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Using Lightroom With Aperture: A Workflow



I’ve been working on a workflow that makes it easy to send some images to Lightroom to effectively use it as a plug in, and to make it easy to get them back again. Before I get into the meat of how, let me start by answering the obvious question as to why you would want to do this. I know this is herasy to some, but Lightroom has some nice and creative tools for working with Raw images that simply don’t exist in Aperture. Just because you use Aperture doesn’t mean that you should be in denial about other software that exists. Lightroom, in my opinion is not very good at managing lots of files but it does have some really nice features. Its automatic lens correction is excellent. Its grad tool is really handy and it has really nice noise reduction functions. It also has a much better vignette tool than Aperture, and it has a really nice grain effect. While these options might not mean much to you depending on your type of photography, there may be occasions when you want to use them. Personally, I like the creativity the Develop module in Lightroom offers, but I don’t like the application enough to switch full time.

But wait, I hear you say, why would you buy both? While Lightroom is more expensive than Aperture it’s not much more than some of the more expensive plugins, and it offers a great deal of power, so I don’t think it’s too outlandish. I’m sorry if this comes across as pre-emptively defensive, but I’ve seen some loyal Aperture supporters on popular blogs out there get highly offended at even the mention of Lightroom being in any way superior to Aperture, and I know this idea will be treasonous to them. Anyway, I’m not saying that this is for everyone, or that I’m even suggesting you should get both, however If you do have Lightroom then here’s a workflow that you might find useful.

Note: This workflow and the supporting files are provided as is. I make no guarantee as to their operation so use at your own risk.

The Workflow

The workflow is pretty straight forward. It relies on Lightroom’s auto import ability and will use a pair of automator workflows to make the process a bit easier. Once you’ve set everything up you’ll select some images in Aperture and then click on an icon in your dock which will send your images to Lightroom (and even switch to Lightroom for you). Once you’ve made your adjustments in Lightroom you’ll export with a custom preset which will send the files back to Aperture.


1. Finder

Before we start we need to set up a few things. You’ll need to create two folders. I’ve created them on my desktop but you can put them anywhere, however if you do you will need to modify the Automator actions I’m going to give you in a second. The two folders are “To Lightroom” and “To Aperture”

Next download these two automator workflows. I’f you’ve changed the Location of the folders then you will need to modify the “Send to Lightroom” workflow. Open it in Automator and under the section labelled “Export Masters” change the destination to wherever you want your folder to be. Once you’ve done this, make sure you save it as an Application. Then copy the other workflow, “Send to Aperture” to the following folder on your computer:

/Users/yourusername/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Export Actions

Just replace yourusername with your user name! In other words it is the Library folder within your home folder that you want to look in.

Finally move the “Send to Lightroom” action somewhere safe, say your applications folder (or if you have a scripts or actions folder) and once there drag it to your dock and put it beside your Aperture icon (to make things easy to find)

2. Lightroom

Now to Lightroom. We need to turn on Auto Image Import and then set up an export preset. Open Lightroom. From the file menu choose Auto Import > Auto Import Settings.

Tick the check box that says enable auto import and set your watched folder to the “To Lightroom” folder you created earlier. In the move to section choose a destination as to where you want your images to go. If you already have a lightroom library set up this is probably the place to choose. I have a folder set up just for this purpose.

The rest of the settings can be set however you please. Once you’ve finished click ok. You can test that this is working by either dropping an image file in the to Lightroom folder or exporting a master from Aperture straight into this folder. It should import straight into Lightroom. If it’s not working make sure you ticked the check box to enable auto import

Auto Import Settings.jpg

Now you need to set up an export preset.

Select any Image in Lightroom and choose File > Export. It doesn’t matter what file for the moment because we’re only setting up a preset and not actually going to export.

In the export location set your destination to the “To Aperture” folder you created earlier. Leave the file renaming off. You want it to be the same name as the original. Set your file settings as you want. I suggest using tiff and either 16 bit or 8 bit. 16 bit is better if you plan on making further adjustments. I have it set to 8bit currently. Leave the other options all turned off except for “Post Processing”. In the After Export pop up you should see the To Aperture workflow that you downloaded earlier.

Once you’ve done all this click the “Add” button to create a preset and call it “Send To Aperture

That’s it were all set up.

Test It Out

Select a couple of images in Aperture that you want to edit in Lightroom and click the “Send to Lightroom” action that you put in your dock. If everything is working ok this should export your files, switch you to Lightroom, which should automatically import the files you just exported.

If you’re wndering why do this instead of just exporting a master straight from Aperture, it’s because I’ve set the workflow to put the files in the right folder and to switch to Lightroom in one click. You can of course export manually to the “To Lightroom” folder which will have the same effect.

Once you are in Lightroom, develop away to your hearts content. Once you’re done, choose File > Export With Preset > Send to Aperture. This will export your files to the temp folder you created earlier then pop open a dialog box asking you which project to import the images into (select the one you exported from). You’ll also be presented with the option to delete images after import. I think this is a good idea is it will keep your temp folders clean and empty. Note, if you manually manage your files this won’t work. You can however “relocate masters” once you’ve imported them if this is a problem.

Still To Do

This is still a work in progress. There are a few things that I would like to get to work better. For example I haven’t figured out how to tell Aperture t import automatically into the currently selected project. You should be able to do this, but I don’t have it working yet. I’d also like the script to be able to automatically stack the modified images with their lightrom modified pairs but I’m not sure that is possible.

Anyway, I hope this is of use to some people and please let me know how you get on. Also, if you have any suggestions on how to improve this please post it in the comments. Remember once again though, I’m providing the automator actions as a gesture. they work on my system, but I’m providing them as is, so make sure it’s working for you before using this on anything mission critical.


