Farewell Aperture

Back in October of 2014 Apple announced they were discontinuing development of Aperture.  While they continued to provide some patches and support, I knew I would eventually have to move all my DAM (Digital Asset Management) work to another application and I dreaded this process.  I tried out a few options but was unhappy with every one of them.  It seemed back then my only viable option was to move to Adobe Lightroom and become yet another one of their beholden hostages.

So I waited, and I continued to use Aperture as it continued to do just what I needed when I needed it.  Now I’m not a super photo-effects user.  I have simple DAM requirements.  Intake, sort, rate, warehouse and sometimes publish.  I rarely make edits as I’m one of those crazy people that tries to do most of the work in camera not on computer screen.  Thus my editing boils down to the occasion cropping and even more rare push or pull.

Thus Aperture was wonderful.  In the past year or so I dabbled with testing out Photos as it has the option to suck in my Aperture libraries, but using Photos for serious DAM work always makes me want to vomit.  A combination of the awful UI and the lack of a few key features kept me plodding along with Aperture.

I knew the end would be coming and someday, maybe in fall with the next version of OS X, I’d be unable to use Aperture on my primary machine, so I began taking steps towards migration.  This past winter I cleaned up all my libraries and made sure all images were organized correctly–that little project took me about two weeks working a few hours a day, but once it was done I felt a bit more ready for the inevitable ship jumping that was probably approaching at the end of this year.

That was until I moved from my trusty Canon 5D Mark II to a super shiny and oh so sexy Canon 5D Mark IV.  I also moved from the 8GB CF cards I had used since buying the Mark II to giant 128GB cards. It wasn’t until a few weeks  ago that I started importing images taken with the new body–I usually have quite a backlog to constantly work through–as big cards take longer to fill up.   That was when I was finally forced kicking and crying to find a new option.  The RAW images from the Mark IV–Aperture simply refused to display them. It would handle intake just fine, generate nice previews, but I was unable to actually view the images and attempting to would wipe out the preview and replace it with angry ! instead.   Web searches showed I was not the last of the Aperture holdouts and that others had discovered this issue, and that sadly there would probably never be an update to fix the issue.

So with much trepidation I began to assess my options.  HostageRoom was my last resort as maybe in the two or so years since last poking this hairy beast some other application was now able to fill the Aperture sized hole in my work world.  I tested out the Canon provided software–it’s not actually terrible and is great for intake but one key feature I want is watermarking and it has no easy way to do that.  I popped up GraphicConverter since I own a copy and learned that nope, it cannot handle RAW files, so I started casting my net farther afield and soon found that by searching not for “Aperture alternatives” but for “LightRoom alternatives” there were some updated players in the market.  I tested out DX Optics Pro but it’s not really a useful for workflow.  It’s great if you want to tinker with images and have all your stuff neatly organized, but for simple sorting, rating and publishing it’s meh.  I check out a few other options but several were Windows only and I’m not about to run a virtual system just for workflow.  I then check out PhaseOne’s Media Pro–it was interesting but bloated as I didn’t want all the vid editing/management. (That may indeed change at some point, who knows.)  Then I discovered that PhaseOne makes a lighter version of Media Pro that is just for image work.  CaptureOne, so I downloaded it and started mucking about.  It seemed to have both the DAM capabilities I was after as well as the basic editing needs I wanted.  It can do watermarking as well, so after watching 5 or so min of their introductory video and having to turn it off because the VO was so awful, I began poking about in the menus.  It was then that I found the absolute holy grail of my search.

Under the File menu there is an option to “Import Catalog” and when you mouse over it expands out and one of the options is “Aperture Library”.  I stared at it in disbelief for a good 20 seconds before rushing off to do a web search to verify that this software would do what that menu claimed and actually import my libraries.   Thirty seconds later I had my answer–yes, yes it would.  Since an Aperture Library is mainly a giant mux of XML data, it’s apparently not nearly so difficult as I though it would be to suck that info in and make it work with CaptureOne.

I of course immediately sucked in one of my Aperture Libraries and in 10 minutes or so (some of my libraries reference more than ten thousand images) there it was…my intact library complete with ratings, crops, minor tweaks.  The only thing missing are stacks and I can live without those.

Of course this doesn’t solve the issue of managing my iPhone images, but I’ll survive using Photos for that since that is what that piece of software is good at.  Thus now that I’ve completed the migration (in less than one day no-less) from Aperture to CaptureOne, the last item on my punch list is to now migrate the final library which contains my PhotoStreams into Photos.

So while it is a sad moment since I’m finally saying goodbye to a piece of software I loved, used and depended upon for well over a decade, at least now I have a viable replacement that I may just learn to love too.