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How to Import Photos With Aperture

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Before you can do any work in Aperture, you have to get your pictures out of your camera and onto your Mac's hard drive. Since Aperture is designed to facilitate your entire digital workflow, it includes a full-featured importer that can transfer images from a media card or directly from your camera. This chapter shows you how to use all of its features to sort and organize your photos as you import them.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Before you can do any work in Aperture, you have to get your pictures out of your camera and onto your Mac's hard drive. There are many ways to do this and you don't have to have Aperture simply to copy images from a camera. However, since Aperture is designed to facilitate your entire digital workflow, it includes a full-featured importer that can transfer images from a media card or directly from your camera.

When you import into Aperture—from a card reader, a camera, or a folder that's already on your Mac—Aperture copies the imported images into its own library. You can then freely delete the images from their original location, because Aperture has its own copies inside its library.

But Aperture's Import facility lets you do much more than simply copy images into the Aperture library. With the tools built in to the Aperture import facility, importing can mark the beginning of your sorting and organization process.

You can configure Aperture to automatically launch any time you plug a camera or card reader into your Mac. Select Aperture > Preferences and change the When a Camera Is Connected, Open pop-up menu to Aperture. (From this same menu, you can also configure your Mac to open a different application, or to do nothing at all, freeing you to manage the copying process yourself from the Finder.) Note that even if you have this menu set to open nothing, if Aperture is running when you connect a camera or media reader, then its Import dialog box will still automatically open.

In Chapter 2, we examined Aperture's master/version scheme for storing and manipulating images. To recap: When you import, Aperture copies your image into its internal library. This file is considered by Aperture to be a master file, and it is never altered or manipulated. Instead, when you edit an image, that edit is added to a list of edits that are applied to the original master data, on the fly, whenever the image is displayed or output. That list of edits is called a version.

When you first import an image into Aperture, the program automatically creates a version for that image. Because you have not yet applied any edits, that version of the image looks exactly like your original untouched master file ( Figure 3.1 ).


Figure 3.1 The thumbnails and images that you see in Aperture's Viewer and Browser are actually a combination of two files: the original raw data and the list of edits and changes that gets applied to that data any time the image is written to the screen or output.

In Chapter 5, you'll see how to create additional versions of an image.

Importing from a Camera or Media Card

Depending on how you configure Aperture (as just discussed), the Import dialog box may appear automatically when you attach a camera or media card reader to your Mac. If you have not configured Aperture to automatically launch when a camera is connected, you can invoke the Import dialog box manually. This procedure is also handy when you want to import images that are already on your drive.

The Import dialog box is divided into three main areas: the thumbnail view, in the middle of the dialog box, where you can select and arrange images for import; the Info pane (at the right), where you can adjust the time stamp of your images, rename images, and add metadata; and, if you're importing images already on your drive, a file browser (at the left) for selecting the folder that you want to import from ( Figure 3.2 ).


Figure 3.2 Aperture's Import dialog box lets you select the images you want to import, along with a destination project or album to import them into. In addition, you can apply metadata and other adjustments while importing.

The arrow on the left side of the Import pane indicates which project your images will be imported into. You can change the import destination by simply clicking a different project name. Note that you can import directly into an existing album, Web gallery, light table, or book. Aperture will import the images into the project and automatically add them to the indicated item.

The Import dialog box is not modal—you can still access Aperture's menu bar and the buttons in the main Aperture window. So if you need to create a new project while the Import dialog box is open, you can simply click the New Project button or choose File > New Project.

Selecting Images for Import

By default, the Import dialog box will import all of the images from the currently selected source. However, by clicking the displayed thumbnails, you can choose specific images for import. All of the usual selection rules apply when selecting images (Shift-click to select contiguous images, Command-click to add noncontiguous images to the current selection).

If you deselect the images that are technically or artistically flawed, you won't waste time importing them, and you'll have fewer images to sort and compare later. Because Aperture lets you select only the images that you want to import, importing becomes the first sorting and organizing step in your workflow.

Using the controls at the bottom of the Import dialog box, you can change the size of the thumbnails shown; re-sort the images by date, file name, or size; or switch to a list view of the images.

Adjusting the Time Stamp of Imported Images

All digital cameras have internal clocks, and they use these clocks to time stamp every image that they shoot. Though you may not remember doing it, at some point when you first got your camera, you probably set the date and time.

Unless you have a camera equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System), your camera doesn't know when you've changed time zones. So if you fly to the other side of the world and take some pictures, they'll all be stamped with whatever time it is back home.

Aperture lets you adjust the time stamp of an image. To adjust imported images, click the Adjust Time Zone button. Configure the Camera Time Zone pop-up menu so that it matches the time zone that your camera is set to; then change the Actual Time Zone popup menu to the time zone in which you were shooting ( Figure 3.3 ). Upon import, your images will show the correct actual time.


