File > Export > Project as New Library) and copy it to your laptop.

This comes in handy when you want to bring a collection of images with you for display or editing, but you don’t want to lug around the entire master library. Once you return home, you can merge the traveling library back to your master, either replacing the contents of the original project, or merging them with the updated files.

If you’re a traveling photographer, this system is a godsend.

More information

For more specifics on how to apply these techniques, watch my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training. Also, stay tuned to the lynda.com Article Center, where I’ll be sharing more Aperture tips and techniques.

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