13 November 2007

How I work with Stacks and Ratings

Aperture offers two distinct ways of identifying the selects of your photo shoots. Stacking and star ratings are two different ways of approaching the challenge and you might want to use them as a combined tool

What does stacking do? Stacking combines different images into one stack of images, where only the top one is used. Imagine a stack of slide put on top of each other on a lightbox. You can either combine the images by autostacking them as described here, or by selecting them manually. For most situations, I do the initial stacking via auto stacking and add some other images manually to that stack. I might even combine two different stacks into one.

The images are now sitting in one stack, but how do I make my selection? On the bottom of your Aperture screen, select the Stack Mode (1) or simply click alt T

Open your stacks by clicking alt ' or select the function via Menu Stacks. Your images are presented similar to this screenshot of a world famous model :-) The left image presents the current pick and the right image a picture of the stack to compare it to.

Don't work via the menu to select your picks. It takes far too long. If you want to select the right image as the new pick, use the keyboard shortcut Apple \ and immediately the image will move to the left and a new image from the stack replaces the old comparison image. If the new image is not better than the current pick, click the right arrow button to move to the next image in the stack. The description takes far longer than the process itself.

Reducing the initial amount of images to stacks reduces a lot of clutter in your project. After you selected your picks and closed all stacks, you will only see the picks of each stack.

Another way of coming to a similar result, is by working in the normal Multi View and give your images star ratings from 1 to 5 and Rejects. How do you give your images a star rating? Simply click a number on your keyboard and the according star rating will be applied to the image. If you click 9, the image will be marked as Reject and hidden from the default view.

This is another effective way of moving through your images to view the best results. I tend to use only ratings between 3 and 5 and Rejects (for technically faulty images). When I filter my project by star ratings and only want to see the best images, I use the keyboard shortcut ctrl 5 to view all images with a 5 star rating only.

Alternatively make your selection in the filter dropdown menu.

You can combine both methods by first working with stacks and then applying star ratings. This can be useful for a portrait session, where you select the best image of each pose first and then select the best pose for your client via star rating.

12 November 2007

Strobist Ring Flash

If you are serious about learning more about flash photography, then Strobist is the Blog to read. This week, you will learn about ring flash photography.
Ring flashes are popular with fashion photographers as they provide a good quality light. Ring flashes are expensive. Strobists will provide a diy manual for a speedlight based ring flash.
Check it out. It is a great resource.

11 November 2007

Feed Settings

I noticed that my feed settings were setup incorrectly. When you subscribed to the feed, you were only able to see the heading of my posts. You should now see the intro of the post.

Let me know if you have problems reading the feed in your feedreader.

Have a great weekend!

09 November 2007

How to work with Auto-Stacking and Stacks in Aperture

I covered working with auto-stacking only briefly in Part 4 of the series of Optimizing your Aperture Import Workflow. Auto-stacking is one of these small tools, which are sometimes overlooked, but very useful.

How does it work? Aperture assumes that images, which were shot in short succession, are very similar and can be stacked together. As a result, you have one favorite, which is on top of the stack you work with. Similar shots of the series are hidden below the favorite. You can open stacks and rearrange them very quickly. Stacking and auto-stacking helps you stayed organized and make clear and fast decision on which picture is great and which is not.

When you read Aperture's manual you might have the impression that you only can use auto-stacking when you import images. This is not the case and I will show you later, how it works.

As an example, you want to import images from your holiday. There are some shots from a picknick at the beach, which you want to import. You worked creative that day and tried different settings on your camera and did several snapshots of your friends and family.

On the bottom of your screen, you find this slider. When the slider is on 0:00 as in the screenshot, auto-stacking is disabled. When you move to the right, you activate auto-stacking and Aperture immediately stacks images together. Let's say, you moved the slider to 0:15, then Aperture combines all images taken within 15 seconds increments together into one stack. You can move the slider to the left and to the right until you see that most of your images are stacked together the way you want it. Sometimes the stacks are combined perfectly, most times you need to do some small manual adjustments.

You can do these adjustments either now or later after the import. Why wait, if you can make your life easier right away. To combine two stacks or more with each other or add another single image to an existing stack, mark all images you want to have in one stack. Click either Apple K or go to Stacks - Stack.