Figure 3.3 Images that were shot in New York were imported, but the camera was set for California time. Using the Adjust Time Zone button, you can tell Aperture to adjust the time stamp on the images to reflect the correct East Coast time.

True to its "never alter the master image" philosophy, Aperture doesn't actually change the time stamp of the original image. Instead, it stores the offset that you specify in the version information that's stored alongside the file.

Renaming Images During Import

Camera-generated names are fairly meaningless, and though you can always search for images by digging through thumbnails, having well-named files can facilitate easier searching and sorting later. By default, Aperture uses the original camera names when it imports images. You can rename images during import by selecting a new naming option from the Name Format pop-up menu.

Of course, Aperture preserves the original names when it imports your images. The new names you define are given to the initial versions that Aperture creates and are stored in the Version Name field of each image's metadata. So when we speak of renaming in Aperture, what we're really talking about is defining a new version name.

The Name Format pop-up menu provides renaming options that allow you to include sequential numbers, version names, date and time stamps, and counters.

At the top of the Info pane, Aperture shows you the new file name for the selected image, allowing you to double-check that you've selected the correct name format ( Figure 3.4 ).


Figure 3.4 At the top of the Info pane in the Import dialog box, Aperture shows an example of your selected renaming scheme.

Defining Custom Naming Presets

You can define your own naming schemes by selecting Edit from the Name Format popup menu.

To define a new name, click the + button beneath the Name list and enter a new preset name. In the Format field, you can enter text to use in your new file names, and you can use the Include check boxes to insert various image parameters.

In addition to specifying the predefined parameters, you can enter text in the Format field. For example, the definition shown in Figure 3.5 will rename the file with a custom name along with the date, separated by a • (dot character).


Figure 3.5 You can define new naming schemes using the Custom Names Preset editor. This preset will rename files using text entered by the user, a bullet, and then the date that the image was created.

Adding Metadata

Chapter 2 introduced the concept of metadata— additional data that's included in an image file. Metadata is used for storing the date and time an image was shot, any keywords or ownership information that you might want to apply, and much more.

Aperture supports many types of metadata, and you can assign many of these metadata tags during import. At first, entering metadata may seem like a tedious hassle, but good meta-data tagging is well worth the time and effort. When your images have accurate metadata, many Aperture operations become much simpler, including searching, sorting, and Web gallery construction. As your library grows, good organization and easy searching become even more important, so good metadata tagging becomes especially valuable.

Metadata tags are divided into categories in Aperture, to make it easier to find the particular metadata field that you're looking for. In the Import dialog box, the Add Metadata From pop-up menu lets you select the metadata category that you want to view, and as you'll see later, you can customize the existing categories as well as define your own ( Figure 3.6 ). This is the same menu that appears in the Metadata panel of the Info pane.


Figure 3.6 The Add Metadata From pop-up menu lets you select the category of metadata that you want to edit.

Some of the metadata categories on the Add Metadata From pop-up menu are used to configure the display of metadata in different Aperture views and layouts and so are dimmed when you're in the Import dialog box. You'll also find that many metadata tags are repeated from category to category. You don't have to pick just one category—categories are for organization only, and you can make as many entries in as many categories as you like.

Metadata that is entered in the Import dialog box is automatically applied to all of the images that are imported. You can't selectively apply metadata while importing.

To edit metadata, find the tag that you want to edit and enter new text in its field. Aperture auto-completes any tags that you've previously entered, allowing you to type just a few characters to quickly enter common tags. At the very least, you'll probably want to fill in the Credit and Copyright Notice fields for all of the images that you import ( Figure 3.7 ). (And if you're wondering, you can type a © symbol by pressing Option-G.)


Figure 3.7 When importing, it's a good idea to at least tag your images with your credit and copyright information. Adding keywords will make it easier to perform certain types of searches and sorts later.

You don't have to enter metadata only during import. Aperture provides the same metadata interface in the main program, so if you forget a particular tag or later change your mind about a metadata entry, you can easily alter it after import. However, it's sometimes easier to make metadata—and thus organizational—decisions during import rather than later facing the daunting task of tagging a huge project full of images.


In any type of photography, but particularly in event or journalistic photography, you often shoot bursts of images. Perhaps you're trying to get just the right facial expression, or you're trying to capture the precise moment that a football quarterback releases the ball. Since most digital cameras provide the ability to shoot image bursts (at anywhere from three to eight frames per second), it's easy to cover a specific moment with lots of shots.

If you're a landscape or nature photographer who regularly brackets your shots, then you might use your camera's burst feature in conjunction with its auto-bracketing capability to automatically capture bursts of bracketed images.

In either case, your shoots will often yield groups of related images that were shot at around the same time. You will usually want to pick just one of these images as your final "keeper."

