Aperture Exporter – A Utility to Move Your Library to Lightroom

Aperture Exporter is a clever app designed to help you move your Aperture library in to Lightroom. And it works remarkably well. Here’s more about it.

Now that Apple is no longer developing Aperture, some users are looking to Adobe Lightroom for managing their photo library. If ever there was a case of trying to turn apples in to oranges, this is it.

The tedium of manually relocating images and metadata has caused many former Aperture users to daydream about a tool to automate this process. Software developer Adrian Grah is aiming to answer those wishes with his utility, Aperture Exporter.

“Like most of my other Aperture utilities, AE was written to scratch my own itch,” Adrian writes.

“When news broke that both Aperture and iPhoto development would cease, I was at the family cottage. It was over that weekend I decided to give Lightroom a harder look. I had been using Lightroom since the version 5 beta for some things, but Aperture remained, and still is, my favorite organizational tool.”

“To give Lightroom a fair chance, I needed to see what my workflow would be like if I went all-in on Lightroom. That is, I needed to move a full Aperture library over to Lightroom with the highest fidelity possible in terms of organizational structure, images, metadata, and adjustments. I started working on Aperture Exporter then.”

Adrian just released the third beta, which you can download from his site. After some preliminary testing, I think it’s the most helpful tool I’ve seen for moving content from one application to the other.

How It Works

The process is straightforward. Open the Aperture library you want to export and leave Aperture open. Launch Aperture Exporter, then make a few basic decisions about what you want the utility to do. I had the best success with these settings.

Export Setup

Your original files, whether they are RAW or Jpeg will be exported and organized within a folder along with the metadata (ready to be imported into Lightroom). You also have the option of moving “baked versions” of images that you’ve edited. I’ve selected Jpeg for that format, but you can choose Tiffs instead.

The baked files are easily identified via the “WithAdjustments” that are added to the file name. Star ratings and IPTC metadata also made the journey intact. Here are two screenshots to give you a feel for the transition. The top image is the Aperture library, and the bottom is that same content displayed in a Lightroom library.

Original Aperture Library Lightroom Import

A Few Tips

Before you export the content out of Aperture, decide where you want the assets to live. For example, if they will reside in the Pictures folder on your Mac, then set that up correctly from the get-go. If an external hard drive is your choice, then think that through. By doing so, when you import the content into Lightroom, simply choose “Add” to point the app to your pictures and metadata that are already in the right spot.

Take a look at the FAQ before your first export. There’s good information in there that will save you “trial and error” time.

Aperture Exporter will estimate the time it takes to perform each task. Keep in mind that the numbers you see aren’t for the entire job, but for the task at hand. Big libraries will take a long time to export, so you might want to have another activity planned… like sleep.

If you use Albums in Aperture to help your organize your shoots, then I would create Collections in Lightroom as your bring the content in. This will help you feel comfortable in your new home as quickly as possible.

And finally, test with smaller libraries. Aperture Exporter has a few options to play with. Run tests with a small library to fine tune the settings to your liking. Once the imports look the way you want, you can tackle the bigger jobs.

Final Thoughts

You can help Adrian by providing feedback. “The hardest part is getting the feature set for Aperture Exporter right, which is why AE is currently an open beta,” he writes. He’s done an amazing job so far, and I think this can be a terrific app that will help many photographers.

And when you do contact him, be sure to say “thanks” too.

Derrick Story is an Associate Editor for c’t Digital Photography Magazine.

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  1. Pamela Jones

    After spending hours, days, weeks trying unsuccessfully to prepare for migration to Lightroom I came across this tool. I bought it but secretly thought it would not do everything I required. WRONG. It is a brilliant tool – so well worked out and well worth the money. I know have all my adjusted images in Lightroom – OK there is a bit of tidying up to be done afterwards but really not a lot. Adrian has done a fab job and the post sales support is exemplary.

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