If you want to move one or more images out of a stack, click Shift alt K or select Stacks - Extract Item. If you would choose Unstack, all images in the stack would be moved out of the stack.

I assume you did your keyword magic and created a personalized Metadata Preset. Click import and your images will be imported into your Project Folder.

When you view your images, you have the choice to view all images in the stack or the favourite image only. To view all images, click alt ' to open all stacks or go to Stacks - Open All Stacks. Alternatively, you close all stack s by clicking alt ; or by selecting Stacks - Close All Stacks.

When the stacks are closed, you find a small number displayed in the left top corner of the preview image. This number (8 in the screenshot) indicates the amount of images in the stack.

If you forgot to use auto-stacking when you imported the images, but would love to organize them quickly into stacks, you can do that. Go to the Project Folder, and select the images, you want to stack. Click alt Apple A or select Stacks - Auto-Stack. A small HUD with the slider will pop up and you can adjust it to your needs.

Tip: Change the layout of your screen to Maximise Browser (alt Apple B or Window - Layouts - Maximise Browser) as you want to concentrate on how the stacks are packed. To return to the normal layout, click alt Apple S or select Window - Layouts - Basic.

After the weekend, I will return on some more details on working with stacks.

08 November 2007

Optimizing your Aperture Import Workflow - Part 5


Reading through my entries, I realized that you might want to see some more screenshots to illustrate my points and make things easier to understand. I will go through the posts over the weekend and upload some screenshots.

Remember that using the presented steps will help you becoming more effective with your import into Aperture for the long run, especially when you have to work with a lot of keywords. The initial setup can be time consuming, especially organizing the keywords.

I went through my keywords yesterday and started reorganizing them by exporting them into a text editor. This seems to work faster than working in Aperture directly. When you have a keyword more than once in your keyword list, make sure to select the correct keyword for the filter in the Smart Folder. Aperture appears to be stubborn, when it comes to that.

Some users prefer using Stacks in Aperture to organize and sort their images, others use the star rating system to stay organized. You need to see what works best for your circumstances and photo shoots. It is a theme, I will cover stacking and organizing images in Aperture soon.

07 November 2007

Optimizing your Aperture Import Workflow - Part 4

This is the 4th part of a series of articles to improve your import workflow with Apple Aperture. After we achieved organizing libraries and created a library structure and successfully creating our personalized Metadata View, it’s time to have a closer look into keywords and adding one more detail to working with Metadata.
Aperture offers you a lot of flexibility in managing your own keywords. Aperture comes with some predefined keywords and keyword groups. It would be great if the predefined lists would be bigger, especially when you are working with stock libraries.

So, it takes a bit more of work from our side to get the results we need from Aperture. Aperture uses frequently HUDs (heads-up displays). These are semi-transparent pop up windows, which let you perform different tasks. As we are dealing today with keywords, let’s open the keyword HUD by using the keyboard shortcut Shift h. A more or less long list appears on your screen with keywords. You could just go ahead and add your own keywords. That can become messy. There is a better way.

Next to some keywords, you will notice a small triangle (1 in screenshot). Clicking on it, reveals subcategory keywords to the main keyword. These are keyword groups (2). You can also create subcategories of the subcategories, similar to the folder structures, we created on the second day of this series. Click (3) to create a new group or subcategory and (4) to add a new keyword.

My first piece of advice for today is to keep your keywords organized. Create main categories and add related keywords to it. Also, create subcategories! It will make your life so much easier for the future!
Secondly, start each new keyword with a capital letter and thirdly check your spelling. You can correct spelling mistakes later, but keep things as organized and correct as possible right from the beginning.

You can check, if you prefer working in a text editor with your keywords, by exporting the keyword list (by clicking Export (5) on the bottom of the HUD) and opening it with your preferred text editor. For importing the newly edited list, you simply use the Import button (6).
When you work with a text editor, you create subcategories by using a tab as in this example:
Create some useful keywords for your workflow, import them into your keyword tool and close the keyword HUD.

There is another way of working with keywords and assigning keyboard shortcuts, but that is more useful, when working with already imported images. I will cover this in a blog entry at a later stage.

Click Ctrl D to open the Metadata View side-panel. Select your personalized Metadata View, you created yesterday. Now we get to the exciting part of the import preparations.

