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What Additional Tools Are Essential to Your Aperture Workflow? (Part 2)

PhotoJoseph's picture
June 28, 2013 - 7:01pm

The original post “What Additional Tools Are Essential to Your Aperture Workflow?” sparked quite a conversation, so I thought it prudent to follow up with a collection of what others added to the list! In no particular order, here we go…

File Renaming

Aperture’s file naming options are great, but sometimes you need more, or simply need to change things after export, before upload to another location. One reader noted that A Better Finder Rename aka Better Rename [App Store link] ($19.99) is what they use, and personally I’ve been using NameChanger [site link] ($free; donation-ware).

File Synchronization/Sharing to iOS

A lot of us use iOS devices, but getting your best photos on them simply and easily hasn’t always been, well, simple and easy. There are several solutions out there now, and I was remiss in not including the one we all have built-in if you’re using OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 — Photo Stream! In fact, I wrote an article on using Photo Stream as a way to sync collections of photos (i.e. your portfolio) a while ago titled “Using Shared Photo Stream Instead of Sync for iOS Device Galleries”. But if you’re looking for other solutions, check out PhotoSync [Mac App Store] and [iOS App Store] ($1.99, free companion app). Another app I use to move almost any kind of file between iOS and the Mac is Instashare [App site] and [iOS App Store] ($free).

Borders and Watermarks

BorderFX [App site] ($free; donation-ware) is a well-loved plugin for adding borders and watermarks (i.e. copyright) to images on export. We all know that Aperture’s own watermark feature leaves a lot to be desired, but fortunately BorderFX fills the gap — and it’s donation-ware! Download for free, and give something back if you love it.

Another reader mentioned Impression [App Store link] ($14.99) for watermarks, which has a “send to Aperture” feature. So you should be able to use it as an editor from Aperture (or drag the preview file into Impression) then send back to Aperture if you want to store watermarked versions there.

Diptych, triptychs, and collages, oh my!

There are loads of apps for combining multiple photos into a single image on iOS — PicFrame [iOS App Store] ($0.99) is my favorite, and they also have a Mac version [Mac App Store] ($0.99) but I’ve found that a bit limiting. One reader uses Diptic which is on both the [Mac App Store] and [iOS App Store] ($0.99 ea.) but notes that it doesn’t create very high resolution images. If you want something more robust on the Mac, there’s Collage [Mac App Store] ($19.99) but it’s pretty expensive for what it is, and honestly I stopped using it a while ago because I found it to be too cumbersome. What I’ve been using lately though — and love — is TurboCollage [Mac App Store] ($4.99). It’s a little odd in how you choose your size/dimensions, and it’s not fully controllable, but I love it and have used it a ton.

Calendars and cards

Aperture doesn’t do calendars or cards — but of course iPhoto does! And since we share a universal library, that means you can edit in Aperture, then open the same Library in iPhoto and assemble your cards and calendars there. One reader noted that he uses Aperture’s book tool (making a custom layout, I’d imagine) to create “calendar pages”, which he then assembles and orders as actual calendars from iPhoto. Neat!


Lots of us sell our photos, and there are many tools to make that easy. I mentioned SmugMug and Zenfolio in the last article, but one reader pointed out Photo Cart [site link] ($329), a shopping cart solution that you buy once and host yourself. It seems to be very robust and customizable, so if you want to build your own full-featured store, that looks to be worth checking out.

If you’re selling on-the-go, a reader reminded me of the ever-so-awesome Square [site link]. You’re probably seeing this more and more in small businesses, especially coffee shops and the like. But as a photographer, you can carry the tiny square reader in your bag and just plug it into your iPhone or iPad to charge someone’s credit card right on the spot. I used it recently where I set up a photo booth, and it’s super easy and quick to use, and you don’t have to pay any monthly merchant account fees. Love it!


A lot of us are using TextExpander, but one reader pointed out that the link I’d included to the App Store only shows the previous version, 3.x. Because of sandboxing rules, the current TextExpander can’t be sold in the App Store, so that means you need to visit Smile Software directly [site link] ($34.95) to get the 4.x version. If you bought on the App store recently, you may want to contact Smile to ask for advice, or just request a refund from the App Store and re-purchased directly. That’s really a shame, but rules are rules. 

