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The Photo Mechanic 5 vs Aperture 3 Video

PhotoJoseph's picture
April 9, 2014 - 11:00pm

In February 2014, during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, photographer, Lexar marketing director and friend Jeff Cable posted on his blog a detailed write-up of his photo editing workflow. You can read the full post on his blog, but here's the summary. Jeff had 14 minutes between hockey periods to ingest, cull, edit, and upload photos to his client, Team USA. He used the fastest Lexar cards, fastest Lexar card readers, and fastest MacBook Pro available, and used Photo Mechanic to ingest and select, then Adobe Camera RAW to convert, and Photoshop to edit his favorites. If you watch the full video, you'll see that he sometimes — but not always — had a spare 60 seconds to grab a Coke before the next period began.

As you might imagine, when I read that he (and nearly every other Olympic photographer) was using Photo Mechanic, I cried foul. After all, we proved back in June 2012 that Aperture was way faster on import, and since he shouldn't have to open in Photoshop (the edits he's doing are very basic—crop and straighten, adjust exposure, done), the process simply had to be faster using Aperture.

I met up with Jeff at WPPI last month, and over a drink we hashed out a plan. I'd come down to his home in the Bay Area, interview him on his workflow, come to understand exactly what he needed to achieve, then train him how to do the same thing in Aperture, hopefully in considerably less time — and record the entire thing.

The resulting two hour, 45 minute video is the entirety of our evening. For those (i.e. 99% of you) who don't want to sit through it all, watch the introduction, then jump to Chapter 7, “Wrap-up Becomes New Aperture Test” for the big reveal. If video isn't your thing, scroll below for a text summary, as well as a resulting Aperture features wish list.

To jump around chapters, click play to begin, then choose a chapter from the list in the top left corner.

(If the quality is low on your tablet, that's because YouTube thinks you're on a small screen and is delivering low rez content. Click here to watch directly on YouTube.)

A summary of the results

To summarize, Aperture fell down hard on import, where you're forced to wait for the thumbnails to draw on the entire card before you can import a single picture. And you have to do this for each card coming in! In Photo Mechanic, there is no card preview; you simply select the two cards, choose your metadata presets, and hit import. While Aperture made up for lost time once it came to actual adjustment editing of the photos, the long wait in the beginning was unacceptable to this workflow. 

Fortunately, we found a solution. A way to import the photos into Aperture not only bypassing the entire “wait for thumbnails to build” problem, but even importing multiple cards simultaneously. We erased Photo Mechanic's advantage, resulting in a nearly twice as fast import, edit, and publish process.

How? For that, you'll need to watch the video, or wait for tomorrow's post. :-)

The chapter play-by-play

Here's a summary of each chapter of the 2h45m video. If you're not up to watching the whole thing, watch Chapters 1, 7 and 8. each link will open a video to that chapter, or watch it all in this playlist.

  • [Chapter 1] A brief introduction to the entire video.
  • [Chapter 2] I interview Jeff Cable about his Olympic workflow, currently based in Photo Mechanic, Adobe Camera RAW and Adobe Photoshop.
  • [Chapter 3] Jeff demonstrates and explains to me his Photo Mechanic workflow. 
  • [Chapter 4] Jeff executes his Photo Mechanic workflow, while timed.
  • [Chapter 5] I demonstrate and explain to Jeff the Aperture workflow, and set up Aperture to mimic Photo Mechanic for tagging images.
  • [Chapter 6] Jeff executes his Olympic workflow using Aperture instead of Photo Mechanic, while timed.
  • [Chapter 7] We discuss the results of the tests. Part way through the interview, I have a realization on how to modify the process and potentially give Aperture the advantage it was previously missing. The discussion is stopped, a new test is performed, and amazing things happen. 
  • [Chapter 8] In this brief chapter, we have a quick wrap-up of the previous test.

More to the story

The next two posts on ApertureExpert will be the detailed modified import procedure, and then a guide on moving from Photo Mechanic to Aperture (focusing on import). They are…

Aperture features wish list (hey, Apple!)

Throughout this there were several features we came across that we wish Aperture had. Some are new, some are well, well known and desired. Here's the rundown.