I do a lot of children and family photography and created an according keyword list. To make the whole thing work you need to select an image. Go to the Keywords field in your Metadata View (if you don’t have it, you need to add it as described yesterday.) You might see some keywords in there. Cut and paste them into a text editor. Enter the keywords for a Metadata Preset, you will use often. I enter: Family, Portrait, Outdoors, Child, Boy. In the field City, I enter Cape Town and for Country, South Africa. I also enter a copyright notice under Copyright Notice. (you can type the © sign by using alt g). Now I click on the star drop-down menu on the right hand side top and select: Save as Preset. Select a appropriate name and create as many presets as you want. After you finished, copy the original keywords back from the text editor to restore the image information.

Now it is time to revisit your Smart Folders. Edit your smart folder by clicking on the loupe sign with the arrow (1 in the screenshot). If you haven’t done so, add Keywords as one selection category. (By using the drop down menu next to the + sign on the top right hand side of the HUD. (2) Click on IPTC. A new IPTC category is added. Just go to that drop down menu and choose Keywords. You can also use a second set of Keywords (3) for keywords you want to exclude.) You will see a list of keywords, which you simply select by clicking the box next to it. Use contain all of the following next to Keywords.(4)

If you have some images on your camera, you can go and import them now by connecting the camera or the card reader to your Mac. If you want to give it a test run, select some images for the import from your local hard drive, You can delete them afterwards.

Aperture opens the preview window with the image thumbnails. Let’s do some magic! Select some images, where you want to attach the same metadata from one of your presets. Go to the right hand side panel and go to Add Metadata From: "Your Metadata View Preset" and select Replace.

Repeat these steps until you did that for all your images with the corresponding presets. If you set up your smart albums correctly, they will be populated with the images you selected.

Optionally, you can choose to work with auto-stacking. To use this tool go to the bottom of the screen and move the slide from the left to the right until you see that your images are mostly grouped correctly. Moving the slider to the right increases the tolerance of the filter. If a few images are stacked together incorrectly, don’t worry about it now. Just extract them after the import from the stack and put them into the right stack manually.

Tomorrow, I will round up this series by covering some details and help you fine tuning the system. If you have any questions or you find that I was unclear in my explanation, please leave a comment and I will follow up.

Official Google Reader Blog: Attack of the 20%'ers

My first post today is a link to new feature for Google Reader. If you are a blogger or blog reader these might be interesting to you.

Official Google Reader Blog: Attack of the 20%'ers

Steve Lacey and Dolapo Falola announced news features for Google Reader today: You can share directly from Google Reader settings your reading list with your blog. It is an elegant way of keeping your blogroll on your blog updated. What I also like, is the fact that you can select specific tags, which you use for your blogroll.
I integrated my Photography Blogroll on the bottom right hand side of this page. Very useful!!

Dolapo Falola talks about updates for the mobile Google Reader for your cellphone, especially but not only for the iPhone.

I would assume that the iPhone is a favourite gadget with Google engineers.

06 November 2007

Improve your Workflow with Aperture Part 3

Part 3 - Create your own Metadata Views

This is the 3rd part of a series of articles to improve your import workflow with Apple Aperture. After we achieved organizing libraries and created a library structure, we need to optimize our metadata tools. Getting the use of metadata right, will not only improve your import workflow, but will also assist you in the future with finding specific images in Aperture.

Metadata, allows you to attach information to your images, like time and date of capture, copyright, keywords etc. Some information is automatically attached to your image by your camera (exposure time, time and date of exposure etc.). You can other data manually. Adding keywords to thousands of images manually would be a harsh punishment and contradict what I believe in. Luckily, you can add the same metadata to more than one image at a time with Aperture and you can also automate the process to a certain extent. Creating your own metadata view is the first step.

Automation works great when you have to add the same kind of metadata to your images again and again. If you want to assign a copyright notice to all your images, you can work with metadata presets in Aperture. Once more, you have to work hard in preparing the presets, but the rewards are so sweet that you will actually enjoy the process.

Think about what kind of images, you work with on a regular basis: Are you mostly shooting weddings, portraits, cars, landscape or children? Whichever field you work in, adjusting your metadata to your needs will reward you with an import workflow which makes you so much more efficient and allows you to do the things you rather would be doing, like installing Leopard on your Mac. :)

In case you want to learn more about metadata, Wikipedia offers some interesting articles:


These articles will supply with far more information that you need to work with Aperture.

