In Aperture you have two different flavors of organizing structures:
- Containers (projects and folders): In the projects you store your images, and the folders help to group them hierarchically for easy access, see Kirby Krieger's essay:
- Output structures: Album, smart albums, slide shows, books, webpages, ...: The output structure does not actually store the images, but references them for specific uses and describes relations between images, bases on properties of the images, like keywords, captions, and other tags.
What you need to do, when designing your own library structure, is to clearly seperate the aspects - storage and use:
- The storage structure should be simple, but consistant - I am a follower of Kirby's maxime: "one shoot - one project" - just like in the old times of rolls of film - one box per film roll. As to the allocation of folders to contain your projects, there are different approaches; you may go for a chronological scheme or group by categories, anything is fine, as long as it isn't to involved, straight forward, and easy to maintain.
- The output structure should be flexible; you will find that you will frequently adapt it to the project at hand. Since the ouput structure heavily relies on the tags and keywords, you should invest some effort into define import presets, to get most of your tagging done automatically on import.
Thus said, back to the problem at hand:
Looking: If I use "Stacks," I can group/clump them together. That's a pretty good use for stacks, especially if judiciously assembled into a project container.
I recommend against using stacks for long-term structuring. Stacks are somewhat weird, transient creatures between storage and output structures: they don't fit completely into one of the above categories. They are used by Aperture as storage stucture on import, but their use is restricted - you cannot move single images contained in a stack to another project (all images in the stack will move together), and special rules apply if you use stacked images in books and slide shows. Also you will need stacks for other uses, and you will want to be able to stack your images according to other criteria. It easy to unstack all images by mistake - happens to me all the time - then your storage structure will be broken.
I suggest to group related images by filename on import - using a custom import preset for filenames. That way your structure will be persistent not as fragile as when based on stacks.
This drops me into the on-going quandry of not having an ideal way to organize multiple variations of the same or similar original image.
Is there a criteria that works well to identify items stacked, to reassemble them into that organization later?
No quandry using an images database, very easy.
• One way is to use keywords, an essential database concept.
Just take your batch of similar images, pick a representative one, and keyword the whole batch to the file name of the arbitrary representative image. Then at any time you can search on that keyword and see all those images; takes about 2 seconds. Or if the group of images is important enough it could have a named keyword, like Jones_wed_kiss.
Personally I try to keep transitory keywords in their own grouping, as opposed to global forever keywords like "flower," "dog," "family," "wed," "bride," etc.
Note that keywords apply globally across all images in the Library that they have been applied to.
• A second way is to create an Album. Albums are just collections of pointers to images that exist in one or more Projects. Because they just consist of pointers, albums take up almost no space and can be created or deleted at will with zero impact on the images they point to. Like keywords, albums are a very useful tool.
Note that either albums or keywords can also be used to help organize the image files that come into Aperture from your pre-existing Photoshop image folders.
I think it makes a world of sense to start thinking about structure before using the app. Good for you. The move from film-think to database-think is not necessarily intuitive and it does take some time.