10 Replies Latest reply: Jan 12, 2011 7:43 AM by iCoco
G-BOAC Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
Question - Longtime Apple user, but relatively new to Aperture. Working on organizing a large collection of photographs, and am debating whether to organize by Project and grouping similar Projects into folders, or whether to use Projects as my major subdivisions, and organizing within projects using Albums or Stacks.

I realize that there's probably no right answer, so I'm hoping that anybody reading this note could take a quick minute to share the philosophy they apply to organization, as well as any concrete advantages or drawbacks to Projects, Folders, Albums, or their own method.

Thanks for sharing!


MacBook Pro / 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7, Mac OS X (10.6.5), Aperture 3.1
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (134,535 points)

    I use Folders based on year. Inside those are the projects from that year. Some are discreet - Trip to London 06, or Xmas 05 - and some are consolidated - Spring 06, Winter 08 etc

    Within those Projects I have albums for the pics from them projects.

    At Library level I have a number of Smart Albums based on keywords for the most searched photos - based on the Kids keyworded names.


  • Kirby Krieger Level 6 Level 6 (12,510 points)
    Projects are, imho, badly misnamed. Aperture was designed with the general plan that one shoot would be one Project. Projects have one salient characteristic (which separates them from other ways of grouping images) -- each Master must be in a Project, and can be in only one Project. Because of the above, you should conceive of Projects as the master (small "m") and enduring holding bin of your shots. I think of them as boxes, or as binders ("binders" implying, somehow, something more long-term than "album").

    However you end up organizing your collection in Aperture, the one method I recommend against is using Projects as your major subdivisions. They weren't designed to be used this way, they shouldn't have more than a few hundred Masters in them, and you are likely to outgrow that system of organization.

    I stick with "one shoot = one Project". If I have three separate shoots on one card, I import the files in three separate sets, each with the Masters specially re-named, into three separate Projects. I then use folders to organize my Projects. I use Albums for sub-sets of Projects with more than 60 or so images -- I do a lot of my processing by Project, and I find 60 images is about the most I can easily handle at once. I use Albums also for actual projects (small "p") -- e.g.: a series of cards for sale, or work for a client.

    All images are keyworded (again, a per-Project task). I use color labels to indicate the level of development of an image. I use stars to indicate the value of an image (rejected, not yet rated, best of stack, worth keeping, among the best in Project, worth publishing, excellent).

    Keywords, color labels, ratings, and Project names give me enormous specificity in creating Smart Albums, which I do extensively.

    Additionally, I do three things which I think are uncommon.
    . I move my Projects according to the status of their development, and
    . I separate my intake, storage, and processing areas from my output areas, and
    . I never use Folders to organize by date.

    I do this because for me Aperture's two overall functions are best treated separately. Those two overall functions are, generally, Intake and Output, or to be more specific, "Import, Develop, and Store" and "Gather for export, Prepare for publication, and Export". The top-level folders in my Library are
    . Administration Smart Albums
    . Raw (inputs)
    . Cold Storage
    . To Serve

    Admin Smarties includes "5-stars", "Managed Masters older than 45 days", "Masters Missing", "Printed 17x22", "Re-take", and the like.

    "Raw" is the top-level of a folder tree which includes "Just Imported", "Described not Stacked", "Stacked not Keyworded", "Keyworded not Picked", and "Picked not filed". I move my Projects into the appropriate folder. Note that this works well in Projects view -- one can drill down to any level of the Library tree and see at a glance which Projects are where.

    "Cold Storage" is where I put all fully-processed Projects (and remember, for me "Project" just means "Shoot" -- if you ever used a non-digital camera, same as a box of slides or a sleeve of photos). I organize these as I see fit. I try to put Projects where I think I will look for them. Clients have their own folder(s). Other photographers have their own folders. On the personal side, I have folders for Portraits of friends, Family, Events, Trips, Indoors, Urban outdoors, Rural outdoors, Close-ups, Test shots, etc. Each of these is further subdivided. I have an entire folder sub-branch just for fine art still-lifes.

    The last of the top-level folders holds a large sub-set of folders for output. None of these folders have Projects in them (Projects, for me, are +storage containers+, not output containers). I create a folder for each output project (small "p"), and use Albums as needed. In theory, every image that shows in the output side of my Aperture structure should already have been selected ("picked") and optimally developed as an image (the rating and label tell me the status of the image). What is left for me to do is final selection, pre-press, and export.

    No where in my Library structure is any accommodation made to date (other than the "one shoot = one Project rule). The is no reason to organize an Aperture Library by date -- date organization is hard-coded into Aperture at both the Project and the Image level. Since it is already hard-coded into Aperture, I prefer to use the Library organization tools to create a storage and output structure which gives me a level of utility on top of date organization.

