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Current Aperture/iLife Sharing Nightmares, and How to Avoid It Entirely

PhotoJoseph's picture
November 12, 2010 - 8:39pm

So many people on so many forums have been struggling for so many days on this Aperture to iLife sharing issue — some quite literally spending dozens of hours trying to solve the problem — that I thought I’d share how I personally handle this, and why this hasn’t affected me at all.

I don’t use the iLife Sharing. It’s not because I don’t like the idea—on the contrary, I think it’s brilliant. However I work with multiple computers, multiple libraries, and multiple devices. The sharing system works best if you have one Library, on one computer, use iLife on that one computer, and sync your iPad/iPod/etc to that one copy of iTunes, and so on. The system is beautiful in its simplicity.

My setup isn’t simple.

My Setup

I have an iMac that hosts my main Libraries. Even though I’ve now merged most Libraries, I do still have a couple client-specific ones that I don’t want to merge. So right there, we have a sharing problem—which library is shared? The answer is, the last one that was open. That might not always be the one you want to get to, though.

I also have a MacBook Pro that stores working Libraries as I travel. And I use the fantastic Project export feature from Aperture on the iMac to move projects over to my MacBook Pro so I can catch up on old projects while traveling (for example, I’m currently copying a managed 127GB Library across my network so I can catch up on a wedding edit and some other projects on the flights to Bangkok tomorrow). Point is, I have projects on that computer, too.

iDevice Syncing

Where do I sync my iPad and iPhone from? Primarily from the MacBook Pro. (I actually sync music from another computer, a “music server” MacMini, but I rarely have to sync that as I don’t keep that much music on my iPhone, and don’t change it up too often). Why sync from the MacBook Pro? So I can easily rent movies and transfer them, update podcasts, and use the iPad Camera Connection Kit to transfer photos from the camera to the iPad to Aperture—all while on the road. If it was tethered to my iMac, I’d lose the ability to update while traveling.

But what about my photos? I keep hundreds of photos on the iPad; it’s the best portfolio money can buy. Any photographer + iPad owner can attest to this—showing your work on the iPad is just fantastic. So how do I sync all those photos, which come from multiple libraries? Photos that I am likely to want to add to while on the road? If I’m on a multi-day trip or job, it’s quite likely that I’ll do a photo edit in the evening, and want to put some favorites on the iPad to show off the next day. But if my iPad photos were synced to my shared library back on the iMac, I simply couldn’t do it—at least not without deleting what I currently had on there.

Photo Syncing

So how do I do it? Simple. Old school. Export. And sync.

I keep a folder full of images (portfolio and personal) with a yymm datestamp in front, in a folder titled “  photos”. All devices (iPad, iPhone, tv) sync to that folder, and all sync All folders. The screensaver on both Macs also points to that same “  photos” folder. If I don’t want photos showing up on my devices anymore, I’ll simply remove the folder from that collection.

Where to I store that “  photos” folder? In my Dropbox. Which means that I can export photos from any Library and any computer to that one shared Dropbox folder, and the pictures will show up on all devices. Look at the previous article Keeping your Aperture Library Accessible 24/7, Worldwide, where I talked about logging into my iMac remotely. I can log into that system from the other side of the world, kick of an export of photos to that Dropbox-synced “  photos” folder, and after a short time and a sync, they will be on my iPad.

By the way, I have an export preset in Aperture that I use for this, conveniently called “  photos” so I always use the same one. It’s set to export at 1920, which is large enough to zoom into a bit on the 1024 resolution screen iPad, and not take up too much space.

iLife Sharing

That solves the iDevice syncing issue. But what about actual sharing to iLife, iWork, etc?

Here’s the browser you use when you enable iLife sharing:

And here’s the “browser” I use…

Yeah that’s right… I use Aperture itself. I use the magic of drag and drop along with Exposé to get my pictures from Aperture to, well, anywhere else I like. iPhoto, the desktop, an email I’m composing, whatever. Drag the image from Aperture to the upper-left corner of the screen (that’s where I have my “All Windows” Exposé set), hover over the window I want to drop it in, wait for that window to come to the front, and put wherever I like.

