Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Aperture - First Thoughts

The most traumatic part of installing new software that replaces an existing package is setting it up the way you want it, which is not necessarily the default designed by the software gurus.

In this respect Apple's Aperture proved to be no different. I had two false starts before settling on the system that suits me. In case others would like to know my approach I have defined it below.

The Aperture Library

Basically Aperture lets you store the library with or without the image files. With the images the library gets to be very large, too large for a portable computer's hard drive (mine is 80GB). So you can keep the library on the hard drive and reference the image files which are stored on a separate drive (or drives). Or, as I discovered, you can use the first option but store the expanded and ever-growing library file on an external hard drive.

Only the Aperture application, plug-ins and preference files remain on the PowerBook.

So my third attempt has one huge Aperture Library.aplibrary file, currently with 62GB of information, sitting on a LaCie Rugged 250GB hard drive which has Firewire 800.

This seems to be a good compromise. I am used to carrying about portable hard drives so one more will not be a hassle (and one of those drives used to have all the Lightroom files on it).

Backing Up

The next thing I am fairly religious about is backing up. This is due to having lost a computer once. (If you don't back up, you should, end of sermon). Apple is good about making back up provisions and Aperture has an excellent concept called the Vault. Basically the library file (with images) is simply backed up to another hard drive. Once backed up, the vault can be refreshed quickly and easily.

(One additional observation is that the Vault only copies the library file so if you choose to have the library work with referenced master files, the latter do not automatically get backed up)

There is the chance of losing recently taken images between backups, so a new rule enters into play - keep all recently taken but downloaded images backed up in the camera, adding extra memory is this proves to be necessary. There is a clever side effect to this. Seeing a rapidly filling camera storage card will prompt a Vault refresh! Once the Vault is refreshed, erase the camera card images.

Note that Apple also suggests using a second Vault, this one to be stored off-site. Good insurance.

Projects and Work Flow

For now I have uploaded all my images into year by year projects. So "1999 Images" contains just the ones taken that year. Subsequently I will refine the project system which is very fluid and easily managed. It can be as complicated or as simple as necessary.

Which reminds me that the longest part of the set up was the creation of thumbnails and previews for the 9,000 images within that library file. An overnight exercise!

I have two digital cameras and here a simple decision was made - the Nikon D200 delivers raw images which deserve Aperture's sophisticated image processing. The Canon IXUS 70 relies on jpegs. So I made the decision to keep the two separate and have loaded the jpegs into iPhoto '08. The two packages can see each other so mixing the two camera outputs is always possible for creating a book or web site. iPhoto '08, by the way, is a very nice low end version of Aperture, a sort of "Aperture Light".

Any niggles?

None so far except that it would appear I can only order prints and books from Apple US. So much for the global economy!


I've started a separate blog here. It uses Apple's iWeb and will focus on my ongoing experience with Aperture.