Someone else asked for more shortcut tips. My “ymd” is the only one I use regularly in Aperture itself, however I use it extensively on this site to create HTML for comments, to fill in my mailing address, and even to write special characters that aren’t easily accessible on the Mac keyboard. For example, when I type the degree symbol ˚ followed by the F or C, it’s replaced with the single character ℉ or ℃. I also use it for foreign language words like when I was working on my photo book for Vietnam (which, you know, maybe one day I’ll finish!!), to make it easier to type names like Đà Nẵng and Hội An (I just type the full word in regular roman characters, and they are replaced by the Vietnamese ones).

Lens correction

Just because we don’t have built-in lens correction doesn’t mean it’s unavailable to Aperture users. A reader mentioned PTLens [site link] ($25). They offer a standalone version as well as a plugin for Aperture. I haven’t tried it personally but that’s a pretty affordable way to add a desperately wanted feature!

Pre-import organization and tagging

While personally I think it’s less and less relavent (read this article; “Import & Browse Test: Aperture vs Lightroom vs Photo Mechanic”), there are many photographers who still swear by Photo Mechanic [site link] ($150) as a way to sort and caption photos before importing into Aperture. Whatever gets the job done, right? Right!

Alternate RAW editing

Aperture’s RAW decoder rocks, but there will always be cases where some other tool handles a particular photo better. The process however of extracting the RAW file, opening it in another app, then sending the finished product back to Aperture can be a pain in the keister. Enter Catapult [site link] (CAD$25) which aims to solve that problem. Personally I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard that it works quite well. And they have a free trial, so what have you got to lose? The reader who pointed it out noted that you can use it to “roundtrip through ACR and keep Smart Objects”. Cool.

Super compression

I was reminded about the article I wrote on JPEGmini a while ago (JPEGmini; Can It Be Used to Reduce Your Aperture Library?”) which does a remarkable job of shrinking JPEGs even smaller than they started. Whether you use it across your library, host the server side version to manage photos on your website, or just drag-and-drop the occasional photo you’re going to email to grandma, it does the job remarkably well.

Aperture Inspector!

Did I really leave this out of the original article?! Criminal. Aperture Inspector [ApertureExpert store] ($9.99) is a remarkable tool for analyzing your entire Aperture library for the purpose of comparing what cameras, lenses and settings you’re using the most (and least). It’s invaluable when making a gear buying or selling decision, and it’s just fun to see where your devotion truly lies in your camera bag. And hey, what the hell, since I can do this sort of thing (it’s good to be boss!), let’s throw out a $4 off code, good through the end of July. Use the code “summer” make Aperture Inspector just $5.99!

AppleScripts and Automator

Equally criminal, I neglected to mention our very own Aperture AppleScripts [ApertureExpert store] ($0.99~$1.99). There are a handful of useful ones, and all priced cheaply enough where I think you can manage without a discount :)

Automator is free on every Mac, and allows you to easily create AppleScripts or Folder Actions (folders with scripts attached that are triggered automatically when something is added to them), with some built-in Aperture hooks. Here’s an article in the forum discussing one user’s workflow. There’s a lot you can do with scripting if you spend a little time digging into it.

Sharing on the big screen

The Apple TV [Apple store link] ($99) came up as a great way to share your images on the big screen for friends and family. If you have an iPad or iPhone, load up photos and use AirPlay to mirror your photos on screen. If you have one of the newest Macs, you can do it from there as well. I don’t have a new enough Mac to try this, but I believe you could set up your big screen TV as a second display, and use Aperture’s dual-screen features to show just what you’ve selected in the browser on the second screen? Maybe I’m confusing how it works with a Mac OS X Mavericks up-and-coming feature. However it works today, you can figure out a way to get those photos on the big screen wirelessly. Now that’s cool. Oh and if you don’t have any of those toys, remember that you could push your photos to a flickr or Photo Stream collection, then use the Apple TV to view those as well. No iPad or fancy Mac required.

Other plugins of note

Just because people mentioned them, don’t forget about Photomatix [site link], Topaz [site link]Nik [site link] and Perfect Suite [site link] (featuring a 50% off sale through the end of June!) as some of the biggest names in plugins out there.


