Best way to migrate from Apple Aperture to PhotoLab 5?

Hi, I just purchased DxO PhotoLab 5 and I’d like to move all my photos out of Aperture into PhotoLab. It’s mostly RAW files, and since I’m sure DxO will offer great improvements in RAW processing, I’m ok losing my past edits to my photos, so I really just need to worry about the original files in the Aperture Library, getting them out, and in a place where I can best use them in PhotoLab. What is the best way to get everything out? I am still running Mojave since that was the last version of macOS to support Aperture, and I see that PhotoLab 5 needs at least Catalina, so I assume the steps will be:

  1. Export all original camera files from Aperture
  2. Uninstall Aperture
  3. Upgrade from Mojave to a more recent macOS
  4. Install DxO PhotoLab 5

Should I just export my original files from Aperture into a folder hierarchy of my own chosen structure? Is there any particular structure which would be helpful? Is there anything special I should do to use that hierarchy in PhotoLab 5?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Hello Nate,

did you also do any ratings? Did you use “faces” to find persons? Everything you used intelligent albums (or “faces”) for would not entirely be lost, if you set the keywords for it and export sidecar metadata with it. Although PL doesn’t have any DAM worth talking about, you might end up with an external app which could read the metadata.

Also, if you worked with albums, projects and so on: Apple “Photos” can open Aperture libraries - but at the cost of loosing the original Aperture structures. However, exporting out of “Photos” gives you just a little bit of options how to name the folders you’re exporting the RAW into. I haven’t tried that yet, it’s a complicated process with not enough leeway. And I also don’t want to loose my Aperture library structures, as long as my old iMac is running.

Basically your idea of how to do the change appears correct to me, I just hope you don’t get any unpleasant surprises with other apps when jumping from 10.14 (?? I thought 10.12 was the last version to support Aperture) to 12. Good luck in any case.

PhotoLab does not need any special structure as there is no import of images, it simply goes to your folders as in the Finder.
So what you see with the Finder is what you get in PhotoLab.


I’m a brand new PhotoLab user but earlier this year I went through the process of exporting my Aperture library for use with Capture One with the goal that the results could be used by other apps as well. In other words as little lock in as possible.

I bought this little utility, which was not expensive, and I found it useful. It needs Aperture to be running so I ran it on my Mojave Mac where I still had my Aperture library.

It basically automated an export of all images to a folder structure that matched the Aperture Folder/Project structure (albums possible as well) with various options. It exported all the source images as well as edited versions, which can be tif or jpg depending on star rating. Faces and other options that I can’t remember at the moment became keywords. Metadata transferred to sidecars successfully.

Anyway, you can probably accomplish a similar export manually and there are other tools for sale that do this as well, but this worked well enough for me.


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I didn’t use “faces”, and while I have some intelligent albums, none of them are critical. I thought about bringing things into Photos, but I’d rather not go that direction I think. Sounds like I’ll be ok exporting my RAWs into a folder hierarchy of my choice.

Since PhotoLab 5 doesn’t really have much a DAM, anyone have suggestions on one that would work well on a Mac with PL5, in case I want a more full-featured DAM?

The (for me) main features of Aperture I haven’t found in 4 years of searching. Most DAMs rely on heavy keywording to find pictures. Also, are you willing to spend another 300-400$ on a software-license for a DAM? That would be the costs of Photo Mechanic Plus, just to be able to work with a separate, possibly fast database. Which doesn’t mean it uses intelligent folders/albums like Aperture does. I tried the demo of PM and could not enjoy their concept.

I think it would be wise to prepare your ideas of how you’d like to build your folder hierarchy. What I definitely miss in DxO is an easy way to just browse through all images, no matter in which folder they are. This at least is possible on Capture One, but finding out which image is used in which album or project - impossible over there. Which makes no difference to DxO, the impossibilities start earlier here.

Edit: I only can agree on your hesitation against “Photos”. Cluttered and ugly and even with the additional plug-in “RAW-Power” (from Aperture’s dev) horrible to use. iPhoto was better for that purpose although copying the original to do edits on the copy also is not the brightest way to edit photos.

That’s cool, @flyingout I might give that one a try, too. Thank you for the tip. Capture One can (or could) import Aperture libraries, too, but with rather “so-so” results. I never felt “locked in” with Aperture btw. at least not as I now feel “locked out” by all remaining RAW-converters shortcomings or the need of a second, third, fourth stand-alone app just to be able to organize an image lib.

I haven’t done any Aperture exports for a while, but as far as I remember, the Aperture library has a very similar structure as today’s Photos library. What I propose is fairly rough, but has served a few times when friends wanted to get the image files out of the dark…

Aperture library usually resides in your Pictures folder.

  • ctrl-click on the Aperture library icon and select “show packet content”
  • find the “originals” folder (might be called “masters” too)
  • If your drive is big enough: copy that folder to your Pictures folder (wait until finished)

This new copy should contain all your unaltered original files in a structure, that was built by Aperture and that might be too complicated for everyday use. You can use the new copy with spotlight to find image files and sort them in whatever order suits you.

Again, this way might look like a last resort, so try the other proposals first and make sure you have a backup copy in case that something should go wrong.

