How to Switch from Aperture to Lightroom 6

If you’re not happy with Apple’s current Photos app, join the club. But if you’re starting to hyperventilate, because you know you can’t use Apple’s Aperture for very much longer… join my club. It’s time to take the journey to Lightroom.

If you’re not happy with Apple’s current Photos app, join the club. But if you’re starting to hyperventilate, because you know you can’t use Apple’s Aperture for very much longer… join my club. It’s time to take the journey to Lightroom.

I’ve been dreading this day. I knew it was coming, and I avoided it as long as possible. But if you’ve been procrastinating, like me… then you’re going to be in trouble. And you even run the risk of erasing your past…

We’re talking about my delayed response to Apple’s abandonment of both iPhoto and Aperture. I’ve been using Aperture as my photo editing/management software since 2012. But now, it’s finally just a matter of time until Aperture won’t work on future OS upgrades.

So it’s kind of critical that I escape from my beached behemoth, which contains tens of thousands of photos, documenting my family’s history.

I believe it’s an imminent crisis I will wake up to one day soon, and my personal deadline was last week to take action. Here’s what happened…

No Thank You, Photos
I decided that Apple’s relatively new Photos app for OS X wasn’t my solution…
(Easy as that could be)
…Because its functionality is a downgrade from Aperture.

I’m sure Photos is fine for many folks, who just want to organize and share their pics with some minor image adjustments. And the price is right as Apple just bakes it into the OS. But I’ve been trying to teach myself the art of creating the better picture.
(Granted… a work in progress)

To find the right software to help me in my ongoing quest, I had to look elsewhere…

Hello, Lightroom
As I considered the competition, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 quickly rose to the top.

I was partial to buying the standalone Lightroom 6 license for $149.
($142.99 for the DVD or $142.00 for the download at B&H Photo)

But you can also get Lightroom as part of the Creative Cloud package, which is bundled with other Adobe products like Photoshop. That choice is going to cost you $9.99/month. You get a whole lot more with the CC package, but you have to keep paying for it. So you’ve got to decide what’s right for you…

I actually bought the Lightroom standalone DVD a couple months back…
(Trying to stay ahead of my personal upgrade schedule)

But I was just too nervous to open the box. Not because I didn’t want to learn a new photo-management interface, but because I didn’t really know how to rescue all of my photos out of Aperture and safely get them into Lightroom.

And my online research on the migration process suggested it was not a pretty picture.

Importer Vs. Exporter
Sure, there’s a ‘simple’ Aperture Importer located in Lightroom’s Plug-in Extras.

Or alternately, you could buy the Aperture Exporter app for $19.99.

But the devil is in the details.
(We’ll come back to this…)

Install Lightroom Correctly
First things first… You need to get Lightroom 6 properly installed and optimized.

After completing your install, don’t forget to run Updates, which is located in the Help drop down.

As Lightroom is considered more of a ‘professional app,’ there are a number of settings in Preferences and Catalogue Settings you can tweak to make Lightroom work best for you. So spend some time there first, before you begin to import your first photos.

I am just an aspiring Jedi in this new galaxy. So here are two more videos to help you get started and properly organized using Lightroom.

And a few more helpful hints about how Lightroom is set up compared to Aperture:

  • Aperture Adjustments = Lightroom Develop
  • Aperture Projects = Lightroom Folders
  • Aperture Albums = Lightroom Collections
  • Aperture Folders = Light Collection Sets

Also, if you want to move photos around from one folder to another in Lightroom, drag from the center of the photo!
(I first tried dragging from the pic’s corner, and Lightroom entirely ignored me.)

The Golden Rule
One huge change from Aperture to Lightroom is Lightroom doesn’t hoard and hide your photo folders within the program itself.

Aperture did this by ‘managing’ your image files.
(Admittedly, Aperture also offered the option just to look at your ‘referenced’ image files located elsewhere, but unfortunately I never set up Aperture that way.)

As a result, my photos are all locked up in Aperture.
(We’ll come back to this.)

Lightroom respectfully references your separate photo folder structure. And then it organizes and adjusts the images only its own database. Your original photos remain in their easy-to-find folders… untouched.

That said, the one Lightroom golden rule I’ve run across numerous times is to move your photos and photo folders around only in Lightroom.
(After first creating or connecting your photo folder structure to Lightroom)

Apparently, since standard photo folders on your hard drive are so easy to see, amateur Lightroom users sometimes move their photo folders around outside of the Lightroom program. When that happens, Lightroom can’t find the photos anymore.
(Makes sense, right?)

The fix is to reconnect Lightroom to your ‘missing’ photos.
(That’s not necessarily a problem… as long as you don’t forget where your photos are.)

Where are the Keys to Your Photo Kingdom?
Riddle me this:
So how are you supposed to export the archive of all of your adjusted images from Aperture to Lightroom?

The short answer is I’m not quite sure…

Both the Aperture Importer plug in and the third-party Aperture Exporter app can’t get your photo library into Lightroom with all the tweaks, improvements and changes you’ve made to your photos. Apparently Lightroom can’t read that kind of Aperture metadata.

You can only transfer the original photos, folder structure and other metadata.


You can’t migrate your photos with all of your applied changes?!

Other than maintaining the actual photos and providing organization, isn’t holding onto your adjustments a critical need?!!
(I’ve probably spent the equivalent of months tweaking my photos over the past ten years.)

Again… I’m not absolutely certain, but all of my research points to this distressing reality.
(If anyone out there knows another answer, please add your two cents!)

Plan B
Let me know when you’re done hyperventilating.

Okay… so…
(Too soon?)

All right. Let’s continue…

So what the frak are we supposed to do now?!

We’ll, here’s a homegrown plan I’m considering…

Instead of trying to accomplish a complete Aperture library transfer of my original photos without all the tweaks I’ve made, I will instead manually export groups of adjusted photo ‘versions’ (not original photos) from individual Aperture projects. These photo versions will go into new photo folders I’ll create for Lightroom to access.

  • But I’ll only transfer over the best photos (the ones I’ve rated ‘5 stars’) and leave the rest behind.
    (I know that may seem harsh, but my plan has always been just to use my 5-star photos for photo book creation and long-term archiving.)
  • That means I’ll also be leaving my original photo files behind in Aperture, but I created all of those tweaked ‘versions’ for a reason, right?
    (Do I really think I’m going to go back the originals to tinker with a shot from 2009?)

Plan C?
But there are two problems with Plan B:

  1. It’s probably going to take me weeks (months?) to complete.
    The silver lining is this workaround will force me to do the spring-cleaning on my photo library I’ve been meaning to do for years. At the end of the process, I’ll have a leaner and meaner group of photos to take forward that really matter.
    (What would I do with tens of thousands of photos anyway?)
  2. (Prepare yourself…)
    All of these adjusted photo versions I’ll be moving forward won’t retain their original creation date. They’ll only display the day and date they’re exported out of Aperture into their new file folder.

Is that a big deal?
I think it is..!

Sure, all of these rescued photos can live in properly dated folders that Lightroom will manage. But what if I have to rescue these pictures again in the future? The fact that they will no longer have a date of origin could really be a huge gap.

So the good news is I’ve officially stopped adding photos to my Aperture library as of the New Year. Lightroom 6 has been successfully installed in the Lester home and has taken over all of my new pics moving forward.

The bad news is I’ve still got to migrate half a lifetime’s worth of photos into Lightroom.
(I think I’m starting to hyperventilate again…)

Any suggestions beyond what I’m contemplating?

Next week, I’ll report on my progress in crystallizing a transfer plan.

Don’t forget:
Baby steps…