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Going from Aperture to Lightroom? Put it in the Cloud!

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CreativeCOW presents Going from Aperture to Lightroom? Put it in the Cloud! -- Adobe Photoshop Tutorial


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Why Wait for Apple Photos? Adventurer and editor Jigs Gaton takes us through some easy steps for migrating your photo library from Apple's Aperture and iPhoto into Adobe Lightroom.



BACKGROUND

THE WHY

If you are like me, you are sitting here wondering what is to become of Apple's Aperture and iPhoto apps now that they are no longer in Cupertino's best favor, and are now destined for Apple's app graveyard. These dead apps are being replaced by Apple Photos come the next version of OSX – Yosemite.






If you have a spare weekend and can't wait to see if that works for you, you will be interested in this tutorial on migrating Aperture & iPhoto media to someplace other than a historical cemetery, or migrated to a totally new and unknown application. In addition, this tut explores how to create an editing platform that allows the entire family to share in the love, no matter where in the world they are, and no matter what device they are using.


THE WTF

Don't get me wrong, I love Apple Computers and their software – pretty much – but I am not one to use discontinued software that contains bugs, as I am certain to run into one sooner or later – that's just my luck.






So when I heard the news of iPhoto and Aperture's ultimate demise, I immediately embarked on creating an alternative that would allow myself & family to:
  1. Keep tens of thousands of photos organized.

  2. Allow everyone to edit, add, delete and otherwise use the photo & video library as they want, from where they want.

  3. Automatically import camera rolls from all our android devices, and add these new photos into the mix without a lot of fuss.
There are actually lots of great tuts that helped me write this one, so thanks to the many who have already posted bits of this material. This particular tut however, takes you from one deep end (lots of Aperture & iPhoto libraries) to the other (a beautifully organized and cloud-based Lightroom system) – something I could not find on Google.

This tut works best for those with a recent copy of Aperture (3.5+) as well as the latest Adobe Lightroom software (5.6), and for Android camera-roll sharing, you will need a Dropbox account with a few free GBs to play with. Optionally, two apps are also helpful here: Aperture Exporter & Duplicate Annihilator. Okay, let's start by unlocking your goods from Aperture…

Step 1. Export your stuff from Aperture

By far the best way to do this is to invest in this little app: Aperture Exporter, or use this nice tut from John Beardsworth if you want to save 15 bucks.

The documentation on Aperture Exporter is accurate and easy to follow, so just follow the Getting Started Guide to guide you through to the other side.




The slight annoyance here is that the export process will have to be attended. For example, for my test set of Aperture media (over 27,000 items), the export took many hours to complete, with me more than occasionally having to hit the OK button when Aperture ran into problems – like the IPTC bug. (Not much we can do about that.)



Now that all your media is stored in a local-file hierarchy, Lightroom can easily import everything, without a loss of metadata and other media information; face & location info, labels, ratings, color coding, etc. is all preserved. That's because Aperture Exporter intelligently creates .XMP sidecars to hold all that extra "stuff." Wow.

Note: first I merged all my Aperture libraries before exporting, despite conventional wisdom, then I used Duplicate Annihilator (for 8 bucks) on my now mother-of-all Aperture library to rid myself from dups (and there were lots, believe me). For those that have copied and combined and split numerous libraries over the years, this step is a must.


Step 2. Take your keywords with you

In addition to your now foot-loose-and-free Aperture media, you can easily bring along your keywords that you used in Aperture, and if you do this step before importing media files into Lightroom, everything is put right back into place (just as it was in Aperture).





Just go the Aperture's keyword HUD (shift-h) and click export to save your keywords and keyword structure into a file.





Then, open up Lightroom and import that file – that's it, you're done. As you import the file structure from Step 1, Lightroom will automagically match the old keywords to your newly imported media files.


Step 3. Import your media into Lightroom

Importing media into Lightroom is also easy, but there are a lot of options and functions to consider.

However, if your goal is just to have things the way they were in Aperture (or iPhoto), then just select all or part of the structure created in Step 2, then select the Add feature, and Allow Duplicates – then away you go.





You can also choose to Build Smart Previews during the import process under File Handling, but you can always create those after the import; that's up to you. More on the creation of Smart Previews later…


Step 4. Connect your Camera Rolls on your Android or iPhone devices

Now we are going to start enabling our new library for access in the Cloud, everyone's dream come true. I started by just including the Dropbox Camera Uploads folder in my Lightroom library by:
  1. Creating an alias from that folder's location



  2. Placing the alias file in the Lightroom folder structure, and



  3. Importing the alias. Boom, done.




After that, whenever a new pic is taken on your phone or tablet (configured with the Dropbox app to upload photos over Wi-Fi or cellular network) that pic will be synced and appear in your Lightroom library after you refresh the Camera Uploads folder in Lightroom (either manually, or by making a smart collection from this entry).




