How to see and import your Aperture photos in macOS Catalina

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in General Discussion
You won't be able to launch Aperture after macOS Catalina arrives, so you need to take steps now. If you don't, though, we've still got you covered with how to rescue those images after upgrading.

Old and new together. Left: Aperture. Right: macOS Catalina
Old and new together. Left: Aperture. Right: macOS Catalina


It's been five years since Apple announced that its pro photography tool Aperture was being discontinued. It's been about that long since the company warned it would eventually stop working.

Now, though, we are rapidly coming up on that day -- and not everyone is ready.

If you upgrade your Macs to macOS Catalina when it is released to the public some time in September, you will not then be able to open Aperture. It's not just that you won't be able to use Aperture to do any work on your images, you won't be able to launch it to even see them.

Apple originally went to some trouble to show you how to move from Aperture to its chief rival, Adobe Lightroom. And Adobe even produced a plugin for Lightroom that meant you could reasonably easily migrate even a large image library into that system.

Unfortunately, that was back in 2014. Today, when if you need to get out of Aperture, you really need to get out of it, things are harder. That plugin is no longer included with Lightroom, for instance, and Adobe's instructions for how to make the move are out of date.

What you can do

First, don't upgrade to macOS Catalina until you're certain you've got all of your old Aperture images saved in a form you can read.

Other than that, the simplest option remaining is to move from Aperture to Apple's Photos app. Back in the day, that was like moving from a professional app to a consumer one. It was like moving from Final Cut Pro X to iMovie.

Photos can still import an old Aperture library
Photos can still import an old Aperture library


Since the demise of Aperture, though, Apple has steadily improved Photos to the point where it is now very good and capable. You can make a strong case for how Lightroom remains better, but for what we need for making sure we can see the images after Catalina, Photos is more than enough.

So backup both your Photos library, if you have one, and your old Aperture one. Make sure you have safety copies of both.

Then -- this is important -- hold down the Option key when you open Photos.

This will make it ask you about choosing to create a new library or to import an existing one. Depending on where you store your Aperture library, Photos might list that right there in the dialog box. If it doesn't, click Other Library... and navigate to where you've saved it.

That should bring in all of your Aperture photos and that ought to be that. It almost certainly will be.

Your mileage may vary

This many years after Aperture was supported, though, it's hard to recreate every combination of OS X and applications that were around at the time.

If you are still running OS X Yosemite and you are still using 2014's edition of Lightroom, for instance, you could well still have the Adobe plugin that lets you migrate directly.

The loss of that plugin isn't as big a deal as you'd imagine, though, as Lightroom always worked sufficiently differently to Aperture that there were extra steps you might need to take. Now you just definitely need to take them.

The issue then was that Lightroom couldn't read in all of the adjustments that users could make to images in Aperture. So the recommendation was that you export all your Aperture images in the highest-quality TIFF format available, and then import those into Lightroom.

While Aperture is still running, you can do that.

Last-ditch answer

Despite all the warnings, both here in AppleInsider and on the screen as you launch Aperture on your Mac, some people are going to get burned. They'll upgrade to macOS Catalina and only then realise that they can't access their old Aperture images.

Maybe they believe they migrated five years ago, maybe it turns out that there is just one crucial image that somehow got missed.

You can't run Aperture after moving to macOS Catalina, but you can still open its library manually
You can't run Aperture after moving to macOS Catalina, but you can still open its library manually


Even though you cannot launch Aperture after upgrading to macOS Catalina, there is something you can do.
  • Find your Aperture image library in the Finder, and right-click on it.

  • From the menu that appears, choose Show Package Contents.

  • Open the folder called Masters.

  • Drill down into year, month and day to find each of your images.
That's not as straightforward as using a migration tool as you could have done five years ago, but it means you're not locked out of your Aperture images just because you can no longer launch the app.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    It’s really a shame and kind of weird that Apple couldn't just "sell off" Aperture to Claris or Omni… [edit] yeah I know Claris is defunct…
    edited August 12 fasterquieter
  • Reply 2 of 13
    I still mourn the loss of Aperture. Yes, Lightroom leapfrogged it in terms of editing long before Apple stopped development, but Aperture is still light years ahead in terms of workflow. Using stacks and the stack viewer I could quite literally blow through a couple of hundred images narrowing a shoot down to a couple of dozen must-use images in about 10-20 minutes. As far as I know, no other photography workflow tool has anything like it.

    I've recently tried Darkroom to see if it would suffice, but I'm just not getting its interface.

    Anyone found a good alternative to Aperture so I won't have to keep my old Mac Mini around just for editing photos???
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Anyone found a good alternative to Aperture so I won't have to keep my old Mac Mini around just for editing photos???
    I have tried them all, and settled on Capture one. What attracted me to it was the unlimited ability to customize the Tools, and interface. Something that LR lacked at the time. 


