Saturday, April 19, 2008

Moving to iPhoto

Moving back to iPhoto

Awhile ago I blogged about the reasons that I stayed with Aperture, Apple’s “Pro-Level” photo editing application even though I’ve moved back to a Point & Shoot, consumer Camera and no longer needed its editing capabilities. The main reasons centered around iPhoto’s lack of hierarchical keyword structure, and the fact that it creates duplicate files for each edited image, which could theoretically double the size of your library unnecessarily.

Well I brought this up in
another photo-related blog, and someone turned me onto a program aptly named Keyword Manager, which is a plugin for iPhoto that organizes the keywords hierarchically, and applies the entire set of parent keywords to any photo that you select any child keyword manually to be applied. I have played around with it and it ain’t so bad honestly. It’s not as smooth as Aperture’s handling, which doesn’t really apply all the keywords in the hierarchy, but manages them so that even if you have applied “Redwoods” under Tree>Redwoods, even though “Tree” won’t show up when you inspect the file, searches for “Tree” will generate that photo. But who cares, right? I keyword to make them easier to find later, so I don’t care whether the image “technically” has all the keywords applied or not, so long as it turns up when I search for the right terms. So hey, this little plugin makes iPhoto more legit.

There is of course still the problem of file duplication with regards to any edited photos. Unfortunately, there is no solution for this as far as I can see; iPhoto will create a duplicate and keep the “original,” which is smart for most people that way they can always get back to the original file if they decide they have royally messed it up. The editing engine under Aperture handles this much better, so you end up with just a simple, low-size set of instructions to
create the edited image, without actually creating it and thus the duplication.

I can sort of work around this in two ways. First is even though my new camera shoots more “full-frame”, as in “square,” it does have a 3:2 mode, which creates images in the standard 4x6 size parameter, which I tend to prefer. So simply using this mode on the camera I can cut out a lot of edits I would normally have done. I don’t like “square” photos; our field of vision is naturally wider than taller, and the 4x6 ratios or 16x9 ratios (as found on HDTV’s) is simply more pleasing. OK, I can do that though there is the drawback of losing potential room for crops and edits, but these are the limitations, right? And I can always turn that mode off if I chose.

The other workaround isn’t so much a workaround as it is a realization of fact. My Aperture Library is composed mainly of RAW image files, which take up considerably more room than equivalent jpeg images. For instance, a RAW file of a scene might take up 9MB of space, but a jpeg equivalent – shot on the same camera – would only take up 2MB. That’s a substantial difference! So moving my library to Aperture, exporting all the images as jpeg, I would actually
shrink my library initially. Sure there will eventually be file duplication, but even duplicating a 2MB file and ending up with 4MB dedicated to that image is far less than the 9MB that the RAW image would have taken, so the growth will still be under control.

I think I can do this. But there’s some problems…

Lots of tools to migrate; none in the “right” direction
I have looked high & low for ways to migrate an Aperture library to iPhoto. I have found nothing detailing how to go that direction. Apparently this idea I’m having, this epiphany, is not supposed to happen. Anyway. It can be done, I have done it recently, but I had to work through it a couple times to get it right, and there’s things that will simply not come over like you want. Period. So if you’re looking to move an Aperture library to iPhoto, I can show you how best to do it that I have come across, and the issues you will encounter.

OK the crux of the matter revolves around how you’re going to get the images into iPhoto. There’s two options: you can export your Aperture Library, or you can go to iPhoto and show your Aperture Library and bring them over that way. There are drawbacks to both approaches. If you try to export the images (at least out of 1.5; 2.0 might behave differently) out of Aperture, the files – either the masters or the versions – will lose all the data you’ve applied to them. Therefore, you’ll have the full-quality image, but you will not have any of the ratings, keywords, or other data that you applied via Aperture, as that’s all stored in Aperture’s database, not in the image itself.

The other option as mentioned was to go to iPhoto, and under File, select “Show Aperture Library. From here, you can drag over albums, projects, whatever, and when they come over, iPhoto will inherit all the information from the Aperture database as well, with one exception. You will not have the ratings come over. But that’s OK, I’ll show you how to work around this. The #1 problem with doing it this way is that Aperture & iPhoto do not work together to import the actual file, but rather just the previews you created in Aperture. So if, like me, you created small, lower-quality previews to further save space in Aperture’s database, you’re going to have to do some work to get better-quality images. This is handled through Aperture’s Preferences pane, so first we need to go to Aperture and recreate all your previews.

