Sharing Referenced Masters

by Micah Walter

One of the more powerful features that came with Aperture 1.5 was the ability to store master image files outside of the Aperture library. By using Referenced Masters we are now able to store our Masters anywhere we would like.

This can be especially useful if you have more than one person in your home or office working on your images. Personally, I use this feature all the time. I typically shoot in the field and download my shots to my laptop's internal hard drive using Aperture as my importer. Later, when I am back at my apartment I use the Relocate Masters function to move the original RAW files to an external hard drive, freeing up space on my laptop's hard disk. I can still see my image thumbnails when I am disconnected form the external hard drive, and if I set Aperture to generate previews, I always have a high resolution jpeg available on the road.

On top of all of this, I now have the added capability of sharing my Master image files with another user. All the second user needs to do is to attach the hard drive to their computer and use Aperture's import function, making sure to select "Store Files: In their current location." Not only can the second user import the files into Aperture, but they can use any other photo editing software so long as it leaves the original files in their current location, untouched.

I can also send that second user a copy of my Aperture Project file by clicking Export Project. This function creates a duplicate copy of the Aperture Project package which any Aperture user can import. The project file will contain all of the metadata, IPTC information, star rankings, web albums and well, everything associated with that project. If the project contains Managed image masters, these will be included as well.

One trick I have learned is the following. If I am going on the road and want to take some of the Master image files with me so that I can work on them during my downtime, I can easily select the images I want, and click Consolidate Masters from the File menu. This function will move my original RAW images back to Aperture's Managed library on my laptop's hard drive.

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However, when I do this, I get the option to either Copy or Move the files in question. If I select Move, the images will no longer be available to additional users. So, what I like to do is select Copy. This leaves the original Masters in place on the external hard drive, allowing other users full access to the files while I am gone. When I am back and I no longer need the Master files on my laptop's hard drive I can get rid of them and reconnect to the identical masters on my external drive with the following routine:

  1. Simply, use the Relocate Masters function to move the Managed masters to a folder on your Desktop.

  2. Move that folder to the Trash. (Don't empty the Trash yet.)

  3. Attach the external hard drive to your computer and use the Manage Referenced Files function to reconnect your missing Masters to their originals on your external drive.


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Usually you just need to find one missing master (indicated in red) and you can click Reconnect All. Once all the images have been reconnected, you can empty your trash and it's back to business as usual.