Since some time I started using Aperture as my photo managament software. It offered me a nice workflow - but there's one thing I would like to know how to get working.

I want to backup my files. That's obvious. Right now I backup whole library folder, which is quite HD- and netword-expensive (I use both external drive as well as online account to backup stuff). What I would like to have is to backup only some files from the Aperture library.

Since Aperture has support for labeling/starring photos, I would like to use it - for example, backup only photos that are 1-star ranked or higher. Or - backup those that have a specific label assigned.

The "backup" process can be anything - simplest is just to copy the files (I mean - master files + all information about modifications of them) to some specified folder - that I can back up some other way.

Anyone of you managed to find a solution like this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have photos that you don't need to keep, you can simply delete them in Aperture and save space. On the other hand, if you want to keep all of the photos, you must have backups of all of them, so I don't quite understand the question? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 24, 2011 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like to keep the photos that aren't THAT bad in my library - I delete accidental shots or stuff like this - but I'd rather backup (using online backup storage) only the ones that are worth keeping. I won't cry if I loose the other ones - but maybe some day, if they're still there, they can be useful (and then get some postprocessing and earn their star;) \$\endgroup\$
    – kender
    Jun 24, 2011 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


You could separate the files you want to backup vs not backup by making them managed vs referenced masters. Which way you separate them is up to you, but the idea is the managed masters would be inside the Aperture library, while the referenced masters are outside the Aperture library (in some arbitrary location of your choosing). The central idea is you can then backup the Aperture library and the referenced masters location using different techniques.

Separation of Photos

If the photos you want to backup are kept as managed (which I'd recommend), you would want to have the online backup of your whole Aperture library. This has the added advantage of backing up any metadata, edits, project info, etc (though comes with the cost of also backing up previews/thumbnails/faces data/whatever).

So it's then just a matter of backing up the Aperture library, e.g. via Aperture's vaults system, Apple's Time Machine (USB or network-share-based), or by putting the Aperture library in Dropbox/Google Drive/etc. Or a more manual solution like rsync or simply uploading your Aperture library somewhere regularly.

If the photos you want to backup are kept as referenced masters, then you could locate them in a Dropbox/Google Drive/etc folder, or otherwise manually/automatically backup the location you put them in, much like the above. Pretty much anything except Aperture's vaults system.

Which way you go (whether important files end up managed or referenced) really depends what you're doing with the photos in Aperture—whether you want to keep the Aperture library info or not.

Moving files between the two

Either way, you can set up Smart Albums to allow you to easily move files from managed to referenced, or vice versa, based on things like metadata/keywords, a star rating, coloured tag or flag state. For example, if you tag the important shots with the 'red' colour label, your Smart Albums would be:

Smart Album 1 (photos to be made managed)

  • Match ALL rules, from the whole library
    • Color Label is red
    • File Status is referenced

Smart Album 2 (photos to be made referenced)

  • Match ALL rules, from the whole library
    • Color Label is not red
    • File Status is managed

Then you just (regularly) check those Smart Albums and change the files between managed/referenced appropriately.

Simple, DIY Off-Site Backup Alternative

Another option that you may find simpler is to just use Aperture's vault system with a couple of external USB hard drives. Keep one near your computer, backup to the vault regularly (after major import/edit sessions). Keep another off-site (at work, at a relative's house) and swap them around occasionally, or take your computer to the other site (if a laptop) and backup there.

I use a mix of both, personally. My important/current working shots are managed, and backed up to a vault at home + another at work. My older/archived shots are referenced masters on a network share (NAS), which I manually backup about once a month. Once the NAS is backed up, I can safely delete the "files removed from Aperture vault" directory beside each of the vaults (On syncing a vault, Aperture moves files out of the vault, rather than deleting them, if they have been removed from the Aperture library or changed to referenced masters).


I have not done this, but looking at Apple's Aperture plugin page, I see this: Aperture Assistant. "Automated exports" sound like a start at getting the functionality you want there. As they say, no code required, although you may have to play with Automater some , or bribe someone to connect the pieces together for you...

There are a number of other plugins on the first page which also look to serve a similar purpose. Good luck!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note of caution: This plugin hasn't been updated in two years... \$\endgroup\$
    – Scrappydog
    Jun 28, 2011 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ and it doesn't say anything about compatibility with Aperture 3... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4, 2011 at 16:10

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