I already mentioned Backblaze [site link] ($4 to $5/mo.) for cloud and Time Machine for local backup, and other readers pointed out CrashPlan [site link] ($2 to $9/mo.) for cloud and Chronosync [site link] ($40) for local. Whatever you use, back up regularly!!

Flickr integration

Aperture has it’s own built-in flickr integration, but it may not do everything you want. If it feels limiting, check out Flickery [Mac App store] ($12.99) for a full-featured desktop flickr tool, with an Aperture hook as well.

Aperture presets

There are loads of Aperture presets out there, including many from ApertureExpert. Other popular ones include those by VSCO [site link] ($79 each?! Dang I gotta raise my prices! :). I was surprised to not see more in the previous comments; perhaps additional ones will show up here.

Moving files around

Big cameras make big files, and sharing over email or social networks isn’t always the best way. Enter tools like Dropbox [site link] and Google Drive [site link]. Both are free to start, and with Dropbox you can pay to get more space. These systems provide syncing of files across all your devices, and easy sharing of files. I use Dropbox as an extension of my Home folder; I keep pretty much everything except my Aperture library (don’t do that!) in there. I’m using Google Drive more and more to quickly share big files since I’m using the gmail interface all the time for mail now, but I just looked and found a Dropbox extension for Chrome that lets me do the same thing. Sweet.

You may need to FTP, and the best FTP tool on the Mac has got to be Transmit [App Store link] ($33.99). I love how it syncs bookmarks across all your Macs using iCloud or Dropbox.

A glass of wine…

Oh that may just be the best add-on yet… for a long, relaxed editing session, nothing beats some chilled out tunes and a lovely glass of your favorite adult beverage. Ahhhh…

What else?

Wow that’s a lot more stuff. Something tells me there may be a part three to this post, too. If there’s anything missing, let us know in the comments below!

Apple Aperture
Apple TV macOS

I like to work directly with my original RAW files … I refrain from making too many derivative files … for me exporting images to use in other apps is precisely why I started working with Lr and now Aperture was to get away from a mountain of images I didn’t really need. If an image does need a bit of TLC that Aperture can’t handle … then of course I will use a tiff and other solutions to get the job done. My whole goal is to make that aspect the exception rather than the rule. I prefer to deal with as few apps and plugins as possible and as few steps as possible.

I do all my renaming right in Aperture. I use the camera generated names for import. Then after the first cull and rating, any images that have market value are selected, renamed to my standard naming structure. (XXXX_130628_1234 - where “XXXX is an acronym for my business name, 6 digit date code YYMMDD and a sequential image count based upon capture order) That is the name the image will have for as long as I have control over it. If a client requests a different naming structure, I apply that upon export. Any unique information about the image(s) is accomplished via key wording, captioning metadata, never by file name.

I use the Book feature in Aperture 3 to create collages and cards. Just choose a custom theme, set the page size for your preferred printer paper size, set all the margins to zero if you want full bleed … you can even save the layouts to use in future projects.

I use BorderFX for watermarking images before adding them to my online shopping cart … and by using Transmit’s “Disk” feature, you can mount a remote web server as if it were a local storage volume directly attached to your work station … thus, when I export images from a shoot to my online store … the images are saved directly to the server, not locally …saving the extra steps of exporting the jpegs to a temp folder, invoking Transmit and manually uploading the images to the server, then housecleaning those jpeg files once completed … very easy-peasy … no fuss, no muss.

I’ve been using, like many, Nik software but made the recent discovery, during the Creative Cloud discussions, of DxO Filmpack 3 and 4 for their film conversions (which now has built in light leaks and borders amongst other variables). I find it more pleasing than some other film converters I’ve tried.
I’m a fan of the concept of VSCO but am rapidly turning off them as the become so prevalent and distinct that there is no real advantage beyond speed. If what we do is art VSCO is Ikea.
I’m also using, unfortunately via the Photoshop round trip, DxO viewpoint. Sometimes PTLens can’t give me the right look I’m after very easily at all.
Viewpoint is a bit quicker to right verticals and horizontals in situations that are often real bad. It doesn’t do lens corrections though so I go via PTLens for the corrections first before righting lines.
I think it’s a shame that Aperture hasn’t covered lens corrections. I hope that is part of the next iteration.