It’s time to get to work. Open Aperture, go into any of your projects or albums and select a random image. Ctrl D will open the Metadata side-panel.

On top you see a drop-down menu called Metadata View. Select All IPTC. Your side-panel extends to a very long list of empty fields. If you choose EXIF - Expanded, you see a list with camera related data.

Go through the metadata views and look for a view your really like. Keep in mind that changing the view does not change the data assigned to the images. A view just filters what you see. Make a note of your favorite view. You will need it in the next step.

Let’s create our own view. Next to the Metadata View drop-down menu, you find a star with another drop-down menu. Click on it and select Manage Views. Yes, there is an option for New View, but that would build a view from scratch. We want to save on our workload... After opening Manage Views, you see a list of all existing Metadata Views. Select your favorite. I selected IPTC - Basic. Then click on the + sign on the bottom of the screen. A copy of your selected view is created. Give it an easy to remember name. I called mine Import Standard. Click OK. Now select your freshly created metadata view in the Metadata View drop-down menu. To add an extra field to your view, go to the bottom of the side-panel and select IPTC. A new list from the bottom up appears. Make sure to unselect Hide Empty Tags on top of that list.

Adding a new field to your custom view is as easy as ticking the box next the field name. In my case, I decided to select City and Country Name.

Your Metadata View is automatically saved. You don’t need to do anything else. Congratulations, you just created your first personalized Metadata View.

Tomorrow, we will create our own presets after creating some personalized keyword settings.
That's, where things become interesting and we will be ready to import our first project.

Yesterday, I got a bit carried away and announced writing about keyword settings for today’s entry. Please forgive me for that.

05 November 2007

Improve your Workflow with Aperture Part 2

Part 2 Get the most out of your folder structure

Right out of the box, Aperture helps you to upload your images from your camera into the application fast . With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can make this one of the most effective ways to organize your images for the long run and have the images organized right from the beginning.

I love automating things and let the computer work for me and not vice versa. It takes some time to create the setup, but once you accomplished this, you will save time every time, you upload your images.

This is the second article in this small series on improving your import work-flow in Aperture.
Yesterday, I presented the concept of working with different libraries in Aperture. Now let’s start up Aperture and have a look inside. Aperture organizes images in Projects, Albums, Yellow Folders and Blue Folders.

There are some key-points to keep in mind, when organizing your folder structure:
  1. The color of folders is automatically assigned.
    1. Blue folders contain Projects.
    1. Yellow Folders are contained in a Project.
  2. Folders can’t hold images alone. Images reside in Projects or Albums.
This might all sound confusing, so let’s have a look at an example. In our scenario, we are working on a Folder Structure for a Wedding Photographer.
I like starting my folder structure the same away across different libraries. It keeps things tidy and organized.

My folder structure would look like this and you might prefer working in a different structure. You need to find, what works for you. Check this example Folder Structure. If you have a lot of customers per month you can insert a folder for each month after Customers.

The 2007 Folder is the main Folder, Customers, the first level folder, which contains the folders for my clients. Within the Andrews Folder, you see the project called Andrews Wedding for this event. This is where I direct Aperture to import my images.

Under the Project Andrews Wedding, I inserted a folder called Bride’s House. Within this folder, you find Albums called Details, Family, etc. After the import I cold move the corresponding images into these folders.

With another step of preparation, during import, I can automate this by using Smart Albums. Smart Albums allow you to include images automatically, which posses certain characteristics, like ratings, date and metadata like keywords. By assigning the right keywords when you import, you will have your albums populated automatically. In this case, I chose Bride’s House and Family. Magic! All images with these two keywords show up in the Smart Album Family within the folder Bride's House.

To add a Smart Album, mark the folder, where you want to add the Smart Album and either select via the File Menu, New Smart Folder or use the keyboard shortcut: Shift Command L
Just make sure to tick Match all of the following: in the Smart Albums settings.

Check this screenshot, where I activated a smart folder for the events at the Bride’s House for Family.The category Keywords is not part of the standard conditions for Smart Folders.
You can activate it by clicking on the + on the right hand side and selecting IPTC. In the available dropdown menu, you can choose the required IPTC field you are looking for.

