Another Reason For Referenced Masters: Multiple Libraries

by Micah Walter

In a previous post I talked about using iPhoto and Aperture together by linking iPhoto images to Aperture’s preview files. What you are essentially doing with this method is creating a reference to Aperture from within iPhoto. This technique seems to work pretty well (with a few small caveats that came up in the comments section), but it also brings up a number of other possibilities having to do with the concept of referenced masters.

With Aperture’s own Referenced Masters we have the ability to store our original RAW images anywhere we would like. We can store the images to multiple external drives, DVDs anywhere we would like. With Aperture’s built in previews we can even keep jpeg versions of our files on hand at all times.

This is really good stuff for those of us with large and expanding library files, but there is another way referenced masters can help us. With referenced masters we can make multiple references to our files. What does this mean? Well, let’s say for example you want to maintain two Aperture libraries. One library exists on your desktop machine and is a master library of all of your work. The other library lives on your laptop and contains your recent project work and anything you may download to your laptop while in the field. Well, with referenced masters you can easily access these files from both libraries at the same time. Just use the relocate masters function in Aperture to move the files to a centralized place (network drive or your desktop machine) and Aperture will keep a reference to the new location. You now can do one of two things. Either re-import the masters as referenced masters into the second library, or you can export the Aperture project from your laptop and import it into your desktop’s library. By moving the project file you will also get a copy of any metadata and image adjustments you made while working on your laptop.

Now that your image masters live in a separate place you can reference them with other applications such as iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

One technique in image asset management that I think has a lot of value is making permanent archives of individual projects. A really easy way to do this is to create a new Aperture library, import the Aperture project, which will include all metadata and adjustments and then use the Consolidate Masters feature. When you click Consolidate Masters you will be given a choice of moving or copying the files. Click copy, and all of your referenced files will remain in place. You can then burn the new Aperture library to a DVD for cold storage. Any other applications, including Aperture that reference these files will still be able to find them.

Over at there is a really good article about the dangers of using referenced masters. He goes into detail about these dangers and how to prevent accidents. Remember, once your masters are outside of your Aperture library you are fully responsible for them. So be sure to back them up! If you are new to the concept of referenced masters, be sure to check out the article on Bagelturf, here.


Don O'Shea
2007-09-21 14:28:16
I have bookmark many of Steve Weller's Bagelturf pages since he began to describe his Aperture insights. I was glad to see he has released an eBook with many of his pages collected in a compact, searchable .pdf format. See:
2007-09-22 21:51:26
I answered a question recently from someone who had referenced images that they were using elsewhere (by iPhoto I think). They wanted to consolidate them -- but how? If they pull them into the Aperture library then the other apps will lose them.

It turns out that when you select Consolidate you are given the option of copying or moving the masters. So the solution is simple: copy them into the library and they will still be avalable for other applications.