    Mike
  • Reply 4 of 13
    To this day I am furious Apple discontinued Aperture. I have never trusted them since. If Windows wasn't so awful, it would have been enough to make me leave them. I had 70,000 images with painstaking adjustments made in that program. When I moved them to Lightroom the adjustments were not the same. Exporting 70,000 high-quality, un-editable TIFFS is not a good solution. The Photos app was and is a joke next to Aperture.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    danvdrdanvdr Posts: 16member
    I also miss Aperture. I'm just a hobbyist and I found it easier to use than LightRoom (which is what I'm using now). Really liked the Loupe tool.
    I think I've got about 20,000 photos on Aperture. I'll probably do the TIFF trick for a few hundred favorites and then move the rest to Photos. (Hoping Adobe will come up with a last minute fix before Catalina comes out.)
  • Reply 6 of 13
    Like others, I am/was still using Aperture. My concern is not so much with editing features, which I used extensively/exclusively but more with its organizing features. My hundreds of family photos are broken down by person, location, subject, etc. etc. Is there an alternative app that can do this? Better yet, though I hold no hope for that, is an app that can import the information from Aperture...
  • Reply 7 of 13
    Eric_WVGG said:
    It’s really a shame and kind of weird that Apple couldn't just "sell off" Aperture to Claris or Omni… [edit] yeah I know Claris is defunct
    They aren't!

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/08/06/apples-filemaker-inc-brings-back-the-old-claris-name
    fastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 13
    On selling it:  at one point, I wrote Lemke, the developer of Graphic Converter to encourage him to see if Apple would sell the software.  It would have been a good fit in my view.  He wrote back saying Apple just didn't do that.  Short-sighted on Apple's part.  They would have excellent pro-sumer software in the market and not have to spend anything on maintaining it.  Of course, I also wrote Tim Cook to make that point.

    As a user, I have periodically scouted around and haven't found a substitute.  Lightroom may have been, but I don't like their sales/rental model.  And I use Aperture for its unequaled organizational and metadata features.  I have thousands of family photos and several hundred that are part of a family history project, which need to be well documented. I can drag and drop pics into Reunion, for genealogical records, and Reunion keeps track of just where they are, keeping a thumbnail in app.  I like Aperture's ability to store the photo location, either by manually inputting a GPS code, accepting it from a camera, allowing a map location (which is turned into a GPS code), or inputting an address (does a GPS lookup).  There are also many time-saving ways to mass code pics, stamp metadata from one to another, import pics with metadata modifications, etc.

    For my purposes, I would be happy enough with the adjustments in Photos, or I use Pixelmator for more complicated jobs.  However, up to now, Photos won't display much of the metadata stored with the pic.

    I'm surprised Mr. Gallager (a podcast favorite of mine) didn't mention using virtualization to keep running Aperture.  But maybe William felt sorry enough for those of us still using Aperture that he felt he was doing us a favor by moving us on to the next thing.
  • Reply 9 of 13

    I'm surprised Mr. Gallager (a podcast favorite of mine) didn't mention using virtualization to keep running Aperture.  But maybe William felt sorry enough for those of us still using Aperture that he felt he was doing us a favor by moving us on to the next thing.
    I'm not sure if that's a viable option. To be fair, I haven't tried it with Aperture, but I did run Snow Leopard in a VM in an attempt to use Final Cut Express, and it wouldn't run. There was some native driver issue that I wasn't able to resolve. I suspect Aperture also will not work inside a virtual machine.
  • Reply 10 of 13

    mdirvin said:
    Anyone found a good alternative to Aperture so I won't have to keep my old Mac Mini around just for editing photos???
    I have tried them all, and settled on Capture one. What attracted me to it was the unlimited ability to customize the Tools, and interface. Something that LR lacked at the time. 


    Mike
    Thank you...! I will take a look.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    You can run Mac OS in a VM (on a Mac). Just run Aperture in a VM on an older OS. Modern hardware makes that painless - if only to keep access to old Aperture libraries.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    The version of Lightroom that I use (Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic 8.4 - released yesterday) still includes the Aperture migration plugin.

    I'm not a big fan of Adobe's subscription model either but we use CC for document layout so Lightroom was essentially free for me. I continue to miss Aperture despite that. Lightroom has better editing tools now but there are still a few image management things that Aperture does better.

  • Reply 13 of 13
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,170member
    I’m amazed Apple didn’t use the Aperture Library as the basis for Photos Library and retain the organisational features whilst enabling iCloud (iCloud Pro Photo Library?).  Library organisation is the weakness of Affinity Photo & Pixelmator.  Apple wants to boost its services business and this would be a pro services no-brainer.
    I’m feeling a similar pain with home video migration because iMovie stores locally imported video as temporally uncompressed (PRORES lite?) which my old version of iMovie won’t move to Photos easily.  There’s no parity between iMovie on macOS El Cap & iOS so I have to transcode.
    They need a better information management strategy which doesn’t leave customers high & dry.
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