I also included in each yellow folder another smart folder called Best of This helps me, when I want to work with my preselection of my images in each category.

Play around with the different options and maybe import some images into a test folder and see what works for you. Having a structure like this in place, before I even go out to take the pictures, helps me to cover all the aspects of the wedding and work more systematically even at taking the pictures for my clients.

One more trick, if you only want to see folders of one customer, you can mark this customer's folder as favourite, by clicking on top of your Project Panel by selecting Add to favorites in the dropdown menu. Next to All Projects, you see a small triangle, which reveals another dropdown menu, where you can choose Show Favorites. That excludes all other albums and might be useful during presentation to your customers or helping you go focus on your current project.

Tomorrow, I will move deeper into the use and organization of keywords.

04 November 2007

Improve your Workflow with Aperture - Part 1

Part 1 Optimize Libraries

Right out of the box, Aperture helps you to upload your images from your camera into the application fast . With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can make this one of the most effective ways to organize your images for the long run and have the images organized right from the beginning.

I love automating things and let the computer work for me and not vice versa. It takes some time to create the setup, but once you accomplished this, you will save time every time, you upload your images.

This is the first article in a small series on maximizing your workflow with Aperture.
  1. Optimize Libraries
  2. Optimize your folder structure
  3. Personalize and structure your Keyword List
  4. Create your own Metadata Presets
  5. Autostacking
Let's get started with organizing your library/ libraries.

First of all, you need to decide, if you work with only with one library or different libraries. Why would you want to work with more than one library? Earlier this year, I discovered that Aperture slowed down to an unacceptable slow speed. Concerned that my MacBook Pro would be the source of the problem, I visited my favorite Apple Store. Luckily, one of the sales people works on weekends as wedding photographer and understood my challenge. He pointed out to me that I probably don’t need to have access to my private images from 2005 all the time and recommended to create separate libraries for personal images and my professional work.
I applied his advice and created different libraries for my images. Now, I have one library for the current year with private images and for every quarter of the year a separate library for my professional work.

If your library is not that big and you don’t upload images every day this might not be necessary for you. Keep in mind that this strategy also helps for backing up your data. Let’s say, you have a library for your clients for January to March, you can simply back up the complete library on an external hard-drive without much worry.

Follow these steps to create a new empty library:

  1. If you haven’t done so, start Aperture, go to Preferences (Keyboard Shortcut: Command ,). Right on top, under Library Location, select Choose. Create a folder for your new empty Library on your internal or external hard-drive. Apple recommends for best performance to use your internal hard-drive. This depends on how you work. I work currently with referenced files. My Aperture library on my Mac contains the previews and all but the most current Master Files are saved on an external hard-drive.
  2. After you created your folder, click on Select
  3. Close Aperture
  4. When you navigate to your new library, you have the option to rename the library or keep them in different folders.
  5. Navigate to your new library and double click to start Aperture and your new empty Aperture library presents itself to you.

To open a different library, you have two options:
  1. either navigate to the folder where the library resides to start Aperture from there or
  2. you select a different library within Aperture’s Preferences. You need to restart Aperture in order to open this library.
Implementing this strategy helped me working more effectively with my library and sped up Aperture to it’s old speed. I don’t have to worry about showing private images to my clients by accident.

In the next article, you will learn on how to work with different folder structures in Aperture.

03 November 2007

Image: Seapoint Cape Town

A few weeks ago, my wife went for a walk in the afternoon along Seapoint and I was able to capture this image. BW conversion via Aperture.

Google Custom Search

I planned to do this for a while. Today, I finally got it done. On the top left side of this page, you find now two search boxes. One search box offers a search for this site only. You might remember that you saw something here that you want to read again. Enter your query and Google delivers.

The second search box extends the search to external photo related blogs, which I am currently subscribed to. Currently, 28 blogs are included, but this number will grow soon to give you the best possible resource on photo related queries.

If you have any suggestions for sites to be included, put them in as a comment.

02 November 2007


I found a link to flickrslidr on Strobist's blog. The slideshow setup was so easy and resulted in an appealing presentation. Check it out yourself.
The images, I selected are from a 5 day hike with friends along the Whale Trail in South Africa.

Created with
Admarket's flickrSLiDR.