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What’s Happening on Import in Aperture 3

PhotoJoseph's picture
March 2, 2010 - 7:38pm

The following is an excerpt from the updated “In-Depth Getting Started
Aperture 3” book I’m working on now. This is an entire new addition to the book and I’m excited to share it here just because of just how dramatically the import process is improved in Aperture 3.

They’re Importing… Right?

If you import a large quantity of photos, and/or are on a slower computer, you’ll notice that it takes some time to import the pictures. Which makes sense of course; Aperture is copying those pictures from the card or camera to your computer (which naturally takes time), but it’s doing a lot more than that. For the above import, here’s the process of what Aperture went through after clicking the Import button.

Lots to look at here (above), in two primary chunks. There’s the import, and then the processing. Notice that the initial “Processing Embedded JPEGs” is happening faster than the “Copying files to Aperture Library”.


Here again, the Processing JPEGs is nearly done (162 of 166), but the Copying is still happening (only 52 of 166). And the final Processing hasn’t begun yet.

So what’s happening? 

One of the challenges in importing photos is that while you obviously need to get the photos off the card and into the computer to look at them, modify and export them, many photographers also need to do that quickly. Extremely quickly. Imagine the photojournalist on a deadline, trying to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot to their editor before the competition. Sitting around waiting for software to putz around with your photos is NOT going to make for a happy photographer (or editor). So in Aperture 3, Apple made some dramatic improvements to the way imports are handled.

As you may or may not know, every RAW file actually has a small JPEG embedded in the file as well. When you look at the back of your camera, you’re not looking at the RAW file. You’re looking at a small camera-generated JPEG that’s there just so you can see what the photo looks like. Aperture has taken advantage of that file since 2.0, but it’s doing it in a much better way in 3.0.

Back to the need-for-speed. Aperture can extract and copy those embedded JPEG files a lot faster than it can copy over all the RAW files. So, it now does that first. The goal is to get your photos in front of you as quickly as possible. Yes it’s just a low-rez JPEG, but you can see the image. And as soon as you select one to open in the Viewer (to see it larger), Aperture will prioritize that file, grabbing the RAW file off the card immediately and processing it on screen so you can see it in all its glory. Once that’s done (and because it’s just one file that’s been shoved to the front of the line, it happens very fast), you can now adjust and export that picture.

The overall experience is that of a much faster import.

So now back to the Activity dialog and what’s actually happening. Below you see that the processing of embedded JPEGs is complete, and Aperture is still copying the RAW files off the card. It’s also already started the final “Processing” of the files.

And just a few moments later, the import is complete, and the Import Complete dialog pops up.


But if you look at the Activity monitor, Aperture is still churning away. What’s it doing now?


This is the “everything else” that Aperture needs to do. If you have Previews enabled (which you do by default), it’s rendering those out. (Previews are the JPEG files that Aperture generates so you can drag-and-drop pictures from Aperture to the desktop, share them with iLife, iWork and the rest of the OS. It’s what makes Aperture so well integrated with the rest of your “digital life”.) If you have Faces enabled, it’s running the facial recognition during this process. If you have GPS data embedded in the pictures, it’ll be matching place names to the data. Lots to do… and it all happens in the background.

For the rest of the story, check out the eBook “In-Depth Getting Started
Aperture 3

Apple Aperture

This article is great. I shot some pictures of an old photo album today.

As the file were importing to Aperure 3.32, I saw the jpeg previews and liked the way they looked. When I clicked on an image, it got darker and didn’t look as good. I’m thinking that I need to do some post-processing or raw fine tuning.

I tried, but can’t get the pictures to look better!




There are some difference in how previews are handled in Aperture 3.3.x, but regardless what you’re seeing is the difference between the camera-processed JPEG file and the Aperture-processed RAW file. Odds are your camera is saving the JPEG preview with some enhancement to it, which when you’re shooting RAW only, is best to set to the default zero settings so you get a truer-to-life view of the photo in the camera (and when it first imports into Aperture).

If that doesn’t all make sense, please post a follow up question in the User Forum and we can discuss it there. Also dig through the posts that are already there; we’ve been discussing this topic quite a bit lately.

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