Basic Components of Aperture

Aperture uses the following basic components in your image management system:

The next sections describe each of these elements and how you work with them in Aperture.

What Are Masters?

A digital master file, or master, is the original RAW, GIF, JPEG, TIFF, DNG, or PNG file that is imported into Aperture from a digital camera, memory card, computer, or external storage media device such as an external hard disk drive or CD. Aperture never changes the master, so you always have originals to work from.

Important: Masters—especially RAW files—tend to be quite large. Projects consisting of several thousand masters require high-capacity hard disks.

For information about importing masters, see Importing Images.

What Are Versions?

Once you have masters on your hard disk, you can review and make adjustments to your images. For example, you can change the exposure, contrast, or saturation, or add information to an image, such as the photographer’s name, the event, and the location. To work with images, Aperture creates a version of each master that includes your adjustments and embedded information, leaving the master unchanged. A version refers to the master on your hard disk, but it is not the master itself. Versions store only the thumbnail image, adjustments, and embedded information. A full image file is not created until you are ready to print or export, saving valuable storage space on your hard disk.

In many cases, your workflow may call for different renderings of the same image. For example, a client may request a color as well as a black-and-white version of the same head shot. You can create multiple versions of the same image in Aperture at any time.

Figure. Diagram showing master files and their versions in the Aperture Library file, which is typically located in the Pictures folder on your computer.

When you create a version, Aperture reads the original master on disk and displays it on the screen. As you make adjustments or add information to the image, Aperture displays the image with your changes to the version, but the original master is never changed.

What Are Projects?

You organize your masters and versions using projects. When you import images into Aperture, you assign them to a project. You can create as many projects as you like, up to the limitations of your disk space. For example, you can create a new project for each of your shoots. Or, if you do several shoots of the same subject, you can create a project that encompasses all of the shoots.

Figure. Library inspector showing the contents of a project.

You can have multiple projects open at the same time, each represented by its own icon in the Library inspector and Library tab in the Browser.

What Are Albums?

An album is a container in the Aperture library used to group image versions. You use albums to organize images in the library, making your selections of versions easier to manage. You can create albums at the library level or within a project.

You use albums created at the library level to organize versions from multiple projects. For example, you can create an album to consolidate your favorite images, or selects, from multiple projects. You can then publish this collection of selects on your website or export the album’s contents for review by a prospective client.

You can also create albums within projects to help you organize your images into relevant groups. For example, images in your Soccer project can be divided into three albums: Game 1, Game 2, and Game 3.

Figure. Library inspector showing albums within a project.

You can also place versions from other projects into an album that resides within a project.

In addition to a standard album that you drag images into, you can create Smart Albums whose contents are controlled by the criteria you specify in the Smart Album’s Smart Settings HUD. When you change a Smart Album’s search criteria, the contents of the Smart Album change automatically. For more information about working with Smart Albums, see Grouping Images with Smart Albums.

What Are Folders?

In Aperture, you use folders to organize projects and albums. For example, you can import images into projects and then place the projects in folders based on photo type or location. If you shoot multiple projects for the same client, you can create a folder that holds the client’s individual projects.

Figure. Folders in the Library inspector.

Folders contain only albums, projects, and other folders. They don’t contain masters or versions.

What Is the Library?

The Aperture library tracks every project, album, folder, master, and version, no matter whether the images are stored in the Aperture Library file or in other hard disk locations. Aperture automatically creates a library file in the Pictures folder the first time you open Aperture. You can import images into the library or have Aperture access them from other locations on different hard disks. The library tracks all your images and the information recorded about them, as well as information about where backup files are stored. You can access the library by clicking the Library icon at the top of the Library inspector.

You can change the location of the library file to a different folder or a different disk. You specify where the library should be located using the Preferences window. For more information about working with multiple library files in Aperture, see Working with Library Files.

You can also transfer libraries from other Aperture systems and merge them with the library on your local Aperture system. All links between versions and their masters are maintained when projects are transferred. This is particularly useful if you use a portable computer when on location or away from your studio, and a workstation at your studio. For more information about merging libraries, see Merging Libraries.

