Referenced Aperture Previews in iPhoto 7

by Micah Walter

iPhoto 7 and Aperture work really well together. In iPhoto you can drag in any image from your Aperture library using the Show Aperture Library feature in the File menu. You can also add images directly from Aperture simply by dragging and dropping from Aperture to iPhoto.

However, when you add images to iPhoto, by default iPhoto copies them to your iPhoto library as a new file. This means that you now have two copies of the file living on your hard drive. To get around this simply open your iPhoto Preferences and under the Advanced tab uncheck the Copy items to the iPhoto Library.


Now, whenever you drag images from Aperture to iPhoto, iPhoto will treat the files as referenced masters. In fact, in iPhoto you can Ctrl-click the image and select Show File. A Finder window will pop up and if you had added that image from your Aperture, you will see that the Finder has pointed to the Preview image file within your Aperture library package.

What is really nice about this feature (other than the fact that it saves some hard disk space) is that if you make a change to an image in Aperture, you will see those changes in iPhoto. This holds true of course until you make changes to the image within iPhoto. If you edit the image in iPhoto, a new file will be created within your iPhoto library to reflect the changes. You can always revert back to the original in iPhoto, and if you Ctrl-click the file, you will now see the option to Show File, or Show Original File.

In order for all of this to work, you will need to be sure to set up Aperture’s Preferences to Share Previews With iLife and iWork. You will also need to be sure that Preview files for the images you are interested in have had a chance to generate after importing into Aperture. You can check on this using Aperture’s Show Task List feature found under the Window menu.

This type of seamless integration between Aperture and iPhoto 7 offers some really cool and fun tools. As Derrick mentioned in a previous post, you can sort of think of iPhoto 7 as a giant plugin for Aperture.


random bob, a.r.c.
2007-08-31 07:56:13
I guess my question would be: Why? What are you doing w/ iPhoto that you aren't — or CAN'T — do with Apterture? The organizational methods present in Aperture dwarf by comparison the feature set in iPhoto.

I can think of only two reasons: you prefer iPhoto's book templates, or the gallery features over what Aperture offers.

Seems like a waste, though. Since Aperture is now drag & drop capable and iLife/iWork compatible, it would seem that this is sort of extra steps to eventually have you going, "now what?"

Could you elaborate on WHY exactly iPhoto is useful as a tool complementing Aperture?

2007-08-31 08:11:08
Sure! Just to name a few, iPhoto Calendars, Books, Prints, Slideshows, and Cards come to mind. More importantly the new .Mac Web Gallery is really nice and would be a waste not to utilize it in some fashion. And, on the plugin front, there are a few custom plugins for iPhoto that don't exist yet for Aperture.

To me, iPhoto just adds "more" to an already feature rich Aperture.

Dudley Warner
2007-08-31 11:14:53
This is great tip, particularly if you import photos into Aperture by default. I do just the opposite, and use Aperture primarily at this point to work on projects, do books, and polish my best photos. If this is how you work,it seems it will mean you have to uncheck "Copy Items to the iPhoto Library" for importing photos from Aperture, and then re-check it as the default for most of your photos.
Andreas Bachofen
2007-08-31 11:20:09
Lovely, thanks a lot! I now have some kind of a three-application-workflow which includes Aperture, iPhoto and iWeb. To reference the previews solves the problem of updating the iPhoto Library whenever I make changes to the Aperture version of a photo. And it reduces my precious disk space on my laptop.
2007-08-31 11:22:29
If you want to use iPhoto as your main photo managment tool, and only import certain file to Aperture, you can easily do this in Aperture using Referenced Masters. Instead of using the Import From iPhoto function in Aperture, just use the standard Aperture import function and navigate to your iPhoto library on your hard drive. From here you can pick and choose the albums you want to import, and if you select Store Files In Their Current Locations, Aperture will make references to your iPhoto images instead of copying them over. Essentially the opposite of what I was trying to do with iPhoto...
Joe Stevens
2007-08-31 12:44:06
Now I am sold.. I wasn't going to buy ILife because I was worried about having to manage two sets of photos in two libraries, now that problem is solved. Thanks
2007-08-31 12:54:18
This works great indeed. I noticed something annoying using this method though.
If you edit a picture in Aperture and then open iPhoto which has already the referenced Aperture picture, the iPhoto thumbnail will not update itself automatically...
The easiest way to check this is to do a major adjustment in Aperture (i.e. From Color to B&W) and see that the thumbnail has not updated in iPhoto. So far I found two ways of fixing this but it is not really efficient...