  • Ability to have “Delete imported items… eject… keep/delete” dialog be suppressed. Let me set a preference that always (a) keep/delete the photos, (b) eject/not eject the card. That way I don't have to have a dialog interrupt my editing.
  • Ability to not show thumbnail previews in import dialog. How about that entire preview window just has a collapse triangle, and when it's collapsed, the import button is available instantly.
  • Ability to select multiple cards for import simultaneously.
  • Larger (more visible) color label in Viewer mode. When you color tag a photo, the thumbnail gets a nice big, easy-to-see color bar on it, however in the Viewer, it's just a tiny dot in the lower right corner. I'd like at least an option for that color label to be a lot bigger in the Viewer. 
  • Ability to straighten by clicking on two points on a vertical or horizontal line, such as a light pole, or a horizon line.
  • Ability to view Original version but retain crop and straighten. Meaning, if you crop and straighten an image, and adjust exposure, highlights, colors, etc., when I toggle back to the original view, I want to still see the cropped and straightened image, just without the exposure, highlights, and so-on.
  • Watermarking that doesn't suck. C'mon, this is such a desired feature. I should be able to both create, and control the layout of, a watermark completely in Aperture, including typing, adding images, position, opacity, and naturally a preview of what it'll look like. And I shouldn't have to design a different one for every differently sized export preset I make.
  • Actual progress bar, or countdown (i.e. “5 of 27”) instead of just the spinner on the activity indicator, so you don't have to open the full Activity Monitor to see how much farther you have to go for import and export.

That's it for now

There you have it… the results you've been waiting for. This “discovery” isn't a new feature, and frankly I'm sure others have figured this out already. But for many, this will be huge news, and a very, very compelling reason to abandon Photo Mechanic and move to Aperture full time for even the tightest of deadlines.

Jeff and I look forward to your comments below!

Apple Aperture Photo Mechanic

Nice job. Everyone involved learned something new.

Fantastic! I’m heading online now to buy a couple more Lexar usb3 readers :) Thanks for the great tips guys.



Joseph: Nice discovery!

Jeff: Thanks for taking a look at Aperture.  I think you will like both the workflow and how you can organize with Aperture.

Personally, I am not usually under a tight deadline, but this will be great in those situations.  I normally copy files to my hard drive first and then import them into Aperture from there.

I'm curious how many folks watched all of the videos :) It's a long, long sequence, but fun to watch.

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I watch the whole thing, it was fun and learned a lot! Loved Jeff Cable face with the slide show… hahahhaha



I watched all the chapters as well … in this order … Chapter 1, Chapter 7 … then Chapters 2-6 and then 8 … then I went back and watched Chapter 7 again.

Also … using your import method … you would have to manually apply any metadata and effects presets after the fact … that could be annoying for some.

Agree with you on the progress wheel … maybe if they used one similar to the one used in FCP X that shows a circle graph, with a percentage of completed task in the center. I could live with that.

The straighten function should also be incorporated into the crop tool … that is one thing in Lr I do miss.

Agree whole heartedly on watermarking … though the BorderFX plugin goes a long way in alleviating that mess. 

Apple always amazes me how they can get so many difficult tasks done so well … then drop the ball almost completely on the simple stuff.

Most important though … I just tried this on several folders of images with over 1k of images in each one … if you uncheck the option to not import duplicates in the import dialog … the import checked button is available almost immediately … Apparently Aperture has to read the entire card to know which files it should eliminate from the import. 

Not much help for subsequent imports using the same cards to import subsequent images into the same projects … but a fellow like Jeff with all those cards … I don’t see why he doesn’t use different cards for each period. That’s what I do … and I don’t work for Lexar … ;-)

Butch, you just about gave me a heart attack with this line: “I just tried this on several folders of images with over 1k of images in each one … if you uncheck the option to not import duplicates in the import dialog … the import checked button is available almost immediately” — I thought perhaps you meant the import dialog. I've just tested that at home with only an iPad as an import source, and thank god (because otherwise I'd have wasted a week) disabling “duplicates” makes no difference there (the thumbs all still have to load).

So you mean when using “import folders as projects”, that “duplicates” checkbox makes a difference? What view are you in; icon, list, column? Today's post will show the detailed steps and you'll see that it's list view to be in, with the folders closed. Shouldn't be any thumbs to draw, but I'm curious what your situation is.

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No, I am talking about the the normal Import Dialog Box.

I just tested it again … with the Do not import duplicates option checked … Aperture has to read through all the files on the card before the “Import checked”  is available.

With the Do not import duplicates unchecked … the button (and the thumbs start showing) almost instantly.

I'm gonna send you the ambulance bill, Butch :-)

I'm very happy to say, you appear to be wrong :-) I think you're seeing this in your tests because the thumbnails are cached; i.e. you've already inserted that card. I tested with a card on my desk, and saw what you reported, and nearly cried. Then I took a fresh card, shot over 500 RAW+JPEG photos of my desk, and inserted that card, with “do not import duplicates” disabled.

The Import Checked button did not become immediately available. Yes thumbs started to draw right away, as expected, however until all 1,078 thumbs were in place (about two minutes), the import button wasn't available. 

