How to get your pictures out of Aperture

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The Export function in Aperture 3 is a versatile tool for moving copies of your pictures out of the application. It’s also one of the more misunderstood functions of Apple’s flagship professional photo-management application. If you’ve felt a certain lack of control in this area, I’ll get you on track right now.

How Aperture manages your files

When a photograph goes into Aperture, it essentially becomes a master file. Think of it as your original negative or transparency from the days of analog photography. When it’s time to share that photo, Aperture produces a digital copy of it according to your specifications.

This digital copy may include metadata and image edits; it’s your choice. And Aperture can produce this copy in a variety of sizes and formats.

Aperture lets you export original or edited versions of your images without touching the original master photo.

Version vs. original

Aperture provides two basic image options for export: Version or Original. To see these choices, select either one from the File > Export menu, and it will appear in a pop-up menu. When you choose Version, you have the opportunity to select the format, dimensions, and pixel density for the picture.

The Original option makes a copy of the master, unedited, and places the copy where you direct it to do so. The Original is basically identical to the image you imported into Aperture, with the exception that you can add your IPTC metadata to the file (such as the author name, copyright, and contact information).

If you want Aperture to honor your image edits, such as crop, exposure adjustment, and color correction, then choose Version as your export option. Aperture will read the master file, apply the changes you’ve made, and produce a copy according to your specifications.

Take a look at the two zebra images below. I exported the first one out of Aperture by selecting the Original option. Its dimensions are 5184 by 3456 pixels, the same as what I originally uploaded into the application. Even though I worked on this shot in Aperture, no cropping, color, or exposure adjustments are visible in this output.

Original zebra shot exported under the Original setting.

I exported the second zebra image using the Version option. This one shows my cropping and image adjustments. The dimensions for this photo are 2141 by 1623 pixels. Why is it smaller? Aperture is honoring the crop that I made.

Edited zebra shot exported as a Version, which preserves the edits.

Options for Version export

When you select Version for your export, various sizes and formats become available in the Export Preset pop-up menu. You’ll see JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and PSD options in assorted dimensions. Beyond those initial offerings, however, you can create your own presets by choosing Edit at the bottom of the pop-up menu. This dialog box allows you to configure your own specifications that the program will add to the pop-up menu.

Create a new preset from the Export pop-up menu.

Start by clicking the plus-sign (+) icon in the lower-left corner. Aperture will create a new preset and highlight it for you. Type in a descriptive name. Now, work your way down the right-side set of options.

Image Format: Choose from JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and Photoshop (PSD).

Include Metadata: Checking the box adds the IPTC metadata you’ve created, plus the expanded EXIF data from the camera.

Image Quality: For JPEGs only, you can control the amount of compression for the file. A high number represents less compression and better quality. A low number represents more compression and lower quality.

Name Format: You can rename your files during export, choosing from a variety of formats.

Fill in the parameters and click OK.

Size To: Choices include Fit Within Pixels, Inches, and Centimeters. You'll also see Original Size and Percent of Original.

DPI: This item refers to dots per inch. It's most important when you're printing the image and you want a resolution of 240 dpi or 300 dpi for photo-quality output.

Gamma Adjust: This slider allows you to increase the midtone brightness. The farther you move the adjustment to the right, the brighter the output will be.

Color Profile: Generally you should choose sRGB for Web output, or a specific ICC profile for printing.

Black Point Compensation: This setting helps maintain the integrity of dark tones during conversion.

With the new preset, click the Export Versions button.

Show Watermark: Use this option to add a watermark to your exported file.

Once you’ve made your choices, click OK, and Aperture will create your new preset and return you to the previous Export dialog box.

At this point, you have a few more options, most of them self-explanatory.

Subfolder Format: You can create a subfolder for your exported images, choosing from several options.

Custom Subfolder Name: If you elect to name the subfolder yourself, here is where you type the text.

Custom Name: If you decide on a custom name for your exported file, you can enter the text here.

Show alert when finished: Check this box, and Aperture will notify you when it’s done exporting the file.

Then, click the Export Versions button.

Aperture will create a copy of your picture to the specifications that you’ve indicated, and will place it where you’ve selected. The handy thing about presets is that the next time you want to export an image to those specifications, you simply choose the preset. I have a half dozen that I use on a regular basis.

Aperture’s export function alleviates the worry of “messing up” your original images. Those masters always remain safe and sound within the Aperture library, yet you have almost unlimited versatility for creating high-quality versions of any master.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Retina display support
    • Overall performance improvement on compatible Macs
    • Faster importing, especially for Raw shooters
    • No cost to upgrade
    • AVCHD video support
    • Cleaner user interface
    • Improved editing tools
    • Unified library structure for iPhoto/Aperture


    • Requires Mac OS X 10.7.4
    • Some may miss advanced Highlights/Shadows sliders
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