1 - Rebuild the iPhoto library (long & painful depending on its size)
2 - Do an adjustment directly in iPhoto, apply it then revert to the original.

With the second option, the thumbnail gets regenerated.



2007-08-31 13:03:12
I think you are right. I just tried it out for myself and got the same result. I think it has to do with the fact that iPhoto is making its own thumbnail for the image. If you double click the thumb to open the image you will see your changes. So, I guess there just needs to be some type of Refresh Thumbnails button... If you open the media browser however you can see the changes to the thumbs in there. Interesting...


Chuck Deerinck
2007-08-31 13:52:46
There is no "Show Aperture Libarary" in the File menu in iPhoto 08. Did Apple remove it? I can do drag-and-drop, but I was hopeing to have all (about 15k) photos in iPhoto for slideshows, books, etc. To do that, I was hopeing that I wouldn't have to keep doing imports. Does anyone know of a way to do that? Also, when I import to iPhoto via drag-and-drop, it loses the keywords that I set in Aperture.
2007-08-31 13:59:56
I am looking at the File menu in iPhoto 08, and just below Import to Library there is an option called Show Aperture Library. Perhaps you missed it?
2007-08-31 14:35:18
I use iPhoto to haze the edges of photos I want to have a dreamy look to them. Its quick and easy and it always does a perfect job.
2007-08-31 14:36:48

I just sent a bug report to Apple regarding the thumbnail refresh. Let's see if they reply.


Bob Summers
2007-08-31 14:55:43
Micah, when creating .mac web galleries with such referenced photos, iPhoto uploads Aperture's preview images, not the real referenced Aperture images. These low resolution preview images look passably ok on the web, but friends and family downloading them will be disappointed if they try to print them. The only way to get your actual Aperture images into .mac web galleries is to export them from Aperture to your hard drive, and then import them into iPhoto.

2007-08-31 16:11:43

No, I looked very closely. I watched and saw on a Apple training video, where they selected it, but it's not on mine. Check out the screen shot that I posted at

Very strange. I would love to get to the bottom of this.


2007-08-31 16:13:01
It is true that all of the iLife/iWork interaction works with the Preview files. However, these jpeg previews can be set to a higher resolution if you wish, and for the purposes of printing things like 4x6 sized prints or cards, they should be just fine.
2007-08-31 16:16:01
I just tried something which I think may be the source of your problem. On a hunch I went into Aperture's Preferences and unchecked the Share Previews with iLife and iWork option toward the bottom of the panel. Once I did this I re-opened iPhoto and the option to Show Aperture Library was gone.

Perhaps you have mistakenly turned that option off in Aperture?


Chuck Deerinck
2007-08-31 17:15:33

I checked the Aperture preferences, and that item was checked. So I uncheded it, quit Aperture, opened Aperture, checked it, quit Aperture, then opened iPhoto. All to no avail, it still isn't there. I think you are on the right track, that it is related to iPhoto not being able to see the Aperture previews, therefor it is not showing the menu item.

When I quit Aperture the 2nd time, it did say "Updating information for sharing previews".

Any other ideas on what I might check?

2007-08-31 19:08:54
I have not upgraded to iphoto7 and wondered if it was possible to do this in iphoto6 as well. I have the same options so I tried it out. It looks like it worked. How is the new version any different?
2007-08-31 19:13:31
You have the latest 1.5.4 Aperture update right? otherwise iLife 08 apps can't see your Aperture library...
Roy Levien
2007-08-31 19:59:48
I want to be sure I understand: The file used by iPhoto is the preview (if there is one) generated by Aperture, and as long as no editing is done in iPhoto, the Aperture preview will be the one Aperture maintains, and the Aperture master will be untouched (by iPhoto). Is that right?

