A quick description of my personal work-flow using Apple Aperture 2. One of the great things about Aperture is it's flexibility, also a liability when learning how to use it effectively and efficiently. Aperture's do anything, anywhere, anytime philosophy can also allow you to make a big mess real quick. Here is the front end of my work-flow for every single thing I shoot. The back end is a whole lot different. In the import panel I use the auto stack slider to group the similar versions of the same subject into stacks. Most of the time it is perfect, if it isn't I optimize for fixing it quickly in the image browser right after I import. I use a couple of metadata presets to add things like copyright and credit. I either use an existing metadata preset or quickly make a new one for things like IPTC location information. If I have to I adjust the time zone info. Pretty much all the global metadata info for the import session. I point the import arrow to either an exiting project or a blue folder that a new project will be created in. Then I import.
Immediately after import I fix any stacking issues in the browser using shortcut keys for extract item, stack (make two stacks one), and split stack. I make sure "primary only" is off and then go into full screen mode with the "F" key, turn on "stack mode" with option-t and proceed to do two things only. One make sure my "stack pick" is the best image in the stack using the "Z" key for 100% view and shift-command-space and drag to simultaniously evaluate two very similar images critically without wasting time with the loupe. Hit "Z" again and move on. The second thing I do during this pass is use the "minus" key to reject the total garbage. I know what you are thinking, why not do some keywording here. For me it slows me down at this phase, I also get a much better idea of the keywords that I will need and want while I am going through making my stack picks.
Now back to the browser, here I quickly make a new keyword button setÂ and select all of the images that will get a keyword and just use the new shortcut key. I'll do a quick tip on my keywording philosphy soon if anyone is interested. Just a clarification here, I keyword all of the images not just the stack picks. Most of the time images in a stack get the same keywords. Occasionally a few get an additional keyword or two sort of as notes to self. One thing I don't do is my ratings - yet. This is on purpose after doing ratings and stacking a couple of different ways over the last few years.
The next thing is using the browser to show all the garbage that I rejected. I do a quick run through making sure that I wasn't too itchy with the trigger finger. Then I select all and command-delete them. Gone. At this time I usually move on to do the same thing with another project or go to bed or drink or something. I like to sleep on my stack picks unless I must get them out right the F now. Also part of the reason I don't rate them yet but only half the reason.
So now when I am fresh and rested and had a chance to absorb what I did the night before or whatever, I go through in full screen stack mode again and make sure that the stack picks are my favorites in the stack. This takes very little time and once and a while I make different and usually better decisions. Now I go back to view multiple mode in a filmstrip and viewer arrangement, close all stacks (option-;) and do a couple or ratings passes to end up with my final ratings. Note that only my stack picks are rated now. My rationale for this is simple, your milage may vary. All of my metadata is done, including keywords. Now my ratings are done but only to the stack picks. To understand my rationale you have to also understand I only do adjustments, etc to my stack picks. I always make adjustments and alterations or variations for specific purposes on duplicate versions in the context of an album that is just for that purpose. As an example lets say I make an album called final adjustments where I optimize the image contrast color, etc. In that album the "album pick" or version that shows up at the top of the stack for that album only is a duplicate version of my over all project stack pick. It has the same metadata, and the same rating. Now when every I do a searh in a smart album or the browser or whatever at any level of the hierarchy I only see the stack pick and all of the adjustment variations that I do. I don't see every version that I shot of that image. For me this reduces the visual clutter you may see things differently.
As for creating an album for each variation I feel this part is crucial to stay organized. By doing this your stacks will all look the same at the project level. A stack pick that is rated, and various visual variations of that right behind it with variations made in camera following those without any rating. Each of those rated versions will also have an album that is named for it's purpose within the project like "print", "web", "contrast and color", "black and white", etc. If you really want one of the in camera variations that you shot adjusted etc. fine, just extract it from the stack give it a rating and off you go using the same work-flow system.
That's pretty much the front end of my Aperture workflow. The back end various based on the output, the purpose of the project, as well as other considerations. I am not suggesting that you adopt exactly what I do on the front end just take what you want and customize it to fit your needs. As always questions, comments, and discussion are welcome.