I'd certainly appreciate it if you can verify that on your end though!

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I don’t know what to tell you Joseph … I just inserted a card from the two games I shot this afternoon (266 RAW files) … as soon as the import dialog popped up … the Import checked button was available … no waiting …. I had Do not import duplicates unchecked.

I canceled the import, ejected the CF card. Set Aperture to not import duplicates … re-inserted the the card … it took Aperture 21 seconds to read through the images and then the Import checked button came to life.

I can send you a screen capture video of this if you want.

There must be some other difference. I just tried again on another system, and got the same result as I did before. I recorded my own screencast, and tried with all options disabled on import (no renaming, no filtering, nothing). It can't be any simpler. You can see it here, and yes I'd love to see your as well.

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I emailed you a link to the screen cast video …

I think I understand the difference. I've been testing all evening, and it seems to be with the huge cards that this delay becomes a problem. I get the delay on my 64GB cards, but not on my 8GB ones. What size card is yours? The 266 images you're importing is a relatively low number, and I think Aperture may be able to count those quickly enough. I have determined now that it doesn't actually have to draw the thumbnail, and have revised the article I'm about to post accordingly.

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Bloody Awesome Joseph. Yes of course I watched it all, tonight (almost midnight now)

I also RTFM as well :-)

Really very very interesting conclusion 

Cheers to you and Jeff Cable

I watched the entire video…Very interested in this. I use both….Aperture to organize, minimal edits, then I export.  Ingest the images to caption and use Code Replacement in PM.  While I think Text Expander provides similar functions, I am not sold Aperture can do the {variable} placement in the captions that make my life so much easier….It truly may be I do not understand all I ned to in Aperture, but in PM, I can type event, date, etc once, and call it up by using the variable calls to get them to actually appear in each caption.

Regardless, thanks for the wealth of information I have read on this site…I truly just found this from a Facebook post promoting the Jeff Cable video.


Yes, I watched the whole video. Nicely done. I’m curious what mic system you used? Was it a wireless lavaliere? If so did both of you have a wireless Mic on? Was it just a directional Mic on camera? Something you may want to think about for your videos is moving to a camera like the Panasoinc GH3 or maybe the new GH4. Both have the benefit of a articulating screen that you can move to face towards you when nobody is behind the camera. Makes it so easy to see the composition and when the camera shuts down. Just a thought. I sure enjoyed the whole video.

Daniel J. Cox

My mics weren't wireless, no. It was pretty hacked together actually. I have two wired lav mics, and those were plugged into a headphone splitter, then an extension cable, then into the camera. The camera used was a Sony A7r; it was a crappy use for the camera, but I had it so used it. Oh and it has the microphone input, which I think my OMD does not IIRC. Usually when I shoot video I use a variety of cameras and record the audio separately, but I wanted to this to be simpler to edit. Yes the articulating screen that flips all the way around would have been dead handy here! Oh well.

Glad you enjoyed :-)

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The sports guys really need to watch this.  Most of the ones I know use Photo Mechanic.  Seeing the [Chapter 7] video might change their mind!

Watched the series (in the same order as Butch) - really interesting to go through the workflow of Jeff’s in PM and see it translated into Aperture whilst still keeping  ’Jeff’s way’.

Hopefully it reinforces that Aperture is a great tool and only at version 3 :)

Thanks to you both.

Kudos to the both of you.  This is great news.  Now, if Apple would only listen and do more promoting of Aperture and if there is a new release in the works push to get it out to all of the faithful who have stayed the course.

Florian Cortese

I managed all 8 (in the same order as Butch) and thoroughly enjoyed them. There is something about watching two guys that are totally absorbed in what they do, how they do it and then sharing their knowledge with others. Great stuff and thank you both.

Apple take note. 

Regards, Barry

Watched them all the way through„great way to learn. Seeing how others work always opens your eyes. Great ideas and info.

Joseph, using chapter 7, Would you just name and metadata your final selects,and leave the rest with just the camera info intact? Im going back to chapter 7, perhaps I missed that during the speed import.

Great job,


david s


Jeff said that color labels don’t transfer between Photo Mechanics and LR. From my experience they actually do. The time they don’t is when going from LR to photo mechanics.

Thats just been my experience….

Joseph and Jeff…GREAT set of videos.  Yes, I watched them all…in order…over 2 days, though!  Learn a lot of good stuff.  Let’s hope that you can have some influence on Apple to provide an updated version!!!!

Thank you!!!

Good work. Very interesting with lots of useful information. I also watched all the videos but not in order, I went back and forth to check other things after watching chapter 7.

