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By Derrick Story |

5 tips for organizing your photos in Aperture

Manage your photos in Aperture

Your photo library is getting bigger every day—it’s a fact that photographers can’t escape in this age of digital and mobile photography. As your collection grows, it becomes more and more important to have an organization plan so you can find your images when you need them.

By adopting just a few simple practices, you can take advantage of one of Aperture’s strongest features: getting your image library in order.

The basic structure is this: Folders at the top level. Projects go into Folders. Albums help you organize inside your Projects. Study the screenshot of my Library tab below for a moment, then read on to see how this works.


1. Think in terms of projects

The Project container, which looks like a photo storage box (see 01-11 Lowepro Outdoor Gear in the screenshot above), is the heart of the Aperture Library.

I recommend creating a separate Project for each major shoot. Not only will this help you quickly identify your work in the Library tab of the Inspector pane, but it’s also helpful in the Projects view because you’ll have an informative thumbnail for each individual shoot. In the Projects view, you can scan these “visual labels” for the various subjects you’ve photographed and find the topics you want to view.

02-Projects View Aperture

2. Use folders to reduce clutter

When you create a Project for every major shoot, you end up with a lot of Projects in your Library tab—but thanks to Folders, it’s not a problem. I use two basic levels of Folders: The top level is the year (2013, 2012, etc.), and nested inside each year Folder are 8 to 10 subject Folders such as Events, People, Places, Plants & Animals, and Things.

I store travel pictures in the Places Folder, portraits in the People Folder, and so on. I can expand and collapse these Folders as needed. When collapsed, I can fit years’ worth of Projects neatly in the Library tab.

3. Build virtual collections with Albums

I create Albums inside my Projects to hold various collections, such as pictures I’ve posted online and favorites selected by clients.

You can move pictures in and out of Albums without disrupting the organization of your Library because when you put a picture in an Album, it’s really just a virtual copy of that shot. The master file lives in the Project. So you can play to your heart’s content without wreaking havoc on the Library structure.

4. Be consistent with naming conventions

I try to be consistent with how I name my containers. Each Project label begins with the month-year format followed by a brief description. This way, I can scan my Library pane and know when those images were captured and basically what they are. I stick with this approach on my backup drives and elsewhere, so everything matches up, regardless of where it’s located.

5. Use star ratings to identify your best work

A good rule of thumb is to only spend time editing your best work.

To do that, I apply star ratings to the entire shoot. A 2-star rating is acceptable, 3 stars is good, and 4 stars is the best. I generally make two passes through the shoot. The first pass is a “yay or nay” evaluation. If yay, the picture gets two stars. If nay, then nothing.

For the second pass, I only look at the 2-star shots and upgrade those that are the best among the group. Those 3-star images are the ones I’ll work on.

By rating your work, you can quickly filter the best shots for sharing and editing. The last thing you want is to have to revisit the entire shoot just to find an image or two worthy of sharing.

03-Star Ratings Aperture

More information

For more specifics on how to apply these techniques when organizing your photos, watch my course Aperture 3 Essential Training on lynda.com. And stay tuned to this blog, where I’ll be sharing more Aperture tips and techniques.

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