For a manual refresh, use the Add feature, and not any of the others like Move. Again, you can choose to make Smart Previews or not during the import, but now we must start thinking about performance in the cloud… you really only need to make Smart Previews of things you need on the road, or for family members who want to manipulate and export library items from their own machines.

More on that next…


Step 5. Putting Everything into Play

So now that we have our new library set and ready to roll, let's take Lightroom to the next level by smartly putting what we need in the Cloud and leaving the rest behind.

In other words, we want the catalog of media on Dropbox for sharing, and not the multiple dozens of GBs of photos and videos – and come to find out, there is no need for all of that anyway.

To accomplish this we need to do two things:
  1. We need to share the Lightroom-generated structure that starts with catalog name and contains files and folders that look something like this:



  1. We need to set a preference in Lightroom that instructs LR to use this library instead of any other.


Preference setting for the LR catalog


Now, if any item has a Smart Preview built for it, anyone else using this catalog will actually be able to make adjustments or export decent results, for example to social media sites or email recipients.

In other words, we want the catalog of media on Dropbox for sharing, and not the multiple dozens of GBs of photos and videos. As it turns out, you don't really need the original files to do a lot of common tasks, like making adjustments, tagging and sorting, etc.

For any image saved with a Smart Preview, other users on different machines will be able to manipulate and generate decent prints from the tiny DNG preview files stored in catalog_name Smart Previews.lrdata.

So let's say that I want to take my photo & media show on the road using my laptop, I would just make sure that before I left home that I created Smart Previews for all the files that I plan on manipulating while away. For others to work with the library on other machines, the same applies – make Smart Previews for these files.

Now, you could just select everything in your library and create Smart Previews for the entire shebang, but I've noticed that the larger the Smart Preview catalog file becomes, the slower the sync on Dropbox. This may or may not be a problem for you, but in my case, I choose to just build Smart Previews for items I know will need adjustments by others.

Let's explore Smart Previews a bit further, as they are the lynchpin when working with this type of cloud sharing…


ON USING SMART PREVIEWS

As mentioned, Smart Previews are mini-versions of your actual media files that can be used for making adjustments or producing lower-quality files for upload to social media sites, for emails, and for using in other documents like Word or PowerPoint. These are also the files used when working remotely, and if updated, the changes are reflected across all machines using the shared library.






The major caveat here is that only one person can work on the library at a time (LR locks the files when in use), and ample time must be allowed after closing Dropbox to perform the sync. The good news here is that Dropbox appears to know when, say, only one out of the thousands of previews has been changed, and will only sync that bit of your library. The bad news is that what exactly gets updated and why, is still a bit of mystery.

So exactly how do you make Smart Previews? You can do so whenever you import a file (or group of files). You can also select any file or group of files and mark them for Smart Preview generation at any time, and you can also set an expiration date for your previews, after which time the cache is flushed automatically. This of course, is all done on the machine that is locally attached to your media.







IN SUMMARY

This all may seem like a lot of work (and it was a bit while I sorted everything out), but once done, this system will provide you and others with a solution for sharing large Lightroom libraries efficiently. (No need to pay for 100 GBs of Dropbox space!)

My test library of 27,000+ items and over 100 GBs of content only consumes 1 GB of space on Dropbox – amazing, never could have done this with an Aperture library. This procedure has also unleashed all my Aperture content, and placed that within a tried & true professional photo tool (Lightroom).

Within a few months of this writing, Apple is set to release Photos, a new app that replaces iPhoto and Aperture, and which may or may not provide the functionality we are accustomed. And for Android users, Apple Photos will undoubtedly leave you out in the cold.

I hope you enjoyed this write up, and please feel free to use the comment section below to let us know about your experiences with photos and the cloud.










Comments

Re: Going from Aperture to Lightroom? Put it in the Cloud!
by Paul Carlin
Thank you for taking the time to put all this together. You opened my eyes to the use of Smart Previews and how to make a 1 TB photo library accessible from the cloud.

My next task is eliminating the duplicates. Paying the price for all those years of not managing my photo collections (1999 to 2008). To find duplicates in my Aperture Library I have been using PhotoSweeper ($10 in the App store). I would highly recommend it for it's multiple algorithms that you can choose from, depending on your level of fear and paranoia. Also works with iPhoto and Lightroom.

Perhaps by the time I finish, Adobe will have released their migration tool.


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