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20 Responses to Using Lightroom With Aperture: A Workflow

  1. Mark J December 21, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi not trying to mess with your workflow, and obviously you own Lightroom, but you know there are better choices for what you want to do than Lightroom, some which even act as plugins for Aperture.

    The collection of products from Niksoftware for instance.

    the biggest benefit of course is you don’t have to manage the same photo through multiple DAM Tools. Everything is managed within Aperture. Anyway, just found this site, and thankful as a new Aperture convert.

    • Thomas Fitzgerald December 26, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

      Like I said, I know this isn’t for everyone. I like the Nik software plug ins, but I wouldn’t characterize them as “better”. Different perhaps. I don’t like dealing with absolute terms when it comes to subjective opinions, and I believe this is a matter of opinion.

      Also, the idea behind this is that you wouldn’t have to deal with two DAM’s as you put it because this pretty much just uses Lightroom for it’s develop module. You could equally use the plug in catapult with Camera Raw but I don’t think camera raw’s interface is as nice to use as Lightroom’s develop module. again, it’s only a suggestion.

  2. Stephen Le Duc January 6, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    I’m a little lost in your directions, please help.

    In Section 1, you tell me where to copy the “Send to Aperture” workflow (which is, I’m assuming, the one really labeled “Import in Aperture”). You mention the destination as /Users/[your user name]/Library/…/Export Actions. Unfortunately, my “Lightroom” folder does not contain this subfolder. Rather it contains these subfolders:

    “Develop Presets”
    “Export Presets”
    “External Editor Presets”
    “Filter Presets”
    “Keyword Sets”
    “Label Sets”
    “Metadata Presets”
    “Smart Collection Templates”

    Please advise. Thank you! =)

  3. Thomas Fitzgerald January 6, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    That’s odd. What version of Lightroom are you using?

    • Stephen Le Duc January 6, 2011 at 10:44 am #

      The latest and greatest: 3.3

      I just installed it fresh on my system about 5 mins ago

      • Thomas Fitzgerald January 6, 2011 at 10:54 am #

        Very strange. Are you definately looking in the right library folder, ie. the one inside your home folder, not the main library inside the root. Here’s a screenshot of mine

        There is a simple work around anyway if that isn’t showing up. Put the workflow anywhere, and then In the export dialog within lightroom you can select it manually using the choose application option that should be in the after export pop up.

        Here’s another screenshot…

        let me know if this works. I’ll change the text of the article too to use the correct file name of the action. duh. that one slipped by me!

  4. Thomas Fitzgerald January 6, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Actually, try just creating the folder either, see if that works ?

    • Stephen Le Duc January 6, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      Actually, you have have exported something once or started the process for the folder to be created.

      So lemme copy that over. Basically, so I’m clear, I’m going to copy over the “Import in Aperture” application from your zip file into the “Export Actions” folder.

      Gotcha! And I now see it under the drop-down. Thanks, again!

  5. Tom September 19, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Nice workflow, but when I tried it out on one of my Aperture images, the size on the image bloated from 11 MB to 64 MB!
    That makes it unusable for me, unfortunately…

  6. Elettra November 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Great job. Thank you.
    I don’t know if i’ve not figure out how to delete duplicates or if it’s not possible but manually…
    I’m editing a book in Aperture where i’ve imported my raw files. Then i export photos to Lightroom for post-processing them.
    At least i re-export the post-processed images to Aperture, with the same names.
    In this way i find in Aperture two versions of the images: the raw file and the post-processed one. How can i overwrite the raw file with the newest one, maybe exploiting the fact that they have the same name?

    Sorry if my English is not perfect…i hope having explain my problem.

    Anyway, thank you so much for this post. It’s very useful for me.

    • Thomas Fitzgerald November 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      There’s no easy way to do it – but you really should keep your raw files.

      • Elettra November 26, 2011 at 10:25 am #

        Well, i want to overwrite them just in Aperture, but i keep the originals in an external folder. I need to use the post-processed images to edit my book…
        Thanks for your reply.

  7. Leffe67 November 25, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    I’m getting all kinds of errors with the automator workflow. Is there an update for Lion?


    • Thomas Fitzgerald November 25, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      There seems to be a problem with Automator and Aperture in Lion. I’m having issues with any automator scripts. I’m looking into it.

      • Leffe67 November 26, 2011 at 1:43 am #

        Nice. I would love to give this a try. Thanks for the response, great website!

  8. pandamata March 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    thanks for this, great idea. I love the file handling in Aperture, but their RAW processing, in particular for portraiture and especially for white balance, is terrible compared to Lightroom. I’ve found myself having to go back and forth between the two for lots of projects, so your workflow should help nicely.

  9. Clinton March 16, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    Thanks for your effort, this is exactly what I needed!
    I had an error but simply had to change the ‘send to lightroom’ script to launch Lightroom 4 and not Lightroom 3 as it was set up for.. thanks again.

  10. emanuele July 16, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    thanks for your guide.
    I am now using lightroom 5 and OSX 10.7.5
    but I cannot find the directory
    “/Users/yourusername/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Export Actions

    Just replace yourusername with your user name! In other words it is the Library folder within your home folder that you want to look in.”

    therfore it does not work the sent to Aperture

    pls advise

  11. Chris September 30, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I would just like to say thank for this Aperture lightroom workflow. I am not a professional anything but self taught in all aspects computers and photography. I followed your instructions changing only i aspect and that was lightroom 5 to 5 on the export permissions. I get on well with Aperture and wanted some of the lightroom features, this works perfect for me. Memory hungry or not I can easily sort that later with a clean up. Thanks for your help


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