Once you get the prefs pane opened up, you have to tell Aperture to give you full-quality previews. This is done by telling it to set “No Limit” in the Preview Size Limit box at the bottom. And we also want to select the Highest Quality setting on the slider just above this. This way, Aperture will essentially be creating high-quality export jpegs as previews, the kind you’d be proud to have in you iPhoto library. Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. Aperture will not apply this change retroactively to the photos in its database, so we have to tell it to regenerate previews for
all the images in the library. This is easiest done by selecting “All Images” in the library, and then selecting all the images (Command+A). If you make use of stacks, be aware that these changes will not apply to non-visible images in a stack. So, if you want bring over all your images, even the stacked ones – at highest quality, first select “Open All Stacks” from the Stack menu, then select all images.

The next step is to force Aperture to rebuild all the previews. We have to do this in a special way, as the normal procedure will not work on images that already have previews, even if they are not the newly-specified size. We have to hold Option while clicking on Images, and the second-to-last menu item should be Generate Preview. Now Aperture will get busy rebuilding all the previews at our specified size.

I wish I could say Aperture will fly through this process, but unfortunately on my library – only 5,000-strong & a “paltry” 22GB – it took about two hours. So select this option, go to a play or something, bed the wife or husband, get all showered, and sit back down to continue.

Even though importing them like we intend will bring over all the exif data & keywords, it will not – for whatever reason – bring over the ratings as well. So to get this taken care of, we’re going to do a few steps in Aperture to prepare us to regain them once the images are imported to iPhoto.

It will seem like such a “duh” moment once I outline what we’re going to do, but it took me a day or so to think it through, so I’ll save you the hassle. Create a library-wide search, and select “Rating IS 5-star.” Since this will show stacks, you can either “Open All Stacks” which isn’t wise since you may not have the same rating applied to every image in a stack, or rather you can check the box at the bottom of the search box that says “Ignore Stack Groupings.” This will bring up any image that meets the criteria, regardless of whether or not it’s in another stack that does not meet the criteria. OK, so once all those come up, we need to select all, and then simply apply a new Keyword, something like “5-star.” Yep, it’s that simple. Then you just need to do that for all the other levels of ratings.

The goal here is to have that keyword applied to the images, since it will be brought over in the transfer to iPhoto. Once you’re in iPhoto, you can simply search your library for all of a specific-rated keyword, apply the correct ratings. This very easily done by creating a search for the keyword in question – say, “5-star” – and then selecting all the images, then going to Photo>Rating and applying the correct rating. Then once you’ve done this, you can simply throw away the “-star” keywords.

The real issue is not getting the images into iPhoto, you could easily do that by just showing the entire Aperture library and dragging it all at once. But the problem is that iPhoto will create one “event” out of this. The other issue is that iPhoto will not automagically bring over your albums as well. You can either import the albums you have, or the projects. You can even bring them BOTH over, but they will not be linked, but duplicated. i.e., if you bring over a project that contains image 1234.jpeg, then bring over an album that also contains this image, iPhoto will not simply link the photos, it will duplicate them and create a new project.

This can again be gotten around by using the keyword trick in Aperture first, selecting your albums and applying some code or the whole name so that you can search and then drag to recreate the albums in photo. Unfortunately, there’s simply no other way.

I do not recommend bringing over the albums, just the projects. Chances are not all your images are in an album, but all of them are in a project, so concentrate on dragging over your projects and recreating your albums. This is the best way to tackle the issue that I have found, I promise you.

The other minor problem is that when you do bring over the projects into iPhoto using this method, the will all be “untitled Project;” iPhoto does not respect the name of the project in Aperture for whatever stupid reason, so be prepared to rename your projects as well as recreate your albums.

I recommend doing it through iPhoto rather than exporting your Aperture library and bring it over. But there is one benefit to doing it that way: when you export your aperture library, you have the option to respect the file’s location in the folder hierarchy. Aperture will create folders and subfolders that are the project names, and when you import this data in folders into iPhoto, it will respect the name of the projects. However as stated before, at least & especially on version 1.5 of Aperture, you will lose all of your keywords.

Alternatively, you can try to simply download a copy of Aperture 2.0 as a trial, and use that to export your library. Apparently (though I cannot test this), 2.0 will append the information to the file on export. The downside is that I do not think that even though it appends the keywords to the file, that importing them will bring that keyword data into iPhoto’s database, so then you’ll have to recreate and reapply all of your keywords.

So essentially, it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other. You’re either going to be recreating lost metadata, or recreating lost albums. For me it makes more sense to use the metadata engines to recreate the albums & whatnot. I type fast enough, I can rename the projects if I desire, and the albums too. But having to go back through your entire library and recreate the metadata seems much too menial and time-consuming. I think you’re better off doing as outlined, so that you keep your metadata, and just think through how you can put that metadata to use before the transition, so you can apply it to overcome some of the obstacles to the move (ratings, albums, etc). This is the better way in my opinion.

Good Luck!

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