Firstly, I do like Aperture, and I did use it for a while in my sports workflow, currently my workflow is similar to Jeff’s Photo Mechanic workflow. 

I work for a smaller agency, all images have to be captioned to indicate who is in each picture that I submit. The lack of this stage in Jeff’s workflow probably takes out at least 20-30% of total workflow time. For me its probably the most time consuming part of my workflow by some distance. This IPTC modification/captioning procedure is where Photo Mechanic for me is much more intuitive and faster then Aperture. In Photo Mechanic the ”Stationary Pad” is almost a program in itself but its standout abilities to copy and paste complete captions between photos, (not just one field at a time) plus the code replacement (yes, I can now see you can do this in Aperture with your additional program) is a massive timesaving bonus, and for me its a much better system for creating and altering captions then the Info tab and Batch Change tool. For me, in Aperture the info tab is a little too small when using a 13” MBA especially when you are in and out of it all the time changing information on several hundreds of photos a day. Keywording and captioning is a nice practice for normal people so they can find their own images but for power users and deadline shooters, captioning is almost as important as the image itself, if you caption it wrongly, your chances of selling the image decrease dramatically, thats why I feel that the current setup in Aperture is a little bit basic, and was incorporated as a feature that needed to be there but was a feature that was implemented in a fairly standard way. If there was an “advanced” setting somewhere, so as to keep it simple like it is now for normal photographers, and an expansion box or a separate designated tool (in the same way as “Stationary Pad” is in PM) is for the power user/deadline shooter, this would be a great step forwards. 

Having seen your video, I agree the editing is faster in Aperture, although by shooting JPG and skipping the Camera RAW stage, that does some time in my workflow, and with your newly ‘discovered’ Import procedure, the editing and previewing/culling is for all intents and purposes not all that much different timewise from the Photo Mechanic/Photoshop workflow, but I then feel I would make back the time in the captioning phase. The difference in captioning/IPTC handling is actually why I switched to Photo Mechanic in the first place, the fast importing/previewing is nice but wasn’t what drew me to PM.

I tried to create a workflow in the past whereby I could import in Photo Mechanic, edit in Lightroom and caption in Photo Mechanic. It didn’t work. I tried the same with Aperture, it  also doesn’t work because you cannot edit a file in its location without importing it into LR/Aperture first, which is a shame. For the moment, i’ll stick with my current workflow, but if the way Aperture deals with captions/IPTC data was a bit more powerful, user friendly and faster I would be very tempted to switch back to Aperture.  

My comment ended up almost as long as the video! But thanks for making it, some great info. 


In the videos, we mentioned the captioning, specifically using TextExpander. I haven't included it in my steps but include it in the new Photo Mechanic transition article today, thanks for the reminder. 

There is a “large caption” field in Aperture which may not be a massive upgrade, but it's a nice touch. I wholeheartedly agree that captioning and keywording in Aperture need a serious upgrade. Frankly, I'd like to see image analytics come into play and start keywording automatically. How hard is it for AI to determine that this picture contains a tree, field, colors green, red, purple, orange, is obviously of nature, based on time stamp it's sunrise not sunset, no people, etc.

“Large Caption” view in Aperture’s info tab

If you're shooting JPEG only, then yes many of the speed advantages may be irrelevant, and if you can do the captioning faster but editing more slowly in PM, and that washes as the same as a faster edit but slower caption, then certainly I can see how it'd be better for you to stay in PM.

Hopefully Aperture will gain the features you need! Be sure to check out today's post (it'll go up later today) and see if any other tips shine through to you.

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Excellent video Joseph and Jeff!! I sat through all of it. What a wonderful conclusion with that great workaround Joseph. I agree with the comments on watermarks - something that should have been done a few versions back. I think the ability to do all the image selection, tagging, rating and editing all under one application is a huge benefit and with the sheer speed that Aperture can do this it should be a no-brainer for those photographers who need an ultra fast turnaround on their images.

Stuart Taylor
HighlanderImages Photography

Very nice job Joseph. Just for the record, Aperture does a beautiful slide show with Ken Burns effect. I use it regularly and my clients think I’ve put a massive amount of time in to these mini productions that also contain video clips. Many of my students wonder why I use Aperture, most are using Lightroom, your video series will be going up on my Blog to show why I’m a huge believer in Aperture. Now if Apple just gives us a major update including some of the options you pointed out. Thanks for a great video which I watched from start to finish. 

Daniel J. Cox

Daniel J. Cox

Start to finish.  I didn’t mean to - it just happened.

Brilliant piece of video - it even had drama.


Hehe thanks Walter. Drama! Intrigue! Suspense! Mystery! It's like a regular Saturday night special ;-)

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