Aperture 3: Using a unified photo library with iPhoto and Aperture

With Aperture 3.3 or later, you can directly open and work with libraries from iPhoto 9.3 or later.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

The unified library format shared between iPhoto and Aperture offers a number of advantages:

  • There’s no need to import, export, or reprocess photos as you move from one app to the other.
  • If you use Faces, Places, or have created albums, Smart Albums, or shared photos to Facebook or Flickr, these automatically work across both applications.
  • Slideshows you create in one application you can playback in the other. 
  • Because iPhoto and Aperture now share a common imaging system, when you adjust images using any tools in one application, you’ll see the changes when you open the same library in the other application.
  • If you’re new to the tools available in Aperture, you can maintain your photo library in iPhoto and open Aperture only when you want to try your hand at retouching (such as for making selective corrections with brushes and so on). All edits are non-destructive, so you can remove them anytime later if you like.
  • If you’ve collected more than one iPhoto library over the years, you can now open your iPhoto libraries in Aperture and merge them into a consolidated master library. You can then access this consolidated master library in iPhoto. For more information on using Aperture to merge iPhoto libraries, see this article.


Opening an Aperture library in iPhoto

A library can't be open in both iPhoto and Aperture at the same time.

To open an Aperture library in iPhoto, it must have been created by or opened at least once in Aperture 3.3 or later.

  1. Choose File > Switch to Library in iPhoto's main menu.
  2. Use the library selector to navigate to and highlight the Aperture library you wish to open.
  3. Click the Choose button.

Opening an iPhoto library in Aperture

A library can't be open in both iPhoto and Aperture at the same time.

To open an iPhoto library in Aperture, it must have been created by or opened at least once in iPhoto 9.3 or later.

  1. Click the File menu and choose Switch to Library > Other/New.
  2. Use the library selector to navigate to and highlight the iPhoto library you wish to open.
  3. Click the Choose button.

Notes on working with unified libraries in Aperture and iPhoto 

Events, Projects and Albums

  • Projects in Aperture are called Events in iPhoto. Likewise, Events in iPhoto are called Projects in Aperture.
  • Smart albums from each application are visible and fully functional in the other. However, the album settings must be edited with the application in which you created the album. 

Browsing photos

  • Aperture Browser filter queries do not show up in iPhoto. All images are visible in iPhoto.
  • Photos hidden using iPhoto's Hide command cannot be accessed in Aperture. If you open the library in iPhoto, unhide the photos and then open the library in Aperture, the previously hidden photos are accessible.
  • Photos rated as rejected in Aperture are not accessible in iPhoto. If the photo's rating is subsequently raised in Aperture, it will then be accessible in iPhoto.
  • PDF files in Aperture libraries are not visible or accessible in iPhoto.
  • Audio files and audio attachments in Aperture library are not visible or accessible in iPhoto.


  • In Aperture, it is possible to turn off faces on a per-library basis. iPhoto always detects faces, regardless of the Aperture library setting. Aperture maintains faces preference you've set when you open the library in Aperture.

Print Products

  • Books, calendars and cards you create in iPhoto are visible in the Source list in Aperture, but cannot be edited. Books, web pages, and web journals you create in Aperture are not visible in iPhoto.


  • Slideshows you create in Aperture can be played back in iPhoto, but can not be edited there. 
  • Slideshows you create in iPhoto can be edited in Aperture, but once edited there cannot be edited in iPhoto. However, the slideshows will continue to play correctly in either application, regardless of which is used to edit them.

iCloud Photo Sharing

  • If you activate iCloud Photo Sharing for a library in iPhoto and then open it in Aperture, that library is still linked to iCloud Photo Sharing. You can only link one library to iCloud Photo Sharing at a time. If you subsequently open another library and activate iCloud Photo Sharing the previous library is no longer linked.


  • Only the pick image of an Aperture stack is visible in iPhoto. For example, if you have created several stacked versions of a photo in Aperture to try out different adjustments, only the image you have selected as the pick image of the stack will be visible when you open the library in iPhoto. When you return to Aperture, the entire stack will again be accessible.


  • Aperture offers various options to set the size of Previews or whether to use Previews at all. iPhoto always creates full size Previews. When you open an Aperture library in iPhoto, existing Previews are not changed unless you edit an image in iPhoto. If you do, a full size Preview for that image is created.

iLife Media Browser

  • When you use the iLife Media Browser to access the unified photo library from other applications (such as Keynote or iMovie), the icon for the library file appears as the icon for the application that originally created the library.

Learn more

Aperture 3.3: How to use Aperture to merge iPhoto libraries

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