Aperture 3 RAW+JPEG Workflow

A couple of readers sent me some email regarding RAW+JPEG work-flow questions. Most of them were very specific to their particular needs so I won't go into the gory details of my replies to them. Too boring. I will publish some additional thoughts here and there as time permits because what I consider an obvious work-flow is not so obvious to a lot of Aperture users out there. That and the RAW+JPEG option is something that a lot of people haven't explored that much.

I never shoot RAW only, never have and probably never will. I used to shoot JPEG only but not any more. The only reason that I used to shoot JPEG only is when memory cards were small and expensive. Now that I am no longer constrained in any meaningful way RAW+JPEG seems to me as the only way to go. I guess my first digital camera (Nikon D2H) supported RAW+JPEG so well and so fast I never really thought about shooting just RAW. I have never been mired down in any kind of RAW vs JPEG debates and never even saw the point of that debate since I could have both all the time. Having said that, I do use the JPEG files most of the time unless there is a real need to use the RAW files from a quality, correction, or manipulation standpoint. I am really not into screwing with every single frame I shoot. Especially if I like the out of camera JPEGs.

My last post was how time saving RAW+JPEG shooting and importing during the initial stages of an Aperture 3 work-flow and then using the option to import matching RAW files for only the images that you really want the RAW files. I will post something on the 17,000 ways to use that next week. For now I wanted to point out an obvious use of Aperture 3 and RAW+JPEG shooting when your camera doesn't have RAW support in Aperture 3 (yet). What I am about to explain isn't a "normal" work0-flow but it is workable for a while.

Consider this - Aperture 3 will import RAW+JPEG pairs even if the RAW file format is not supported. Yep - this is the case with my Panasoic LX5. For me I don't really care because this is what I do as a matter of habit:

  1. Shoot RAW+JPEG
  2. Import JPEG only
  3. Go through and reject images that I don't want.
  4. Either import RAW for everything that is not rejected or use a selection for things I want the RAW files for using the import matching RAW functions.
  5. Using this work-flow, the JPEG is the master that is active by default.
  6. If the camera is not yet supported, I just use "show in finder" via the context menu to have direct access to the RAW master that I am interested in.
  7. From that point I use open with... in the finder to use whatever RAW decode I wish.

The only extra step is really importing the finished product into Aperture right next to the other masters. No big deal. This kind of thing even works for managed libraries. You just have to do a "relocate masters…" for the image you are interested in. When you are done just use "consolidate masters…" to put the masters back. Obviously this is not fantastic if you are in the habit of screwing with every RAW but that is workable as well, remember Aperture 3 will do everything I just said on any selection of images.

You might be asking "why  bother" if Aperture doesn't support the RAW files yet. Well, I can do the entire front end of my work-flow from import, reject, rate, metadata, organize, file the masters, create directories based on project automatically, etc, et, the whole nine yards, then bring the RAW in using Aperture 3. This is so fast it's crazy and far easier than using finder or something that works like finder to do it. So… it's a little tiny bit slower (as in one step) when I have to monkey with my RAW files - so what?

Try it - if you have any questions just ask.


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