Migrating from Apple Aperture to Google Photos

In the middle of 2014, Apple announced they were ceasing further development of Aperture, the company’s professional photo management application I had been using to catalog and post-process my images since 2005.

Aperture continued to work in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and it works more or less under OS X 10.11 El Capitan. All bets are off for OS X 10.12, so I have finally decided to take stock of my options for migrating away from Aperture. I had compiled quite a library of tagged, annotated, and organized images since I started taking digital photographs in 1999 with an Agfa ePhoto 1680, a 1.3 megapixel camera with a swivel lens).

I use iCloud Photo Library, and the majority of images there are from my iPhone camera. I have over 174,000 images in my Aperture Library totaling 1.68TB in size and only a handful of those photos have made it into my iCloud Photo Library. Apple doesn’t offer a storage tier greater than 1TB (I have the 200GB plan), but I don’t think I would sign up even if they did. As much as I like the idea of having all of my images in Photos and accessible from all of my devices, I am concerned about the performance hit of such a large library.

Exporting over 174,000 photos from Aperture took three days.

Last week, I exported all of the images in Aperture to JPEG files, a process that took three days. Last year, I purchased my 2015 Retina 15″ MacBook Pro without the discrete graphics chips expressly because I have had two laptops crap out due to overheating chipsets. The fans were on 24/7 for the entire export time, and the battery was actually discharging very slowly even though the computer was plugged into power. Knock on wood, but I hope I didn’t cause my laptop’s motherboard any permanent harm!

A little over one hundred thousand images remaining to upload.

Right now, I am uploading all of my images to Google Photos. The service offers unlimited storage if the images are downsized to 16MP. That’s a fair tradeoff for me, since I already keep multiple offsite backups of my RAW images. I am also very interested in the automatic tagging of photos, animated GIFs and panoramas that Google Photos offers. I have spent probably months manually adding metadata to my images; I am ready for a machine to do the job for me now. Yes, there are privacy concerns about giving Google access to my photos, but as with the megapixel limit, I am at peace with the tradeoff at the moment.

I did not get around to making each RAW image perfect before exporting a high-resolution JPEG in Aperture; that would have taken forever. I figure if I come across a photo in Google Photos that needs adjusting, I could edit it in Google Photos itself or open the original in Aperture (if it’s still working, otherwise Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), dicker with it, and re-upload it to Google.

I did consider other options before choosing Google Photos, such as SmugMug and Upthere. While the megapixel limit is higher in SmugMug, there is a 5,000 images per gallery limit; I didn’t want to spend the time right now to upload my photos in 5,000 file chunks. I have some friends who work at Upthere, but I haven’t found the time to use the product. Upthere is also a startup in a space where there’s been much consolidation, and I can’t speak to its long-term prospects. While Google’s track record with new products hasn’t been the best, I don’t think Google Photos will go the way of Google Wave or Picasa; I feel reasonably confident that it will be around in some form or another for the next decade.

As far processing and organizing my RAW files moving forward, I am still looking at DAM and RAW processing products. There’s Lightroom, but I have never warmed up to its file organization system. I used to use Capture One, but I am hesitant to plunk down a few hundred dollars and have to upgrade every few years (something I’d have to do with Lightroom too). Knowing me, I’ll probably continue to poke along with Aperture until the software finally dies or until I buy a camera that Aperture doesn’t support. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II is almost 8 years ago, but it still gets the job done. That’s one piece of technology that has lasted the test of time thus far!

17 thoughts on “Migrating from Apple Aperture to Google Photos

  1. So Aperture stored your photos in a proprietary format? That’s a lot of photos you must have needed to export if it took three days!

    Hope Google Photos works out for you and that it does stick around in one form or another for awhile. Coincidentally, a couple days ago Google announced discontinuation of their support for Picasa. This potentially affects me since I have used Picasa desktop software for the last 12 years or so for managing and post-processing my photos. I may start looking for something else that is more touch friendly and supported. At least I’ve been using OneDrive instead of Picasa Web for photo storage so no change needed there.

    1. I shoot in RAW, so Aperture had to post-process and export the images to JPEG.

      1. Carl Follstad

        Adam — reviewing posts on this thread. You posted this 4+ years ago. May I asked if you’ve changed your mind on using Google Photos? I face a similar challenge now that you did in early 2016 and am curious if you’ve revise your decision due to lessons learned or new tools available since then? Thanks.

      2. Still using Google Photos for my photos. It syncs files from my Photos hard drive for those that I take with my DSLR and the Google sync app transfers images from my iCloud Photos Library. Google Photos is still the best for searching files. I also use Amazon Prime Photos to store originals of my DSLR RAW files (no storage limits for Prime customers). You may want to read this article for additional details: https://tow.com/2016/12/31/wireless-photography-canon-5d4/ I am also on the 1TB plan with iCloud (something that added after I wrote the original article).

  2. H.world

    Aperture is discontinued but it still one of the best photo editors out there. It’s simple to use, I like it more than Photoshop element. I recently downloaded free Nik Collection plug-ins from google, it automatically added and be part of my Aperture. With Nik in Aperture, I can do anything like I would in photoshop but many time quicker and easier.

  3. You should check out Luminar. It doesn’t have asset management – YET – but it is coming to the 2018 version later this year.