(It follows that for files one intends to share with iPhoto in this way, it is probably a good idea to generate higher-resolution previews in Aperture.)

2007-08-31 20:56:20
re: Random Bob "Why exactly iPhoto is a tool complementing Aperture".
I am a pro photographer. I want to spend my time shooting not stuck behind a computer. Actually, I agree with a previous poster that Aperture is better as a tool complimenting iPhoto. iPhoto has better integration, it's simpler and more intuitive. Aperture is overkill for most purposes, slow, cumbersome, too many bells and whistles. Unfortunately, there is no iPhoto Pro version with metadata and file size control so we are forced to do this little dance between the 2 programs. Talk about a waste!
Chuck Deerinck
2007-08-31 21:42:12
Jade - Yes, I am on Aperture 1.5.4 (Patch 2G16).
Jon T
2007-09-01 01:09:04
photoart, as a pro photographer I cannot believe that you think working with Aperture is overkill, unless you are challenged financially and are not working with a ram-maxed MacBook Pro or Mac Pro. Aperture has saved me so much time I couldn't begin to calculate it. My perspective is the polar opposite of yours, Aperture is precisely the tool that lets me spend more time shooting.
2007-09-02 08:12:59
Excuse me- John T - you don't have to insult or intimidate to get your point across. As a matter of fact I do have a ram-maxed MacBook Pro along with 6 other state-of-the-art MACS & over 10 500GB HDs. I own Aperture AND Lightroom and of course Photoshop etc. You haven't revealed your workflow or what kind or quantity of photos you shoot and manage. Aperture doesn't work great for me yet for the reasons I gave - I am hoping for a major upgrade. In the meantime iPhoto is a phenomenal program and with a quick link to Photoshop and a few more work-arounds - can deliver great fast results - it all depends on how creative and resourceful you are. One of the essential workarounds is using iPhotoLibrary Manager or something like it.
Bob Summers
2007-09-02 09:12:56
Micah, you say "if you make a change to an image in Aperture, you will see those changes in iPhoto", but I don't see that happening. Suggestion?
2007-09-02 09:42:51
As we were talking in the comments below... It may be that you are looking at the thumbs, which dont update, open the image and you should see the Aperture changes... no?
2007-09-02 09:53:02
I love apple!
2007-09-04 06:41:19
I just found this site after doing the very same thing. I'm using this workflow to use iPhoto's additional Photo Book options. I think Aperture has more extensive and customizable books but iPhoto provides me with a quick photo book generation.
2007-09-05 06:35:58
It could be better if iPhoto could automatically updates with Aperture library.
But, it's still cool~!
2007-09-05 07:43:32
Is there a way to automatically update and sync my Aperture referenced masters with the previews in iPhoto 7?
2007-09-09 05:24:35
I have Aperture and i have iphoto 6.06 and, I can;t seem to import my files from iphoto to Aperture. The drop down menu doesn't let me import my files if its in iphoto or my albums doesn't show up either. It does recognize folders the that is not in iphoto and lets me download those fine. Is there something i'm doing wrong? How can i fix this ?
2007-09-17 09:35:15
When dragging and dropping from "Show Aperture Library" in iPhoto 08, I see that I'm still creating a iPhoto library? I have "copy files to the iPhoto library uncheck in preferance > advanced. I would like to manage one data base of images on my internal HD with all back ups on external HD's. Any suggestions why iPhoto is creating another data base being I'm importing from the aperture library?


2007-09-26 23:11:32
Of course, there is no way to import ratings or caption from Aperture to iPhoto along with the pictures right?

That would be nice for the web galleries...

2007-11-09 05:15:24
Hi. I recently bought Leopard and iLife08 after reading this article. I have the same problems with thumbs not getting updated in iPhoto after an update of the referenced photo in Aperture. Has anyone heard of a solution or soon-coming bugfix for this problem?

Another problem I have is that keywords from photos in Aperture not are imported correctly into iPhoto. I imported 200+ photos from Aperture into iPhoto as described in the article. All photos in Aperture have a least one keyword and some have two keywords. After the import some of the photos with two keywords only had one of them in iPhoto. However, all keywords on photos with only one keyword were imported correctly.

Any suggestions or solutions?