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Keep Your Metadata In Order With Metadata Presets in Aperture 3

Scott Davenport's picture
May 5, 2014 - 12:00pm

Aperture's search and filter tools are incredibly powerful. Metadata is the fuel for the search and filter engines. The more metadata your photos have, the more powerful these tools become. A wealth of metadata is already populated by your digital camera. Take this data further leveraging Aperture's metadata presets.

Metadata is also the only information that truly travels with your image. The “surround” of a website, blog post, or social media share is just that—surround. Your image may (and likely will) travel well beyond an initial share. It is in your best interest to have some level of information that identifies you as the photographer to travel with your photo.

To assist in applying metadata to your photos, you can create metadata presets in Aperture. A metadata preset is a collection of data fields of your choosing. Properly constructed presets can be used again and again to quickly tag your images at any phase of your workflow.

Creating metadata presets

There are several ways to create metadata presets.

  • From the menu bar, choose Metadata > Batch Change. Choose Edit Presets… from the Add Metadata From pull down
  • During image import, in the Metadata Preset pane, choose Edit… from the list of presets
  • From the Inspector's Info pane, select Manage Presets in the gear menu
  • From the Inspector's Info pane, select Create Preset from Version in the gear menu

NOTE: The Create Preset from Version method seeds a new preset based on the currently selected metadata view. Metadata views are beyond the scope of this article.Check out this posting for more information on Metadata Views.

No matter which of the above routes you take, Aperture presents a Metadata window where you can add, edit, or delete metadata presets. Use the gear menu to create and delete presets. To modify presets, select it from the list and change the selected fields and/or values on the right side.

Manage your presets in the Metadata window

When you initially select a metadata field, the default is to “Clear Values”. A single click in the input box removes the “Clear Values”. You can optionally define a default value for some, all, or none of the fields. For some metadata presets, default values make sense. Fields that identify the photographer (you!) are excellent candidates for default values.

At a minimum, I recommend you set defaults for your copyright string, email address, and website. If your photo is separated from your library or blog post, the metadata in the file is the only connection between your image and you. When your image stands on its own, the more identifying metadata in your image, the greater the chance someone interested in your photo can find you.

Let's look at a few examples of metadata presets.

Preset for import

The best time to set your copyright line and contact information is during import (we'll see how in a moment). In my Aperture library, I defined a “Basic Import Info” preset to include the metadata fields I use on all of my images. In addition to information identifying me as the photographer, I also like to set the location where the image was taken. I also include some Aperture-specific metadata for rating and labels. Depending on what I'm importing, I may rate and apply color labels during import, and I want those options readily available.

An example of a metadata preset to use when importing photos

I also set the image location fields to default to my hometown of San Diego. That's where most of my photos are shot and having these fields pre-filled saves me time during import. I can always override the default values during import as necessary.

Image location

This is a simple preset for the City, State/Province, and Country. On occasion, I have a shoot that spans several cities. If pressed for time, I won't methodically import into Aperture city by city. Rather, I'll import all photos in a single go (I'm always nervous when frames only exist in-camera). Then later, I'll use this preset to clean up the location metadata.

A simple preset for IPTC location fields

This preset does not lend itself to default values.

Custom metadata fields

Presets can be created to manage custom metadata fields also. A few months ago, Walter Rowe posted an article on ApertureExpert outlining how he uses custom metadata fields to manage online portfolios. I've adopted this technique and also use it to track other items not suited for keywords. For example, tracking the external plug-ins I use on an image during post-processing.

To ensure I set the same values across my library, I define a suite of metadata presets one per online portfolios and plug-ins I use, setting default values for each. Here are two examples:

Define presets for custom metadata fields, too

Applying metadata presets

Metadata presets can be applied to one or more images at any stage of your workflow. When you apply a preset, you can append to existing metadata or replace existing metadata. When appending, Aperture adds the metadata to any existing information. Appended data in stored as a comma-delimited list per data field. Replacing does just what it says - replaces all data with the new value you specify, or deletes data from a field if “Clear Values” is set. There are situations when replacing the existing metadata makes sense—just be careful!

Here are a few examples of how I apply metadata:

  • Apply during import

    Above, I showed you my “Basic Import Info” preset. In the Import Settings, I select this preset in the Metadata Presets pane. For this preset, I select Replace to overwrite existing metadata. This is the start of my workflow and replacing metadata normalizes the data across my Aperture library. The replace only applies to the metadata fields selected in the preset. All other metadata (and EXIF data) is unchanged.

    Applying a metadata preset during import is an excellent way to ensure core metadata is always included in your photo

    Notice here I am overriding my default settings for the image location. The preset is a starting point, and default values can be changed prior to applying a preset. Changing the defaults only affects the current metadata operation. To change the defaults for a preset, use the Manage Presets options discussed above.
  • Batch Change

    When multiple images require the same metadata, a batch change is the best option. Select the images to update and choose Metadata > Batch Change from the menu, or Batch Change from the gear menu in the Info pane of the Inspector.

    Use Batch Change to apply metadata across a selection of images

    I mentioned earlier that sometimes I do not set the image location during import if my shoot spans cities. I've defined an “IPTC Image City, State, Country” preset to use. Selecting this preset in the Batch Change window presents the fields in my preset. Enter the appropriate values and click OK. Boom. The selected images are updated. This technique is also useful in conjunction with the Places view. You can use the map to zoom into a particular city, select all the photos, and batch change the location fields.

    Sometimes I use append for batch changes, sometimes I use replace. It all depends on the metadata being updated.
  • Single images

    From the gear menu in the Info pane of the Inspector, there are Append With Preset and Replace With Preset options. I use this approach to manage custom metadata fields when post-processing images and sharing them online. Using presets with default values for your custom fields guarantees consistency across your library.

    Quickly tag images using metadata presets from the gear menu

    For example, when an image is round-tripped to a plug-in such as Perfect Effects, once back in Aperture I have a preset to update my custom “Plugins” metadata field to add a “Perfect Effects” tag. Similarly, after sharing a photo to 500px, I'll choose my “Online Portfolio: 500px” preset to tag the photo as shared to 500px.

    In these cases, I am always appending the metadata. The same photo may be processed in a variety of plug-ins and shared to multiple online portfolios. 

So get started!

Metadata presets are an excellent way to quickly and consistently tag your photos. Taking a few minutes to define presets will serve you and your Aperture library well. Presets are also helpful to tidy up existing libraries (I wasn't always this organized either! :).

And… metadata presets can be exported and imported! Joseph just covered how to do this in a recent tip. If you have multiple libraries or export segments of a library for on-the-go work, you can very easily transfer the presets across libraries and systems, too! In the Metadata window, you'll find the export and import options under the gear menu.

About the author, Scott Davenport:

I'm a San Diego based photo educator and landscape photographer and can't get enough of the ocean. I teach workshops, write books and create videos about photography. I'm also much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

See more of my work at

Apple Aperture
Scott Davenport
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