  4. Hi, Adam. Thanks so much for your great sharing. I’m in the process of migrating my Aperture library too to Google Photos, having decided to simplify with migrating from Apple OS (iMac 2012) to Chromebox. My Aperture library is 580GB (over 70,000 photos), and I’ve been sync(ing) them to Google Drive with setting of moving photos to Google Photos folder, and I chose Original quality. The process has been ongoing for a couple weeks and I only got some 32GB uploaded so far. I wonder what’s happening and would appreciate it greatly if you can shed some light with your experience.
    1. what’d be expecting in the final total size of my 70k photos, I mean from an Aperture Library of some 580GB?
    2. with the option in Google Drive clicked with auto putting photos to Google Photos, do I still need to convert/export all my photos in Aperture to .jpg FIRST? Would Google Drive automatically extract my photos from Aperture library and put them in Jpg?
    3. what format (jpg ??) is Google photos using to save the photos?
    4. I found that Google photos is having a lot of ‘faces’ which I presume it gathered from the Aperture library, how to I set to prevent this happening in Google photos?
    Many thanks for your kind help and advice.

    1. Calvin I wonder if you ever found the solution. I am having the same questions. Eric

  5. Wendy

    Hi All…THANK YOU for sharing in such detail. I’m just about to embark on moving my Aperture Library so that I can update my computer to Catalina. However, I’m curious about the following…

    1. Did your organizational structure (Aperture Projects) remain in place via it’s hierarchy when migrating to Google Photos?
    2. Was there anything to help identify duplicates during import?
    3. I see that free unlimited storage is available for images that are less than 16MP, however, what about VIDEO? Did any of you upload any specific movie extensions?

    Lastly, My current photos library is redundant in google photos…I’m actually not sure what happens if I post in google photos directly…will it post a duplicate back down to my Apple Photos Library?

    THANK YOU for any feedback you are able to provide…and a prayer or two, this feels really daunting!

    1. It’s been nearly 5 years since I’ve completed this migration, so I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can:

      1. Organizational structure DID NOT transfer over to Google, but that’s because I chose to export all photos instead of exporting individual albums. If you did the latter, you could upload them into individual albums you create in Google Photos.

      2. My files all have unique filenames (capture time), so I didn’t really have a problem with duplicate photos.

      3. Google Photos unlimited storage does not cover video, so I didn’t upload those. I didn’t take many video files to begin with, on the other hand. You’ll probably want to make sure those videos are redundantly backed up to multiple hard drives or other cloud based storage providers.

      How are you getting your Google Photos to go into your Apple Photos Library? My current sync process is the other way around. Google Photos syncs from my Apple Photos library.

      I’ve been using Lightroom as my DAM, but I have been testing out the new Photo Mechanic Plus from Camera Bits, which might be something more to my liking.

      Good luck!

  6. Annabel

    Hi Adam, really hoping you can help me please. What is the most efficient way to export a home shot video using my Canon 7D, file size 2.26 GB into Google Photos? I am currently in the slow process of moving all my Aperture libraries and albums into Google Photos. I would really appreciate hearing from you as you are clearly an amazing professional. Thank you in advance!

  7. I would use FFMPEG to reduce the file size of your video before uploading to Google: https://ffmpeg.org/

    1. Annabel Search

      Thank you SOOO much for responding so quickly, I really appreciate it. I don’t know what FFMPEG means, but I’ll check out the link you sent me xx

    2. Annabel Search

      Good morning Adam
      I am undertaking a huge tasking moving approx 450 libraries (20 years worth) out of Aperture on my old MacBook Pro and transferring them into Google Photos. Within some libraries/albums, there are videos and I am unsure of the most efficient way to transfer these without upsetting Aperture. I am feeling overwhelmed by the amount I have to do and that my Aperture could give up any time before I finish the task. Do you have any advice as to how to achieve the moving of the videos because I am concerned if I download FFMPEG, it will put my laptop under more strain which I can’t afford to do. Sorry, this is a difficult one! Also I am transferring individual albums within Libraries to Google Photos which is very time consuming and I’m wondering if there’s a way I can transfer them in bulk, again, without upsetting the laptop. Your advice would be most welcome. Thank you in advance, Annabel, York, UK

      1. In Aperture, you should create a Smart Album that just displays videos. Then, you should export them to a hard drive or SSD. Keep those as your originals. Then, you run ffmpeg using the command “ffmpeg -i PATH_TO_FILE PATH_TO_CONVERTED_FILE.mp4” which will reduce the size of your videos to something more manageable to upload to Google Photos.

        I would export all of your albums to folders on your Mac, then upload to a new album in Google Photos. I don’t know of any bulk uploaders, unfortunately. When I did this a long time ago, I just dragged and dropped photos into Google Photos.

        Keep in mind that Google Photos now charges you for storage (it used to be unlimited).

        Good luck!

  8. Annabel Search

    Many thanks Adam, I’m going to take a look at exporting Albums to folders on my Mac now .. and thank you for your comment about storage charges. I’ve already bought 2TB storage to give me peace of mind but now feel I’ve got a race against time. Do you think it’ll be quicker to export to folders rather than doing what I’m doing at the moment? i.e. copying all images via Control A out of each album and dragging and dropping straight into individually named new albums in Google Photos? I really appreciate your help. Where are you based? Best wishes Annabel

    1. If you are storing your photos in Aperture’s database and not on external disks, you should export your folders first to the hard drive before you upload to Google Photos. That way, you’ll have the images in Aperture’s database, the external 2TB drive, and Google Photos. By dragging and dropping straight to Google Photos, you still have your photos in Aperture’s proprietary database (again, this is the case if you ARE NOT using external images with Aperture).

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