What are managed images and referenced images?

Aperture lets you choose how you organize your photos on disk. You can store your photos in the Aperture library, or you can import photos by simply linking to the image files in their current locations, without placing them in the library.

Images whose originals are stored in the Aperture library are called managed images. Managed images are always accessible and are easily backed up to vaults, to name just two benefits.

Imported photos whose originals haven’t been placed in the library are called referenced images. Using referenced images provides a number of substantial benefits to your photography workflow. For example, you can incorporate your existing portfolio of photos into Aperture without changing the current location of the files. Importing images by reference does not result in a duplication of your image files in the Aperture library, thus saving hard disk space. You can also connect and disconnect hard disks holding your referenced images’ originals as you need them. This allows you to keep originals for less-used photos offline or to make specific types of photos available for editing or adjustments as needed. Using referenced images lets you build a flexible image management system customized to your work style.

You specify whether a photo will be a managed image or a referenced image when you import it. When importing photos, you can:

  • Specify that originals be stored in the Aperture library.

  • Import photos as referenced images, so that their originals remain in their current locations.

  • Move or copy image files to a new location. For example, you might decide to have a certain group of referenced image files, such as photos from 2011, placed in one hard disk location, and another group, such as photos from 2012, placed in a different hard disk location.

You can work with referenced images—creating versions, making adjustments, cropping, and adding metadata—just as you can with managed images. Versions that you create from a referenced image are stored in the library. To make adjustments to a version from a referenced image, the referenced image’s original must be available on your hard disk or other storage device. For example, if you delete a referenced image’s original in the Finder, Aperture no longer has access to the original and so no longer allows you to change your versions or create new ones.

To help you identify referenced images, Aperture marks them with a badge overlay that you can display or hide. When a referenced image’s original is missing or offline, its badge changes to show that the image is not accessible. For example, if you disconnect a hard disk that holds originals for many referenced images, Aperture automatically marks the referenced images in the Browser and Viewer as offline. If you reconnect the hard disk or other storage device later, Aperture accesses the originals automatically and you can work with and change their versions again.

You can also relocate originals, moving them out of the library or moving referenced originals to different hard disk locations. If needed, you can also move referenced originals into the Aperture library by choosing the Consolidate Originals command in the File menu.

You can search for photos based on whether they are managed images, referenced images, or online or offline images. Aperture also provides robust file management tools that let you quickly determine which images are offline and easily reconnect images that have been moved to different volumes.