Aperture and Lightroom Tip: Reconnecting Referenced Files

Posted Oct. 15th, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

One of the tremendous benefits of using a professional grade photo Digital Asset Management (DAM) program is the ability to keep your original photos on external hard drives. Two of the most popular  DAM programs are Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom. These two options allow you to keep from filling up your computer’s hard drive and makes it simple to move your images from one location to the next. In the DAM world, saving your images to a drive outside the program is known as a Referenced Files setup. If you take your photography seriously this is the only way to go.

When I’m on the road I save all my digital files to external, portable hard drives which currently are the Seagate 1TB Backup Portable Plus drives.  I use Apple’s Aperture and it allows me to select the external hard drive for the main and the backup location all at one time. During the Ingest process I pass the images from the camera card, through my Macbook Pro and out to the two Seagate drives. When I return to the studio, I load the images I’ve shot to larger desktop drives which include the new Drobo 5D and  two G-Tech 8TB Thunderbolt drives. The G-Techs are what I consider my original files, the Drobo 5D holds what I refer to as my backup. That’ the basic setup and now I want to share an Aperture and Lightroom tip that relates to all of the above.

When I return from a shoot I will copy all my images over to both the Drobo and the G-Tech drives. I leave the original images on the Seagate portable drives as well for what I consider my original masters. By moving the images over to the desktop drives I now have to tell Aperture where  the relocated the photos now reside. This is necessary with both Aperture and Lightroom. Basically, I’m moving the files and all computers need to be updated as to where the files went. If I don’t do this then Aperture has no idea where the originals are now located. To warn you it’s not seeing the original Aperture will put a little warning icon in the lower right corner of the thumbnail. Screen shot below to see what it looks like.

Aperture shows a samll thumbnail with an arro pointing to the right in the lower right corner of the thumbnail image. This signifies it is Referenced and Offline.

Aperture shows a samll thumbnail with an arrow in the lower right corner of the thumbnail image. This signifies it is Referenced and Offline.

For those using Adobe’s Lightroom I’ve included a screen shot below that shows a similar situation to what happens in Aperture. Lightroom shows an exclamation mark for an offline image. Both programs need to be shown where the images have been relocated. In Lightroom you just click on the exclamation mark and it will take you to a screen that asks if you want to relocate the originals. Here you have the opportunity to navigate to the external hard drive you moved the image to and reconnect it. Lightroom will also reconnect any other images it finds offline and on the same drive.

Lightroom shows an Exclamation mark in the upper right corner of the thumbnail to signify file is Referenced and Offline.

Lightroom shows an exclamation mark in the upper right corner of the thumbnail to signify file is Referenced and Offline.

Now back to Aperture. One of the frustrations I have with Aperture is an issue I kept seeing where I would reconnect all images that were offline, or I thought I was reconnecting them, only to see more pop up as I scrolled down through the Library of images. After taking with an Apple Aperture expert they informed me that if a file was online at one point, it won’t show as offline unless you scroll down looking at the thumbnails. This prompts the program to reconnect and when the image is no longer online the disconnected Referenced icon shows up. This was driving me nuts since I would do a search for all photos offline through the Aperture search window, selecting them all, then reconnecting them. But if there were images I had not scrolled through it wouldn’t see them as disconnected and I would then spend immense amounts of time reconnecting piece meal as new ones showed up while I was looking through the library. I was pulling my hair out.

Aperture's highly effective and customizable search tool. This is what a DAM program is all about.

Aperture’s highly effective and customizable search tool. This is what a DAM program is all about.

Through my own trial and error, with clues from the Aperture Genius, which he wasn’t unfortunately, I figured out a fail safe answer to find all offline images in one fell swoop. What I now do is Select all images in an entire library. I then go to the Photos Tab at the top of the Aperture window, then navigate down the list to the fourth option from the bottom, “Reprocess Originals”  If the library is large this will take a bit of time, but it forces all the images to reconnect in their current status which will  force the issue to show all images that are truly offline. I then select all the offline images and go to the File Tab, navigate down to the Locate Referenced Files option and go through the process to reconnect. This solved a lot of frustrations and quite frankly Lightroom makes this a much more simple process. On Lightroom if the file is offline, the Exclamation mark shows up whether the images have been scrolled through or not. Chalk one up to Lightroom. Lets hope we see an Aperture improvement on this front in Aperture 4, Aperture X or whatever it may be called.

Hope this helps any others who may have experienced this same problem. Things like this are hard to explain in text form so if you have any questions just let me know.