Well, I first should clean up some of the mess I produced during ten years Aperture, like unifying some of my few keywords, check the “faces” for duplicates and find out what “apertureexporter” is going to do with images residing in various albums. If BluePill did a good job, it’s okay to pay their effort.

The commercial DAMs I’ve been looking at are only $129-$229, specifically Photo Supreme and Photo Mechanic Plus:

And there are also a couple of free DAMs that look pretty capable as well:

Anyone have experience with these?

Tested PhotoMechanic (not PM Plus) and found it quite useful. I’ll stick to Lightroom Classic though.

Adobe Bridge might be worth trying. DxO strives towards interoperability with Adobe’s metadata.

I have tested

  • PM plus…didn’t like the interface and so
  • IMatch (not the just released 2021 version)…Too extensive and too complex for my requirements
  • Digikam…could not find how to import my hierarchical keyword list from LR

Like Platypus I’m still on LR, but did not invest a lot of time.
When I feel like testing again I will just look and try again

And at the moment a new DAM must be available for Win and Mac…so the list will become smaller

As I mentioned I did buy and use PM but so far only for ingesting, browsing, and editing metadata. It took me a while to fit it in (mainly because it won’t play nice with Capture One sidecars and it doesn’t show EXIF data as well as I would like).

It is a powerful tool, though it’s geared more toward pros who need to ingest and cull large photo shoots quickly and move on. That’s not me. Useful nonetheless.

I’d be very interested to hear from Aperture users who test the PM+ catalog features as a replacement. I have a feeling I will go there eventually.

I also use XnView but at the moment it’s primarily for quickly looking at its exiftool panel to see all metadata in one place. The “E” shortcut in PM jumps me to the image in XnView. Otherwise it’s not as polished or capable as PM, in my opinion.

Images in albums (smart and normal) become copies in extra folders, if I remember correctly. Probably not what you want. I didn’t anyway. But I didn’t care much about my few normal albums and smart albums were search shortcuts that were better replaced in the new tools.

Yeah, I didn’t test the transfer features of any of the tools. I kinda separated the exporting job from the selection of replacement tools.

The main lock-in for me was that I didn’t organize my images externally in a way that could be used by any other tool. Aperture did it all quite well.

By the way, the main problem I had with Aperture Exporter was that there were a number of images (mainly PNGs that came from other people and some TIF scans) that Aperture itself could not export. Aperture Exporter couldn’t deal with the errors and would just stop. Not a huge issue but I had to clean them up (fix or remove) in order to get the export completed.

I didn’t use the faces feature much either until I started cleaning up the library in preparation for export. Probably not worth the effort at that point but I do have the names as keywords now.

The thing about exporting smart albums (which I did rely on a lot) and normal albums is that they were going to create duplicate source photos as a result. Not good. Better just to start over with whatever smart search and organization features the new tools have.

So yes, exporting to a folder structure to match whatever organization worked within Aperture has worked well enough. My source files had been organized by camera and date on disk but year and project/trip internally.

As far as DAM is concerned, yes, the hardest part. I went with Capture One and Photo Mechanic (not Plus yet). I had planned to give Lightroom another try (last tested way back when I first bought Aperture) but Capture One turned out to be close enough for DAM, workflow, and customization (shortcuts, tool organization, etc.) for me. I may go with PM+ at some point but I wasn’t impressed with the first version that I tested only very briefly.

The biggest pain point now is keeping metadata in sync. Capture One only writes to sidecars. PM never touches sidecars for jpgs, tifs, etc. I’m just now starting to test PhotoLab but it seems to sync fairly well with PM.

Good luck

I’d try to manage IPTC metadata and keywords in one app and let the other apps read only. Here’s why: Not all IPTC fields are handled in all apps. There is some overlap, but a few fields of app X might not show up in app Y and field names can vary too. PM seemed to be the most comprehensive IPTC metadata handler when I tested it a few months ago.

Yes, that’s the plan. But a few fields such as star rating, keywords, description, and somewhere to describe the edits, often change as I work on an image so I’d much prefer to be able to update them from those apps as I work. Plus it’s just too easy to forget and make changes in the wrong place.

I do have some scripts to transfer metadata. And RAW files are no problem; I just have to keep in mind to deal with jpg/tif files differently depending on where I am.


IPTC and EXIF are (apparently) rather flexible standards. Also, some apps are cooking their own menu with additional metadata like ratings, colour tagging, rejected images and so on. As long as I was happily using one App to host all RAWs and some JPGs for the early days I had no comparison like today. Mostly I miss to be able to do whatever I want with an image, no matter if I’m working on it in it’s file structure, it’s album, intelligent albums, slide show. Or add keywords, or add GPS data or correct the wrong timezone or camera times from different bodies.

Today I need to know more about metadata features which work in all apps. I already spent some time to organize my old DAM. To re-organize the images from that era would be good, I just know a few things which would no longer work. So, a lot of time for re-organisation but the result will be worse – not exactly the best motivation to start. Therefore I postponed if for the holidays.

I know for sure, PL5 will not become the home of my old Aperture content, neither Capture One which is unable to find albums or which picture from a given catalog is in which album in that catalog. I had some unrealistic expectations for Excire. Keywords are not my way, I still do it the way I used to with films. And back then a maximum of 36-40 negatives resulted in one or lines of content in a TOC, and a contact sheet.