How-To: Move Photos From Aperture to iPhoto


Aperture is a great photo management application, but may not be suitable for everyone. I recently made a decision to move back to iPhoto in order to use some of the features in the latest release. Several of these, such as face recognition, are not present in the current version of Aperture.

This decision posed a problem. How do you move several thousand photos out of Aperture and back into iPhoto, without tearing your hair out in the process? This how-to will outline a few different possibilities, along with the process I found to work best.

Why Move?

Before exploring the different export options, I feel the need to answer the question of why you would want to move away from an advanced application such as Aperture:

  1. You could be switching to a different workflow, with a different “pro” tool such as Lightroom.
  2. You may desire the faster performance of iPhoto, which feels much quicker than Aperture on lower specification machines.
  3. Or, like me, you may want to switch to access iPhoto-specific features.

Although you can access Aperture images in iPhoto, this isn’t the same as moving them all across from one application to another. If you’d just like to access Aperture images, you can do so by clicking File > Show Aperture Library:

Show Aperture Library

Show Aperture Library

A solution is needed for exporting all of your images in a useful folder structure, ready for importing into another application of choice.


The simplest way to move photos from one application to another is by dragging and dropping them out of Aperture, then back into a new iPhoto event or album. Providing you’ve set Aperture to export full-resolution versions when dragging out, this method can work well.

The problem with this solution is simple: time. If you have a few hundred photo albums, exporting each one separately can be a very long winded process, and take far too long to be practical. A better solution exists for exporting all the photos in your Library with one click.

Bulk Exporting

Fortunately, Aperture comes with a fairly advanced set of export preferences allowing you to specific exactly how a folder structure will be created, along with how files are to be named.

First, select the images to export (this is likely to be all the images in your Library). Click File ? Export ? Version (or Master, if you’d like the original images). You can then look for the “Subfolder Format” section, and choose “Edit” to define your own export structure.

Edit Folder Structure

Edit Folder Structure

This will launch a simple interface for defining a folder structure for export. This is particularly user friendly and easy-to-use.

Export Settings

Export Settings

The options chosen here will reflect how you have chosen to organize your Aperture library. You may have a different Project for each shoot, or prefer to use Folders to structure photos. Either way, you can select from a few of the following:

  • Project Name
  • Folder Name
  • Year/Date/Time (both the current time, and that of shooting)
  • Various Custom Numbers/Fields

Using a combination of these options should allow for a flexible export structure, and result in a well organized set of photos on your hard drive.

You can also adjust how files themselves are named using a similar process under the “Name Format” menu.

Importing into iPhoto should then be as simple as dragging the resulting folders of photos into the application. Appropriately titled events will automatically be created.

Other Solutions

A few other solutions exist for simplifying this process and automating it further. You could try this Automator script which, while a little dated, could do the trick.

It’s also possible to approach the problem with AppleScript, though this is a slightly more advanced solution.

Either way, I hope you no longer feel unduly concerned that you are “locked in” to Aperture. The export process can be fairly simple and, while you may lose some meta data, it isn’t too difficult to move a structured set of images out of the application.