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How-To: Move Photos From Aperture to iPhoto

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Aperture is a great photo management application, but may not be suitable for everyone. I recently made a decision to move back to iPhoto in order to use some of the features in the latest release. Several of these, such as face recognition, are not present in the current version of Aperture.

This decision posed a problem. How do you move several thousand photos out of Aperture and back into iPhoto, without tearing your hair out in the process? This how-to will outline a few different possibilities, along with the process I found to work best.

Why Move?

Before exploring the different export options, I feel the need to answer the question of why you would want to move away from an advanced application such as Aperture:

  1. You could be switching to a different workflow, with a different “pro” tool such as Lightroom.
  2. You may desire the faster performance of iPhoto, which feels much quicker than Aperture on lower specification machines.
  3. Or, like me, you may want to switch to access iPhoto-specific features.

Although you can access Aperture images in iPhoto, this isn’t the same as moving them all across from one application to another. If you’d just like to access Aperture images, you can do so by clicking File > Show Aperture Library:

Show Aperture Library
Show Aperture Library

A solution is needed for exporting all of your images in a useful folder structure, ready for importing into another application of choice.


The simplest way to move photos from one application to another is by dragging and dropping them out of Aperture, then back into a new iPhoto event or album. Providing you’ve set Aperture to export full-resolution versions when dragging out, this method can work well.

The problem with this solution is simple: time. If you have a few hundred photo albums, exporting each one separately can be a very long winded process, and take far too long to be practical. A better solution exists for exporting all the photos in your Library with one click.

Bulk Exporting

Fortunately, Aperture comes with a fairly advanced set of export preferences allowing you to specific exactly how a folder structure will be created, along with how files are to be named.

First, select the images to export (this is likely to be all the images in your Library). Click File ? Export ? Version (or Master, if you’d like the original images). You can then look for the “Subfolder Format” section, and choose “Edit” to define your own export structure.

Edit Folder Structure
Edit Folder Structure

This will launch a simple interface for defining a folder structure for export. This is particularly user friendly and easy-to-use.

Export Settings
Export Settings

The options chosen here will reflect how you have chosen to organize your Aperture library. You may have a different Project for each shoot, or prefer to use Folders to structure photos. Either way, you can select from a few of the following:

  • Project Name
  • Folder Name
  • Year/Date/Time (both the current time, and that of shooting)
  • Various Custom Numbers/Fields

Using a combination of these options should allow for a flexible export structure, and result in a well organized set of photos on your hard drive.

You can also adjust how files themselves are named using a similar process under the “Name Format” menu.

Importing into iPhoto should then be as simple as dragging the resulting folders of photos into the application. Appropriately titled events will automatically be created.

Other Solutions

A few other solutions exist for simplifying this process and automating it further. You could try this Automator script which, while a little dated, could do the trick.

It’s also possible to approach the problem with AppleScript, though this is a slightly more advanced solution.

Either way, I hope you no longer feel unduly concerned that you are “locked in” to Aperture. The export process can be fairly simple and, while you may lose some meta data, it isn’t too difficult to move a structured set of images out of the application.

16 Responses to “How-To: Move Photos From Aperture to iPhoto”

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  2. @jeremy: did you manage to solve your problem?

    i am also interested in moving from aperture to iphoto. simply because while i had thought that i will find the power of aperture worthwhile, i am realizing that if you are not a pro that power can be detrimental in how it keeps you from doing simple modifications and sharing.

    what i do want to retain – is the power to move from one platform to another in the future. therefore it is important that i retain hard disk image structure. not sure how i can do that in iphoto.

    need to think some more about this aperture to iphoto move.

  3. One more follow up. I’ve tried both methods with no success, I suspect because my Aperture library has almost 10,000 images.

    When I export, Aperture crashes usually after several hundred images, at which point I’ve got to find where I left off and continue. A huge pain. And very time consuming.

    When I simply drag and drop my Aperture library into iPhoto, iPhoto tried really, really hard. But it inevitably crashes after about 30 mins of working full on. Then I can’t actually restart iPhoto – it hangs, presumably because of its library importing overload.

    All of this is on a brand new MBP with top of the line specs, so hardware isn’t the problem.

    Suggestions on going forward …

  4. Very helpful post. Timely too. I’ve just bought a new MBP and am using this opportunity to go back to iPhoto after a 2 year romance with Aperture. But I’ve got some questions:

    1. What happens if I “pull” the Aperture library into iPhoto using “import to library”? Will the effect be the same as the drag & drop, i.e. a disorganized library? Or will it preserve existing projects, folders, albums, etc..

    2. Whichever solution I choose, what will happen to the metadata associated with my images? Will any of this be preserved in iPhoto?

    3. Also, if I export versions, then my masters are gone forever (assuming I don’t keep both libraries active), correct? If I export masters, I’ve got to re-do all of my edits, including crops and image adjustments, correct?


  5. Aperture is very different in the way that manage your photo library than iPhoto. iPhoto from the other no like because even if you choose “do not copy” the image in the iphoto folder, it will copy them when you edit them or even the auto rotate faction of my digital camera is on.

  6. MrMojo

    I don’t understand why someone would want to move all their images from Aperture to iPhoto… Since Aperture images are accessible from iPhoto, why not leave them where they are and simply use iPhoto when you want to use a feature Aperture currently lacks?

    BTW, Aperture also offers easy to create MobileMe galleries that can be synced.

    • MrMojo,

      “Aperture also offers easy to create MobileMe galleries that can be synced.”

      I had mine there for a while. But I swapped them to iPhoto because it also does Flickr, and because for either function I now launch a lightweight app instead of the “heavier” Aperture.

      “Since Aperture images are accessible from iPhoto, why not leave them where they are and simply use iPhoto when you want to use a feature Aperture currently lacks?”

      Because the other way around works just as well, and has the advantage of normally working with the faster app. I don’t need Aperture’s “power” that often, so I’d rather use iPhoto as the main app and just pull stuff into Aperture as needed.

  7. Well for me it still seems like these apps have two different audiences.
    We’re primary using Aperture for location shots and so the face rec. aren’t really a must-have. Also working in a Mac Pro environment under 10.5.7 it feels like Aperture keeps a decent speed, but I agree with you guys that we need a major update soon :)

  8. Well now that FinalCut and Logic have been given the update love, it would be nice if Aperture were right around the corner.
    I attended a Photoshop and Ligthroom usergroup this past week, and was a little green after the Lightroom demo…

  9. I got on board with Aperture when they brought iPhoto-type features, such as the All Projects view, to that app.

    Still, I find I need Aperture’s power a lot less, especially since the last iPhoto update added Aperture’s excellent Definition and Vibrancy functionality. I love the drag and drop ease of Flickr and MobileMe galleries in iPhoto — especially how it keeps them in sync.

    Add to this that Apple seems to have forgotten about Aperture and, like you, I’m using iPhoto most of the time.