Aperture 101: Importing Photos

The first step in any digital photography workflow is getting the frames into your editing program — well, I guess the true first step is the capture itself, but you get my drift. Aperture (s aapl) is my editing program of choice for two reasons: Through the Mac App Store it’s only $79.99, as opposed to Adobe Lightroom ($299), and my familiarity with iPhoto lessened the learning curve a little. Here’s how to manage your photo importing using Aperture.

Step 1: The Preferences Panel

After opening Aperture’s Preferences window and choosing the Import tab, you can adjust a few rudimentary options. The biggest decision you will have to make is whether Aperture will open when a camera is connected. If you do not use an iOS device in addition to your digital camera this can be an easy choice: set it to open Aperture. Your decision can get a little complicated if you do use an iOS device. OS X detects iOS devices as cameras, so every time you sync your device, Aperture will also load. This can get annoying, so I load Aperture manually when I plug in my camera (or SD card).
The Default Import Location allows you to choose between a New Project or another selected location in Aperture. I’ll get into this a little deeper in later, but in my case I’ve accepted the defaults here.
Autosplit into Projects lets you adjust the time frame on how Aperture auto-creates projects (One project per day, One project per week, Two-hour, or eight hour gaps). This is going to depend on your shooting style. If a day-long shoot for you constitutes true event or project, like a wedding shoot, you’ll be well served with One Project per Day. On the other hand, if you shoot a lot of little things all week but wouldn’t call it an event, you can set it to “One project per week.” I fall into that category, so that’s the setting I choose.

Step 2: Importing Photos

Once Aperture has loaded, click the Import button at the top of the screen. This will bring up the Import window. By default, all images on the camera are checked for import. If you don’t want that, simply click Uncheck All and you can select what ones you do in fact want to import.
By default, Aperture wants to import the photos into a new, Untitled project. By clicking in the field next to Project Name you can change the name of the newly-created project. Also, if you click an existing project in the left pane the photos will be imported there.
Again, what projects you import to will depend greatly on your shooting style. If I’m shooting a true event, like a concert or show, where I’ll have an empty SD card at the start of the shoot, I’ll create a project based on that shoot (the band name and date of the event). However, most of my shoots tend to be onesey-twosey shoots, or nothing that coherently falls together in a project of any stretch. For those, I have a generic dumping ground project called Imports where I put the shots while I sort through them.
There’s no hard and fast rule on assigning projects, and your method will change over time. The good news is, assigning photos to a project isn’t a one-time affair. If you’re not happy with where a photo is assigned, you can just drag it to a new project.

Step 3: Cleaning Up and Taking Out the Trash

Arguably the most important part of the import is accepting that not all your photos are fantastic shots. It’s important during the import to give your capture a critical eye and unless there’s a good reason to keep it, trash it. Don’t litter your library with substandard shots if you can help it. That said, sometimes the only shot of a memorable event is a poor shot, in which case a bad photo is sometimes better than none, but try and take a critical eye to your art.
Another good habit to get into when you import photos is to geotag them as well as assign keyword. If your camera doesn’t have a GPS, and you have an iPhone, you can use your iPhone to geotag the photo. Just take one photo on site with your iPhone and in Aperture, go to Places, and then choose “Import GPS from iPhone Photos” from the GPS button.
Keywording is one of my OCD habits. I like to assign photos some common tags (Boston, Outdoors, Night,) so I can easily find them later.
That’s my basic guide to importing photos with Aperture. If you shoot RAW, or if you want to get more complicated, your process may become much more involved. If you feel like I’ve missed any major tips for new users, please include them in the comments.