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Beginner Tip Series: Organizing Your Aperture Library—Your Way

PhotoJoseph's picture
October 7, 2013 - 7:00pm

This is a series of new-to-Aperture observations and tips conceived by Stephen Guy, the new assistant here at ApertureExpert and PhotoJoseph’s studio. These are things that as a Lightroom user, Stephen found particularly interesting, compelling, or otherwise noteworthy. These aren’t necessarily in-depth tips, however they are designed to highlight interesting features, and encourage you to explore and learn more about them.

Your Aperture library is very powerful and very personal. Learning early on to keep your library organized can make finding pictures years later a simple, proven task. You can add Folders, Albums, Projects and more to your library to keep yourself organized manually. Or, you could apply metadata to every photo ensuring that you can search for individual shots and organize completely by smart albums.

Aperture offers a litany of tools to help you organize your photos

You could choose to name your projects with the date in front, as is often taught on this site. Or you can name and sort by type of event, type of photo, region, category, or anything else you can think of. You can group projects and albums by folders, or use albums to organize everything, or just apply ratings and keywords and search every time you need a photo.

Whatever way you choose, the most important thing is to pick a method early and stick to it. No method is right or wrong, just be consistent. Inconsistency is what hurts most users in the long run, and makes it nearly impossible to find that photo when you want it.

What method do you use to sort your photos, ensuring you’ll be able to find them years from now?

Apple Aperture

My libraries are divided yearly rom aperture’s performance issue.
Projects were basically made by aperture auto-split function,
and fix it to date - place manner.

all photos by projects organized thusly:
decade. e.g. 2010
year. e.g., 2013
roll date. e.g.,2013-09-34 bla bla bla

then I create albums to group stuff. Except for stuff in streams I keep the raw images on the file system using the same layout. I don’t put any videos in Aperture and store the completely separately and work on them with iMovie.

This isn’t perfect but it works for my workflow.

Agree with everything but for beginners, one outstanding aspect of Aperture is you can make changes, quite easily. This week I totally reorganized 50,000+ images. Different folder structure, different drive (one drive). Changed my mind in the midst of it and changed more of the structure. When I opened Aperture, all but 19 images had already been reconnected. 3 flicks of the mouse and the other 19 were reconnected.

I don’t pay all that much attention to the org structure within Aperture. I change it with free abandon and it never let’s me down.

I have just started to use Aperture and the way i do my file structure is :
Project = Year (2013)
Folder = Month (October)
Albums = Shoot Name (Show and Shine Perth)

Now im just wondering if i need to add a date to the Albums as they are sorted by Label or leave tham as they are, because they are already in the Year>Month ???
After reading this article, i can see the beauty of Keywords now. I did have them on, then saw the badge on the Images and my OCD i hade to get them off. For the sake of a Smart folder, i might have to add them back on :)

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Arguing with a zealot is only slightly easier than tunnelling through a mountain with your forehead.
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The sad thing is I have bounced from Aperture to another program then back to Aperture and to another All since Aperture 1.x. I am back using Aperture and you ought to see the mess! All fun, I always change things anyway. Now to figure out a style that works for me. Yr M D, no wait M yr location. Heck one day at a time.

I have a folder for each year, a project for each month, named yyyy-mm_Month

where yyyy is the 4 digit year, mm is a two digit month number, and Month is the name of the month spelled out.  This allows me to keep in alphabetic order, so I’m not having to maintain a custom order all the time.

Most of my photography deals with my  tree farm.  Photos are used for my web page, sales materials, and blogs. 

I try to apply at least 3 keywords to each photo.  For tree pix species and possibly parts.  (E.g. Balsam fir, twigs, buds, closeup)  For other shots, sky & weather, lighting, subject, location.  (E.g. Pot yard, deep snow, slanting light, overcast).  For people, the event, location, and who is in it.

A separate project involves scanning a huge collection of slides.  I do this in a separate library. 


I had several systems running at once, or rather I had inconsistent systems. 

To sort it out,  I firstly renamed all versions to be their date/time.  This didn’t affect much of importance, since they had the original camera file names DSC_1234 before.

I created year folders, and in each year folder I made a project called ‘unsorted’  Then I started taking all my other projects one by one, and dumped the files by year into the appropriate folder.

Then I broke them down by month within each year folder.  This didn’t take too long.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through keywording them all.


I have them organized as follow:

  • Folder: Year
  • Project: Year_Sequencenumber Eventname
  • Album: Selection etc.

For my daily images that do not belong to e specific event, I put them in a ‘season’ project. The sequencenumber is also logical in time perspective. Therfore, I do not use ‘date’ in the project_name because some events have a longer duration. 



  • 2014_01 Winter (i.e. my daily pics until 21st of March)
  • 2014_02 Birthdayparty
  • 2014_03 Portrait Workshop
  • 2014_04 East Anglia
  • 2014_05 Trainstation documentary

Ruud Hennequin

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