You are here

Deleting Photos in Aperture 3 (First, Second, Third Time’s the Charm)

PhotoJoseph's picture
February 24, 2010 - 8:59am

Aperture 3 handles deleting files differently than Aperture 2, so here’s a little look at what’s happening.

When you first delete an image, project, or anything else from menu File > Delete or by tapping Command-Delete, it’s moved into the Aperture Trash. This is a fantastic new feature that makes it much, much harder to accidentally delete your photos. Believe me, I wish I’d had this feature a year ago. If I did, I’d still have that collection of photos of Barack Obama speaking in San Francisco in November 2007. As it is though, I didn’t, and so I don’t.

That mistake is a lot harder to make today, for several reasons. For one, everything you delete now goes to a holding location just like in the Finder. And until you empty the trash, nothing is actually lost. But it’s even better than that.

When you do finally empty the trash in Aperture 3, you’re presented with a dialog and a checkbox reading “Move referenced files to System Trash”.

If you click on that, then click the Delete button, the files will be gone from Aperture forever… however the Master files will still be in the system trash! So you’ll have yet another chance to recover those files that you didn’t really want to throw away.

Overly protective like a loving mother sending her child off to his first day of school? Yes. And don’t you love your mother for that today? You sure do.

Thanks, Mom.

Apple Aperture

I’ve already been glad for that new Aperture trash, which leads to this question: how can I delete reference photos from Aperture without trashing the originals on my HD? Last week I command-deleted some referenced photos, emptied the trash, and found that my originals were in the Finder trash. All I wanted to do was remove them from Aperture, not my hard drive!


Disabling the checkbox “Move referenced files to System Trash” should do the trick (see the dialog in the screenshot above).

Let us know if that doesn’t work… if not then that sounds like a bug.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Thanks for the article. When I try to delete a picture by pressing command-delete I get a system beep. However if I go to the menu I’m able to delete the photo. Can you tell me what is going on?



Hmm, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that myself, too. I just tried to recreate but couldn’t. When you run into that, make a not of where the photo is (in an album, at the project level, where?) and post back.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?


I checked the files can be at any level project or folder. I also tried deleting referenced vs managed and masters vs. versions with the same result


I figured my default keyboard did not have the cmd+delete as a keyboard shortcut. I copied the default and after trials several trials I was able to enter it.



Sounds like you’re good to go now… that should be the default keyboard shortcut (in fact I’m sure of it, as I just wrote about it in the new eBook). Let me know if you are seeing otherwise!

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I am hoping that some one here can help . i have read through all about referenced files and so on in aperture 3. However I have been reading and reading the above , been in forums and still cannot work out or get a resolve for this.

In my trash in aperture 3 I have cleaned it out . I have even done a mac cleaner .
i just done it again step 1 delete photo. step 2 empty trash . 3 pop up appears (are you sure you want to permanently delete all items in the trash 1097 of them. But I only see 1
I delete clicking OK and still it says i the trash 1097 images . How and how to delete these fantom images. or find them to see what they are?

Gary Bridger


Sounds like a database problem. Launch Aperture holding down command-option and choose to repair (not rebuild, that’s overkill) the database. If that doesn’t fix it, please post a question in the forums—hardly anyone sees questions posted to the comments.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I have a lot of photo “projects” and albums that I am wanting to delete, but I do NOT want to delete the photos inside them. Will deleting the projects and albums also delete them from my main database?


Yes, if you delete a project, all of it’s content is deleted as well.

Think of a project like a box (hence the icon)… you need to empty the box before you can throw it away!

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Hey all,

I’m new to Aperture, but I find it extremely difficult to figure everything out.

For instance: I don’t see the "Move referenced files to System Trash" when emptying my Trashbox.

Am I doing something wrong?


If you’re not seeing that, then that means your images are managed, not referenced. In a Managed workflow, images are always moved to the System Trash when deleted from Aperture.

If you’re having a hard time getting started, I’d like to encourage you to check out some of the training on offer here. We have two ebooks, the Live Training series, as well as an complete video training. Go to the ApertureExpert Store to see what’s available.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert
Have you signed up for the ApertureExpert mailing list?

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Hi all!

I’ve been recently struggling the this problem of deleting referenced masters throughout Aperture. Just playing around with it to understand how Aperture behaves I realized that it will also only pop up the ‘Move referenced files to System trash’ option, when there are no other versions of that same master referenced into the library. E.g.: you have two versions of the same master, then delete one of the versions and when you try to empty Aperture’s trash, it will not show the option. Only when you delete the second version (or if you delete both at the same time), it will allow you to tick that box, and you will see the master file in the system trash. Pretty smart, so as to avoid generating versions with missing masters!

However, I’ve also realized that if the two versions are on different projects, then Aperture’s smartness plunges, because it allows to delete the master when deleting the first version, thus ending up with the second version with a missing master.

Am I missing something or it really works this way? So far these are my findings in this regard.



That’s a known issue. Technically if you copy a file to another project, you’re duplicating it, not making a new version. A master can only exist in one project; you can move a version to Albums in other projects, but not actually to another project. If you do, it will try to move the master, and only if you hold down the option key and get the (+) on the arrow will it duplicate the master. This is NOT a new Version… it’s a new Master.

Then yes it’s entirely possible to encounter what you’re seeing. These masters are no longer related, and if you delete the Master from a project and let the file in the finder from go to the trash, the Master in the other project will now show offline/missing.

It’s best to not have duplicate Masters for this exact reason.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I have a referenced library. It does not give me the option to remove the items in my trash from my HD. I selected: >Delete Original Images & All Versions >Empty Aperture Trash >Quit Aperture

Again, I never got the option to permanently delete these items. Any idea why?



You didn’t see the “move referenced files to the System trash” option?

The only explanation I can think of is that these were managed images, not referenced ones.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I like to put several photos up on the screen, side-by-side, for comparing. Here’s the problem: I can’t then delete individual photos one at a time because they are all selected (in order to get them to appear side-by-side in the first place) and they, thus, all get deleted as a group. Can anyone help me solve this problem? With four or five photos in the viewer, I want to delete just one. Help!!

When I import files I import them to my Pictures dir.

When I select “Delete original images and all versions” it deletes them from Aperture, puts them in the Trash and when everything is over. The original files are still in my Pictures dir!

What have I missed Joseph ?

I’m still reading the first aperture book and I have not read the file management one yet but I need to sort this out, I have disk space problems.



They only way that should be happening is if you do not have “move referenced files to system trash” enabled (see the screenshot above). Or, what it could also mean is that you are actually importing as Managed, and your photos in the Pictures folder are duplicates.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

You may login with either your assigned username or your e-mail address.
Passwords are case-sensitive - Forgot your password?