To help in your organizational chores, Aperture lets you group images into special collections called stacks. Stacks are very simple in concept, and this simplicity belies the depth of their usefulness. (We'll be spending a lot of time with stacks in later chapters.) Stacks are especially useful for managing bursts of shots, thanks to Aperture's ability to automatically create stacks out of images that were shot within a certain time interval.

At the bottom of the Import dialog box you'll find a small slider with time markings beneath it ( Figure 3.8 ). This is the Auto Stacking slider. You can use the auto-stacking feature to group your images into stacks, based on the amount of time that elapsed between shots. As you move the slider to the right, images shot within a certain time interval will clump together. For example, if you move the slider to :15, then any images shot within 15 seconds of each other will be stacked together.


Figure 3.8 The Auto Stacking slider at the bottom of the Import dialog box lets you automatically group your images into stacks, based on the time interval between shots.

  1. Find the Auto Stacking slider at the bottom of the Import dialog box and slide it to the right until it sits about halfway between the first two notches (at about 8 seconds). As you move the slider, the images in the Import dialog box should coalesce into stacks of related images ( Figure 3.9 ).

    Figure 3.9 As you slide the Auto Stacking slider to the right, your images automatically clump together into stacks. Here, Aperture is set to automatically stack any images shot within approximately 8 seconds of each other.

  2. Try moving the slider more to the right and then back to the left to see how the stacks change.

The stacking feature is like a sieve that filters time. The images that the Auto Stacking slider groups together may not necessarily be related, but images shot within a close time interval usually are, so the auto-stacking feature usually creates a good initial stack. In Chapter 4, you'll see how to edit your stacks to add or remove images.

Stacks can be open or closed. When a stack is open, you can see all of the images that it contains. By default, the Auto Stacking slider creates open stacks.

The first image in any stack is considered the "pick" of the stack—the select image that you want to use from that batch. The number in the corner of the pick image shows the number of images in the stack. You can click the number to open and close the stack ( Figure 3.10 ).


Figure 3.10 Stacks in Aperture can be closed (top), showing only the pick image, or open (bottom) to reveal all of the images contained within.

While Aperture's auto-stacking facility does a great job of automatically grouping bursts of images, in a fast-paced shoot, you may quickly shoot small bursts of unrelated images in a very short span of time. When you use auto-stacking, these unrelated images may end up grouped together. The Import dialog box provides three tools for separating and merging stacks ( Figure 3.11 ).


Figure 3.11 You can use the Join Stacks and Split Stack buttons to merge and divide stacks; use the Unstack All Stacks button to eliminate all stacks.

Split Stack: Use the Split Stack button to divide one big stack into separate smaller stacks. Simply select an image at the point where you want the stack split and then click the Split Stack button or press Option-K. Aperture splits at a point before the selected image ( Figure 3.12 ).


Figure 3.12 The upper image shows the original stack, with an image selected. After the Split Stack command is executed, there are two stacks. The split occurs just before the selected image.

Join Stacks: If you have two stacks that you want to combine, select the images in both stacks (just as you would normally select a group of images) and then click the Join Stacks button or press Command-K.

Unstack All Stacks: Finally, if you change your mind and decide that you don't want any images stacked, click the Unstack All Stacks button.

As with metadata, you don't have to perform your stacking operations during import. Aperture provides the same stacking controls—and more—within the main application.

You'll learn much more about stacks and how to use and edit them in Chapter 4.

Performing the Import Operation

Once you've selected your desired images and defined the metadata and stacking information that you want, you can click the Import button at the lower right of the Import dialog box to start the import operation.

The Import dialog box will go away and a small progress indicator will appear next to the project into which you're importing ( Figure 3.13 ). The speed of the import process will vary depending on the speed of your computer, the speed of your camera or media card reader, and the read-write speed of the media card itself. However, you don't have to wait for the import process to finish before continuing to use Aperture. While importing, you can freely work on other projects or even start working on images that have been successfully imported from the current import job. Aperture shows the thumbnail for an image as soon as it copies the image into its library. Depending on the processing power of your computer, though, performing other operations while importing may or may not be speedy enough for productive work.


Figure 3.13 When importing images, Aperture displays a small progress indicator next to the destination project. Because importing happens in the background, you can continue working in the program while your images are imported.

Canceling an Import Session

You can cancel an import session after it has begun—maybe you've changed your mind about what to import, or perhaps you need full processing power to edit another image— using Aperture's Show Task List window.

  1. While the images are still importing, select Window > Show Task List ( Figure 3.14 ).

    Figure 3.14 You can use the Task List window to cancel any currently running import operations.

  2. In the Task List window, there should be an entry called Image Import. Select this entry by clicking it.
  3. Click the Cancel Task button. The import process will be canceled. Aperture will ask you whether you want to eject the card, erase and eject the card, or simply stop the process. After answering, click Done to dismiss the Background Task List dialog box.
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