Importing edited Raw files into Aperture or Lightroom

I have been working on a comparison of Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture for Macworld , and I ran into an issue with both programs when I tried to import Raw image files that had been previously edited with Adobe Bridge CS2 and Camera Raw. I wanted to import them with my edits intact—mostly crop and exposure adjustments—but initially both Lightroom and Aperture only imported the original Raw file, without any of the work I had done.

This is because the edits—and this includes adding or editing such metadata as keywords, captions and other tags—are not made to the Raw file directly, but are stored, either in Camera Raw’s internal database, or in a companion file called a “sidecar.” This file resides in the same folder as your image, with the same name and a .XMP extension instead of the Raw format extension (.CR2, in my case). After a bit of tweaking, however, I found solutions for both Lightroom and Aperture that might save you some time if you’re in the same boat.

Making Lightroom happy

Lightroom will automatically import older Raw files processed with Bridge and Camera Raw, if you had Camera Raw’s preferences set to save any edits you make in sidecar files. If Camera Raw was set to save edits in its internal database, Lightroom will only import the original Raw files.

You can create the sidecar files, however; the first thing you need to do is change Camera Raw’s preferences to “Save image settings in sidecar .xmp files” (see screen shot, below).

camera raw prefs

Then, use Bridge’s Batch Rename feature (Tools - > Batch Rename) on any files you want to import into Lightroom (see below). You don't even need to actually change the name of the files. You can tell Bridge to rename the file to the same name it previously had, but this process will force Camera Raw to write a sidecar file for every image renamed. The side benefit is that it will also contain any edits you performed on the original Raw file.

Bridge rename

Importing into Aperture

The current version of Aperture will just import the original Raw files; it simply ignores the sidecar file. Apple uses its own Raw conversion algorithms in Mac OS X (which is why iPhoto and Preview can display many Raw image formats), so many edits you might make wouldn't translate properly from Adobe's Camera Raw. But there are definite reasons why you would want to store your original Raw file and any subsequent edited versions in Aperture, especially if you want to keep your best work in your photo library. The best workaround I found was to save the edited version from Camera Raw as a TIFF or Photoshop file (saving as a DNG file won’t work), into the same folder as your Raw file. Then, import both the original and edited versions into Aperture (see below).

Save as PSD

You can then select all of your imported images in Aperture and use the AutoStack feature to keep the two versions together, which is possible because both the Raw and the Photoshop/TIFF versions will have the same capture time. You can also use the Lift & Stamp tool to copy any keywords or other metadata to your original Raw files, since that data is saved with the exported files. It’s not the best solution, but it at least preserves both versions of your images in your library, and lets you get back to the original Raw image if you want to make a different set of edits.

It’s worth noting that both Aperture and Lightroom import most Raw files without any issues at all; you really only need these solutions for those photos you edited with Camera Raw and want to keep a version of your edited file. Both applications will preserve the original file intact and untouched.

[Updated April 6, 1:20 p.m., to clarify Raw conversion differences between Apple and Adobe, and to note that editing also refers to metadata.]

Subscribe to the Help Desk Newsletter

Comments