My Latest Aperture Workflow... A few Slight Tweaks

Plan ahead. Use the Project panel heirarchy to keep things organized.I hinted at workflow in my last journal entry, but didn't really get into specifics. In response to a few requests I received, I thought I'd put together a quick recap of how I'm managing shooting "sessions" these days.

As mentioned in my last entry, I manage multiple libraries in Aperture. Currently, there are two active main libraries. I say "active" since I work chronologically... meaning I have other libraries from previous years available, but they don't get a lot of activity. So, the two main current libraries are 2009 Motorsports and 2009 Family. Family, however, does become a bit of a catch-all.

Create a preset for IPTC data and have a naming convention for your files. Do it on import to save time.The 2009 Motorsports Library is ALWAYS broken down with each Project representing a specific racing event or outing. Within each Event Project, I might create some specific albums for clients or publications that I want quick access to.

In the 2009 Family Library I will create a new Project for each month. In addition, I will create Projects that may represent a special event or outing. But for the most part, I just break them out as months. It's also simple enough to create an Album within a month if need be. The breakdown by Month is totally adequate since I can always use Aperture's filters to view a particular date or card import session. I'll add a little note and good trick about Smart Albums at the end of this article.

Since the motorsports shooting sessions are a little more intense, let's walk through that workflow.

Instead of addressing only the files and post processing, I want to highlight a little of what I do BEFORE I head out to shoot. I do this religiously, taking queues from friends who fly private planes. Before heading out from the media center, I decide what lenses I want mounted. I attach each lens to the body... and check the Manual/Auto focus switch and all other switches to be sure they are in their default settings. Note that "default" means MY default. I will then put a memory card in each body and immediately format the card. I will then put the ISO at 100, and the focus sensor in the bottom lower setting. White balance is set to Auto, typically I go with a TV setting to start and null in the EV. I will also make sure I'm in high speed burst mode and that I'm tracking auto focus in AI Servo. This is a mental checklist I go through EVERY TIME. Skip it once and I guarantee you'll find yourself shooting a morning warmup at 1600 ISO because you shot night practice the day before. Get in the habit of going down your list. Check, check, check.

On to the files. After the session, I come back to the media center and begin downloading my cards. I use 4GB cards and gang two Lexar Firewire 800 card readers in tandem. On import, I use a Contact and Copyright IPTC preset that I've created and have Aperture rename my files to a naming convention that I use. This includes renaming the Masters. I also set the Local Time to offset the camera's time when necessary. I can point bother readers at the same project simultaneously allowing me to do something else for a minute.

You can always access a shooting session by it's card import date using the advance filtering panel. Great tool.Once I have ingested the cards into the Project, I'll go through to sort and rank those images. For the most part I work in full screen mode. I typically go through using three levels of rank. If an image is of no use, I'll hit Control + 9. This key combination Rejects the image and also moves to the next image. So, it's a little quicker than just using "9." If an images is a good image (keeper) I'll do nothing... just leave it unranked. If I like the image a lot, I'll give it three stars.

Note: I do not delete any images until some other time. Aperture is a little sluggish deleting... and there's no point.. so I'll just do it en masse later when I can walk away.

Depending on my time, I'll pull up the three star images and give them a closer look. As I get closer to what I really like, I'll begin processing and making image adjustments. If, after adjusting an image, I really like it, I will promote it to five stars. I might leave it at three or on occasion promote it to four stars... but if it's genuinely a finalist, it'll get five stars.

I try to work on images as soon as possible. I think it's easier to get through the process when the shoot is fresh in your mind. I don't know about you, but I have a pretty good idea of what worked and what didn't while I'm out there shooting. So, with it fresh in my mind, I'm anticipating certain shots and locations and anxious to see if they worked as well as I thought they did.

Another benefit to this is you can take advantage of Aperture's "Lift and Stamp" tool. As you go through your images, they're in sequence of how, when and where you shot them. So, typically, your going to see trends in how the images need adjustment. If I've shot on a corner for 10 minutes and it was backlit, the adjustments are going to be fairly similar. So, once I've got one of those three-star images looking like a five-star image, I can lift those settings and stamp them to subsequent images. I can still use the adjustment panel to override any of the individual adjustments. So, even if it's not perfect, I can fine tune it from there.

"H" is the hot key for your adjustment panel overlay."T" will give you a quick heads-up view of your EXIFThe "~" (tilde) key will bring up the loupe. You can change the settings to use the loupe in different ways. Explore!As I said, I prefer to work in full screen mode. But once I'm filtered down to my three-star images, I'll be flipping back and forth to the thumbnail grid. For my adjustments, I like using the HUD panels. So, for me the keyboard shortcuts are huge time savers. "F" for full screen mode, "H" for my adjustment panel, "Z" when I want to zoom in on the image, the tilde key when I need the loupe and "T" when I want to see the HUD with my EXIF data.

Put generic keywords to all your images at once.You can append additional keywords to groups of images using the batch change metadata tool.At the end of the weekend, I will set the the thumbnail grid to display all the images in the project. I will do a batch change to the metadata adding keywords that are generic to all the images. Series, event, location and any other generic words that will help in a search. Then I filter and pull up all the "three-star or greater" images so I can append the keywords (by batch) with additional keywords. I'll manually select all of the images of one particular team. I'll now add the keywords something like, "Highcroft Patron Racing, Acura, LMP1, Brabham, Sharp," While there's no simple or easy way to keyword, I've found this does speed things up a bit.

There are lots of export plug-ins available for most upload online services. Even Facebook and Twitter.Finally, I will select all the five-star images and transmit them to my archives and galleries in my Photoshelter account on my website. I use an Aperture Plug-in to do this. Once they are uploaded, I'll apply the print and electronic usage pricing models and display them in the feature gallery.

For web galleries such as or I will export from Aperture via FTP. Aperture will size the images to 800 pixels and add my watermark.

Once I'm done, I will copy the Project from my portable hard drive to an external drive on my desktop and that's pretty much it. I'm done. Once I've recovered, I'll use Aperture and Soundslides to make the slideshow that runs on my website... but for the most part, I'm headed out to the pool. Thanks Aperture!

I told you I'd fill you in on a Smart Album trick. As I said, I organize projects by month in my 2009 Family Album. For the most part these contain all the family outings and happenings. Every year I like to publish a hard bound book featuring a collection of photos of our son taken over the last 12 months. I do this as a Christmas gift to family members so it typically covers from the previous year's November to the current year's November. As you can imagine, there are literally thousands of photos of him. Sorting and picking out the best can be a monumental project (read; nightmare) at the end of each year.

Good workflow habits will leave you with lots of time for family, fishing and the beach!Using Aperture's Smart Album feature, I create a Smart Album at the top level of the 2009 Library and name it Marlon's Book. The parameters for the Smart Album ANY image 5 STARS and the keyword MARLON'S BOOK. The filter is set to MATCH ALL. Now, as I upload family outing pictures into each month's project, I do the usual sort, rank and make any adjustments still using the same ranking system I use in my Motorsports library. Except now when I'm done, I'll pull up the five-star images, select the ones of Marlon that I really like, then add the keyword "marlon's book" to them. This will automatically add a "copy" of those images into my Marlon's Book Smart Album. At the end of November I can go to that album and review my "picks" for the year. Obviously I still need to pair them down a bit, but it's much easier to select 150 or so favorites from 300 as opposed to 3000. Again, this goes back to the benefits of editing and sorting while a shoot is fresh in your mind.

Hope you've found some of this valuable and helpful in your own workflow. Thanks for listening,