This question came in last week from Nicholas Kitto in Hong Kong:

“One thing that has tended to hold me back from trying Lightroom is the thought of transferring my numerous projects over to Lightroom. However, I see that you are undertaking this task. Thus, when you have the time, I (and many others no doubt) would be very interested in the approach you use.”

Thanks for the question Nicholas. I have received the same question from others as you suspected and it seems like the easiest way to address it is in a blog post.

As I stated in my post “Why I’ve Started Using Lightroom Too” I am not abandoning Aperture. I am simply ADDING Lightroom to my workflow. Accordingly, I want to keep my Aperture Projects intact.

Before I get into this too far there are a couple of things you should know. First I have several photo libraries totaling nearly 16TB so my solutions may be a bit extreme. Secondly, I am a freak about backups and redundancy so I am taking steps some might consider unnecessary. Third, I use Aperture in a managed file not a referenced file structure. So all my photos stored in Aperture are stored in Aperture Library files. I have multiple Aperture Library files since I have so many photos. Large Aperture databases don’t operate as efficiently as small ones so I have several smaller libraries.

My workflow may differ from yours in the following way. I am using Lightroom exclusively for my NEW projects. (Unless I want to print a book and in that case I will export my LR Catalog to an Aperture Project for the purpose of making the book.)

Since my new photo shoots won’t make it into Aperture I don’t have to worry about converting them. As for my legacy files, here’s what I am doing.

I have set up a Promise VTrak E-Class 16x SATA RAID Subsystem with 16TB of storage. (You can substitute any drive of sufficient size for your photos here.) I am using this as my main photo library. I am exporting each Aperture Project from Aperture to the Promise. I am also, as a matter of convenience and redundancy, exporting each Project’s Master Files AND each project’s Versions to the Promise. For example, if I have a project entitled “Raptors,” I’ll have THREE folders on the Promise. One for the exported Aperture Project, one for the exported Aperture Masters and one for the exported Aperture Versions. I will then fire up Lightroom and create a Lightroom Catalog in the same place and import the Aperture Versions into Lightroom. Since most of these are legacy jobs, and I won’t be editing or working on them in the future other than to grab photos from them when a client places an order, I have decided NOT to import ALL the Master images into Lightroom. I am only importing the “keepers” and salable stuff or the stuff that I somehow adjusted in Aperture. If I should ever need to get at the old original files, I can simply open up the Masters.

So now – for each Aperture Project there are FOUR folders. The aforementioned three, plus the new Lightroom Catalog Folder.

I am repeating this process for every Aperture Project. It is tedious and time consuming but it is also the safest, most thorough way I can think of to do it. It also provides me with the option of always using these files in either Aperture or Lightroom.

As I create the new set of four folders on the Promise, I also immediately create a backup on a 4TB Drobo. Since all of my Drobos are full, I am experimenting with other storage solutions and may decide to bite the bullet and simply purchase another Promise system. Presently, at $15k each, that’s not my favorite or first choice, but it may be the way I end up going if I run out of drive space.

I am sure someone smarter than me can come up with a better plan, but I am sort of committed to this one because it offers me the most flexibility and security. I can access my photos from either Aperture or Lightroom and they are all backed up.

The one legitimate question this might raise for some people is this: Why create a separate Lightroom Catalog for each exported Aperture Project? That’s simple. Lightroom, like Aperture, tends to bog down when its Catalogs are very large. Database pointers get screwed up and the integrity of the Catalog becomes jeopardized. Keeping all the Projects in separate Catalogs guarantees the best Lightroom performance and data security all at once. The negative of course is that you can’t just call up one big catalog and see all your photos at once. Unfortunately, with a photo collection as large as mine, that will never seem practical, so my method works for me. I have good discipline about naming jobs/projects in a way that they are easy to find and with them all living in one place – i.e., on the Promise VTrak, they are indeed easier to find than you might think.

I hope this clears up your question Nicholas. For those of you who are working on the same problem, feel free to e-mail me your suggested solutions to [email protected]

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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  1. […] Never one to shy away from controversy, Scott Bourne’s latest move continues to be fully in character. Scott has been the “poster child” for Apple’s Aperture software, and even went so far to lead the Aperture Nature Photography Workshops. But all that seemingly came to a screeching halt when a few weeks ago Scott blogged about embracing Lightroom “too”. And even blogged about how to transfer Aperture projects into Lightroom. […]

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