I also don’t have Preview generation turned on automatically. Unless I explicitly want to drag-and-drop an image somewhere, I don’t need the Preview. So I assigned the keyboard shortcut of Shift-Return for Photos > Generate Preview, and now whenever I want to drag one or multiple images, I just select it/them, hit Shift-Return, wait the brief second it takes for Aperture to generate those previews, and then I’m free to drag them around. More on that tip was written up in the User Tips section a while ago, titled Generating Previews On Your Schedule. Also check out the article A Comprehensive Look at Thumbnails, Previews, and More in Aperture 3 to really understand Previews in Aperture.


I think iLife/iWork sharing is a great feature—if your system is simple enough to support it. But when you get into multiple Libraries, computers, devices, hundreds of thousands of photos, it stops making sense. Using these other systems you can easily share exactly what you need, when you need it—nothing more, nothing less.

Apple Aperture


I like the export to a folder to sync to iDevices. Does it keep internal folders within that folder as separate albums too?

How about if I have almost 2 identical Projects on my Macbook + my iMac but on one I have tagged people, added places (GPS) and made adjustments to some. And let’s say that I’ve tagged some on the other one as well what would happen if I tried to merge both?
I have a back up so maybe I should just give it a go.

Mr Kgoo,

Do you mean, “does the iPad keep different folders as separate Albums”? If that’s your question, then yes, it does. At least one level deep… I’ve never tried a second level deep on the sync to the iPad.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

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Aperture does a really good job of merging Projects, but here’s a couple things you need to know:

1. It’s designed to merge Projects that started as the same one. Meaning, you have a project on one computer, export it and move it to another computer, make changes (to one or both Libraries), then merge them back. If you start with two totally unique Projects, this will probably not detect duplicate images at all. I’ve never tried it, but I doubt it would work. I’m quite sure the ability to merge properly is based on a unique file ID that every photo gets when imported into Aperture, and if they were imported separately on two different Macs, each photo would have a unique ID.

2. Assuming that you are exporting-then-reimporting, you can make changes to both projects in different areas and they will merge perfectly. However once you start making changes in the same area, then Aperture will ask you which Library has priority. Meaning, you could make Adjustments in one Library, and Metadata in another, then merge, and all will be good. But make Adjustments in both Libraries, and you’ll have to choose which one wins.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Yep! Bin there… done that… One learns. Aperture 3.0(1)has caused a lot of headaches and they are, as of this writing, not over.



This sounds like a good idea,especially for those of us with multiple Aperture Libraries. But one problem with this method is that there is no easy way to arrange the sort order of photos within a particular album. Seems like the iPad for one is taking the sort order from the creation date, not the file name, so putting a sequence at the beginning doesn’t work.

The only straightforward way I’ve found to be able to order the images is in iPhoto.
But to easily get the images into iPhoto from Aperture, I need to keep “Share Previews with iLife and iWork’ checked. Otherwise I’d have to export the images to a folder, then import the images into iPhoto, and then invariably they’ll need re-ordering.

I use my iPad as my portofolio, so the order of the images is very important to me. I would love to find a better way.

Any suggestions?

"There is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy concept." Ansel Adams

Matthew London,

You’re right… and when you’re right, you’re right! That’s very annoying isn’t it. I hadn’t really noticed since I’ve exported groups of photos into dated folders, and each group pretty much wants to be chronological, so it hadn’t been an issue. But yes, I do see what you’re saying.

I think your iPhoto technique merits looking at a bit more. Consider keeping sharing on, but generating previews only for the images that you want to share (set up a keyboard shortcut to generate the preview on demand, like shift-Return). Of course this requires all the other problems getting fixed that are happening now with sharing, but once that’s sorted, it’s not a bad solution for your specific situation.

Clearly this isn’t perfect yet…

thanks for chiming in!
-Joseph @ApertureExpert

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