Add Your Voice!
There are 12 comments on this post…
  1. Sue WolfeOn Oct. 18th, 2013

    Thanks Boss. I need to come up with a new system for the mega files the D800 creates. I have printed your instructions to get me through the process once I have decided what that solution should be. I think the last time I migrated files you sat on the phone with me for over an hour … this will be a lot less painful for you. 🙂

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 18th, 2013

      Grasshopper, where are you keeping our files currently? Are they on your computer or are they on external drives which would mean they are Referenced? I need to do a post on my external drive system. In a nutshell I’m currently saving two copies of all files as well as the originals that are left on the mini, external Seagate 1TB drives. so I have three copies of my images. One set of images are on a G-Tech 8TB Thunderbolt drive. I keep this drive in an off sight location for safety. The other devise I’m loving as much as the G-Tech is the new Drobo 5D. I had some issues with a different Drobo product about a year ago but they have redeemed themselves handsomely with the new Drobo 5D. I was leery to go back to Drobo but they are getting great reviews on the 5D and I would certainly agree with recommending it now that I’ve used it for about a year. If you do go with Drobo make sure you get all the same drives, same manufacture, same speed etc. Sue wakeup!!! I know you fall alsleep when we start discussing tech stuff:) Here’s a link to what I wold recommend. Let me know if you need more info. Happy to help.

    • Sue WolfeOn Oct. 19th, 2013

      Boss: I have 2 externals. One has my LR catalog on it and the other I use as backup when I download everything into LR. Occasionally I copy the LR Photos folder to another external. However, with the D800 files I was beginning to run out of space on my backup so I deleted a couple of years to make room for Ireland, Lisbon and Turkey. (No yelling at me … the world is reading this.) My thought was that if I hadn’t used them by this time … I wasn’t going to. No need to keep the “fuzzies” and I’m pretty sure no one is going to ask me for a copy of something I didn’t feel was worthy to edit. However, my externals are getting full and I want to come up with something a little more robust and “professional.” I checked out the link you sent me. Going to try and figure out my system this fall before I start traveling again. Will you be available for consultation while you are cruising the Antarctic? And yes I glaze over when we start to talk all things tech. That is Freddy’s job!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 20th, 2013

      Sue, When have I ever yelled at you? Never…. I really think the best option for you is the Drobo 5D. It will be most simple to start with and easy to continue adding to as you produce more pictures. I think we will have email in Antarctica but no phone contact. Let me know if you want to get on this before I leave. I’m happy to get you up and running.

    • Sue WolfeOn Oct. 20th, 2013

      I don’t think you have .. but didn’t want you to start. I know for a lot of people deletion would be a big no no … perhaps I was feeling a little guilty as they hit the trash can.
      I probably won’t get my act together before you go. But nice to know you will have email if I need to track you down.
      Have a great time.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 20th, 2013


      Here is a link to the Drobo 5D, the same one I use, configured the exact same way which is 5 drive bays with 4TB drives in each. This would give you 20TB of data storage which would hold you for a very, very, very long time. You could save some money by buying the storage devise sepeartely and then add only 2 or 3 drives, but this setup from B&H Photo is a turn key solution. The way your head to spins when we start disucssing technology, I highly recommend you going with something like this, totally congifgured and ready to run right out of the box. It looks expensive but it’s a fabulous long term investment in your images that you work hard to produce in time and money. I’ve put this together now since I think you should get this going ASAP. Buy it and when it arrives, call me and I’ll help you get it up and running.

    • Sue WolfeOn Oct. 21st, 2013

      Thank you Boss. I’m on it!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 21st, 2013

      Let me know when you get your new Drobo and then give me a call. We’ll get you up and running.

  2. HarveyOn Oct. 17th, 2013

    Thanks Daniel for taking the time to share this post. It was very useful.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 18th, 2013

      My pleasure Harvey. I plan to do more of these little helpful tid bits for both Lightroom and Aperture in the future. My only roadblock is finding the time between travels but we’ll get them in. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Steve AustinOn Oct. 16th, 2013

    Aperture and Lightroom are less than true DAM programs. DAM programs are usually more inclusive of all work related to other things including paperwork: letters, estimates, invoices, cross referanced to other files, forms and databases like a mailing list and/or client list, not only an image file.
    Something like FileMaker Pro (FMP) when properly set-up and used can do all you will ever need but sadly it is not a plug and play program for photographers unless someone out there like Cradoc Foto Software, makers of FotoQuote etc, which is based in FMP would care to put all their programs together with an image catalog in a truley relational format and than some.
    Since Apple owns FMP and Aperture they could do something putting the two together for us or point us to appropriate developers that have modules that can be selected and used together to complete a system.
    I know of at least one stock house that uses FMP for their image catalog and paperwork and a textbook publisher that uses it to organize their Image use and related files and permissions.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 16th, 2013

      Good point Steve. I would love to see some sort of combination of Aperture with File Maker Pro. Cradoc’s Photo Biz is the closest thing but I wish it were able to just connect to each other and let Aperture handle the heavy lifting on the image side. I’ve given up hope to ever see anything that does the job properly, especially now since there are so few professional stock shooters any more. At least ones who care enough about their work to keep track of it, require a reasonable payment and make enough money to justify inputting information properly in to a good program.

Add your voice to this conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In an effort to combat spam, your comment may be held for a brief moderation period.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.