Lens correction, yes, we need that feature directly inside Aperture.
It´s a shame that the direction of lens design goes more and more towards in-camera lens correction, but only in jpeg, not raw. Lens designers “cheat” in this way, and we need in-computer correction to correct the lazy lens designers

publicspace, the same folks behind Better Rename, have a handy tool called Big Mean Folder Machine. It can take a bunch of camera cards that you’ve dumped to the hard drive (but haven’t organized), chew through the files, and organize the images into folders based on attributes you choose. It’s a great way to catch up on past work that has been sitting around for way too long. It’s great for that pile of random stuff you might shoot between real projects. It’s not the tool you’ll use every day but it’s invaluable for a spring cleaning.

Intuos4 tablet – mentioned already, but worth mentioning again. I have a completely customized set of “radial” commands 4 levels deep.
Razer Naga 17-button programmable mouse. I think it was mentioned that a mouse is not accurate. Any gaming mouse _is_. Set the resolution to “high” and you can pinpoint pixels easily. The 12 side buttons are extremely useful for two- and three-key keyboard shortcuts, as well as macros. NB: there are reports of users having trouble with this under 10.8. I am likely to switch to the Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, now that Logitech is promoting their Mac support. With my right hand on my programmed 17-button mouse, and my left hand on the left side of the keyboard (which I have extensively customized for Aperture’s commands), I can work for hours in Aperture without having to resort to any other hand positions.
Photo-spectrometer. Essential for accurate color. I use X-Rite’s Color Munki Photo.

Keyboard Maestro macro recorder and player. Excellent. Does everything the type expander programs do, and _much_ more. Especially useful for tasks such as changing a word in 35 different Project titles. I have about ten specific text expander macros as well (e.g.: boilerplate structure for Project descriptions).
SuperDuper! for back-ups. Essential. I stopped using Vaults long ago. CCC is equally recommended.
NameMangler. Superb. I have renamed hundreds of thousands of files and folders with this robust utility. Takes a small bit to learn how to use it, after which it becomes one of those “I can’t possibly do my work without it” apps. (I rename Finder folders prior to importing as Projects. This is _much_ easier than renaming Projects. For imports from cameras, I just use Aperture’s built-in renaming presets.)
LaunchBar for it’s 40-entry clipboard memory. Many other apps offer this. LaunchBar has much more to recommend it.
Plug-ins: I use and recommend BorderFX, PTLens, Google’s Nik Suite, and PSCS6.

Could you use Text Expander for key wording? i.e. instead of trying to remember shortcuts for a keyword preset, you could just have a Text Expander shortcut. Not only would this be good for large batches of keywords you know you need for a particular topic or sub-topic, it would also be a workaround for that issue where (I understand) the full hierarchy/ string of nested keywords don’t actually show up as keywords.


Yes you certainly could use TextExpander while keywording. I’m not sure what you mean by an advantage of “not having to remember shortcuts” since there aren’t any (you just start typing the keyword, and available matches start showing up), but one benefit would be MULTIPLE keywords.

Say you often do wildlife and you know that when you do, your tags always include “outdoor, wildlife, animal, furry creatures that can eat me”, etc. Instead of typing each one, you have a TE shortcut like “-outdoor” (having some kind of unique symbol to start a shortcut that you’re unlikely to type in normal situations helps. I use the dash “-” for most, and for html shortcuts, I use “//”), which expands to include all of those.

I just tested it and it even will match sub categories. Neat.

Hm… I think I just found Monday’s post. Thanks!!

-Joseph @ApertureExpert
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I meant where you set up your custom keyword buttons … Tho I guess I saw this as a clever way of achieving a shortcut for a batch of keywords, in the absence of this functionality being native within Aperture.

I actually had wildlife in mind, as I like to take macro shots of small insects/ bugs/ spiders. It is always good to keyword the common names, as well as the scientific classifications. It’s a real pain to copy and paste all the latin names of the Family/ Genus/ Species etc, as well as common characteristics of sub-families, so if you photograph the same species a lot (whether bugs, birds, any wildlife) then this should work pretty well.

The other great use for TE in keywording would be location data - I reckon 80% of my photos are taken in/ around my local area and I notice that I am constantly repeating the same keywords relating to my local area - setting up a TE shortcut for shots at my local beach would be really good.

I’ll look forward to your next post and see what you come with :)

I’ve downloaded the trial version of TE and will have a play with it :)

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