When you back up your masters to your vaults on external drives, those actions are tracked by the Aperture library as well. For more information about backing up your library, see Backing Up Your Images.

What Are Managed Images and Referenced Images?

Aperture lets you choose how you organize your photos on disk. You can store your photos in the Aperture library, or you can import images by simply linking to the image files in their current locations, without placing them in the library.

Images whose masters are stored in the Aperture library are called managed images. Managed images are always accessible, and are easily backed up to vaults, to name just two benefits.

Imported images whose masters haven’t been placed in the library are called referenced images. Using referenced images in your Aperture system provides a number of substantial benefits to your photography workflow. For example, you can incorporate your existing portfolio of images into Aperture without changing the current location of the files. Importing images by reference does not result in a duplication of your image files in the Aperture library, thus saving hard disk space. You can also connect and disconnect hard disks holding your referenced images’ masters as you need them. This allows you to keep masters for less-used images offline or to make specific types of images available for editing or adjustments as needed. Using referenced images in your Aperture system lets you build a flexible image management system customized to your work style.

You specify whether an image will be a managed image or a referenced image when you import it. When importing images, you can:

  • Specify that masters be stored in the Aperture library

  • Import images as referenced images, so that their masters remain in their current locations

  • Move or copy image files to a new location. For example, you might decide to have a certain group of referenced image files, such as photos from 2008, placed in one hard disk location, and another group, such as photos from 2009, placed in a different hard disk location.

You can work with referenced images—creating versions, making adjustments, cropping, and adding metadata—just as you can with managed images. Versions that you create from a referenced image are stored in the library. In order for you to make adjustments to a version from a referenced image, the referenced image’s master must be available on your hard disk or other storage device. For example, if you delete a referenced image’s master in the Finder, Aperture no longer has access to the master and so no longer allows you to change your versions or create new ones.

To help you identify referenced images, Aperture marks them with a badge overlay that you can display or hide. When a referenced image’s master is missing or offline, its badge changes to show that the image is not accessible. For example, if you disconnect a hard disk that holds masters for many referenced images, Aperture automatically marks the referenced images in the Browser and Viewer as offline. If you reconnect the hard disk or other storage device later, Aperture accesses the masters automatically and you can work with and change their versions again.

You can also relocate masters, moving them out of the library or moving referenced masters to different hard disk locations. If needed, you can also move referenced masters into the Aperture library by choosing the Consolidate Masters command in the File menu.

You can search for images based on whether they are managed images, referenced images, or online or offline images. Aperture also provides robust file management tools that let you quickly determine which images are offline and easily reconnect images that have been moved to different volumes.

What Is the Aperture Trash?

All items deleted in Aperture, including projects, albums, folders, versions, and masters, are placed in the Aperture Trash in the Library inspector. You can retrieve any item from the Aperture Trash until you empty it. For more information about working with the Aperture Trash, see Working with the Aperture Trash.

Figure. Aperture Trash selected in the Library inspector and the Trash contents displayed to the right in the Browser.

What Is a Vault?

To ensure that you have backup copies of your images, you create a vault to hold the backup files. A vault is a container that holds an exact copy of the library. This includes projects, masters, and any versions you’ve created. You can easily create and update a vault to back up the library. It’s a good idea to create multiple vaults on multiple external hard disk drives to safeguard copies of the library.

You can have as many vaults as you deem necessary. Creating more than one vault is useful if you work at different locations; you can always keep one vault on an external drive onsite and another one offsite. All vaults and backup files are tracked by the library so that even if you disconnect the external hard drive that contains a vault, Aperture can access it the next time you reconnect the drive and update the vault.

All the masters and versions for managed images are backed up, as well as all metadata, previews, and adjustment information associated with managed images. The versions, previews, metadata, and adjustment information associated with referenced masters are also backed up in the vault. Referenced masters are not backed up in the vault with the library.

Important: Because the masters for referenced images are stored outside of the library, you must manage the backup and archiving of them yourself.