    In general, I keep my Projects view (the Viewer, not the Inspector) grouped by Library folders and sorted by date (most recent first). If I want to view all my shoots (Projects) by date, I simply ungroup them in Project view. If I want to view them by year, I click the "Year" grouping icon. I find Project view, and the built-in grouping options, quite useful.

    When I need to view all of my photos in date order I simply use "Photos" view. Note the sophisticated filtering options available using the "Date" and "Calendar" rules. In general, I set Photos view to sort by either "Import Session" or "Date -- Descending". I regularly use List view when in Photos view.

    I complete my set-up with specific file-naming and Project-naming conventions. The important thing here is consistency -- set it up right from the get-go, and stick to it rigorously, and you won't have to second-guess your searches or filters.

    Hope that helps. It's a lot of overhead -- but I have and take a lot of shots, I work in spurts, and I valued a system which would let me start and stop at nearly any time and always let me know +by structure+ the status of any shot or image or Project or project -- while remaining flexible and expandable.

    My example should at least give you some ropes to use as you simultaneously shape and climb your Aperture mountain. I strongly recommend setting up a practice Library using, say, 10% of your images, and using to for a couple of weeks, tweaking it as you go, before "casting it in stone" and importing your entire collection. Aperture is broad and powerful -- take the time to know and understand it, and you will find your use of it immensely rewarding.

    Good luck.
  • G-BOAC Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    TD, Kirby - thank you very much for your thoughtful replies. Kirby - I'm actually in the process of doing exactly what you suggested, having imported about 20% of my existing picture collection into a library, and working with that prior to importing and managing the entire library.

  • Grant Symon Level 2 Level 2 (240 points)

    an excellent and thorough description of how to work with Aperture's organisational tools, as opposed to against them. (Against them being a pre-computer, shoebox, flat-filing system).

    One point worth mentioning and that you didn't cover, is that Projects can be empty. IOW, contain zero images, but nevertheless be used as a sort of top-level folder in an organisational structure, by containing Folders and Albums which display images.

    This ability, whilst in some ways confusing, in other ways, opens up the possibility of a slightly different organisational structure, which could nevertheless be very effective.

    I think it's worth repeating your first point though, because it's the hardest part for most people to grasp, +Images can only live in one Project+. Aliases of those images +can live in many Projects and/or in many Albums contained within, or outside their Projects+.
  • riesar12 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hello, I realize I'm a couple months late posting, but I see some very experienced posters and I'm hoping you can help.

    I just moved from iPhoto to Aperture, have done a bit of research, and I'm still horribly confused. At the very top of Aperture's library tab (in inspector), it says "Projects." Those are organized and displayed just like iPhoto's "events" are. I also understand that "photos" lists all photos, just like in iPhoto.

    However, in Aperture there is a second drop-down list called "Projects and Albums". This includes all of my projects AGAIN, except this time they are organized alphabetically. The projects here seem to hold my actual photos, and the project list on top merely references them (because anytime I edit a photo it opens them in the lower list of projects.

    My question: why is there two identical sets of projects? I use the chronologically organized set of projects on top to find photos, edit photos, merge events, etc... and find it very annoying that it then opens the second list of projects for those changes. Hope I'm making sense! Thanks
  • Lewdvig Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
    Why can't I arrange iPhoto events chronologically? Alphabetically is the default.

    When Aperture syncs with Flickr it only allows me to d/l 500 images from each set. Huh? Why? It is constantly syncing.

    8 Cores running at 3 GHz can not keep this app moving.

    <Edited by Host>
  • Melinda Bilecki Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi, Kirby -

    Thanks so much for this great post. Is there any chance you could post a screen shot of your Library panel in Aperture? I've been working on organizing my photos and finding a method of working with organization in Aperture that makes sense for me, and I think your method may be what I need. I'm still new to it, though, so visualizing your system is a reach for me.

    Melinda Bilecki
  • iCoco Level 1 Level 1 (90 points)
    Hi Kirby, a big "thank you" from me, too. Great advice and very well explained. Has helped me a lot. Reinhard
  • Kirby Krieger Level 6 Level 6 (12,510 points)
    Reinhard, Melinda, Mark, +et al.+ --

    You are very welcome . Thanks for taking the time to leave a note. Even when I don't reply, it is always noticed and always appreciated.

    Ask specific questions when you have them.

    Good Aperturations!

  • iCoco Level 1 Level 1 (90 points)
    Specific question ... oh yes: