The Hands Off Photo Upload Automation Tips Guide

The Hands Off Photo Upload Automation Tips Guide

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Chris Perez
Nov 14, 2011

If you're like us, you find the task of importing photos a bit of a pain. Take out the memory stick, plug in the USB dongle, find the files, import them into a photo editor, delete the files, etc. It's all been a bit of a chore until we figured out we could automate the whole process with a few tech tools and a piece of affordable wireless hardware helpful to both amateur and pro photographers alike...

A while back, we invested in an Eye-Fi Pro X2 card for our workhorse camera. The memory upgrade gave us a few useful features:

1. Adds GPS location information to our photos (JPEG only)

2. Transfers our photo files wirelessly to our desktop (or mobile device) so we don't have to reach for that awkward-shaped dongle.

3. Manages memory, so we don't have to. This means it deletes files already imported off the memory card when our card reaches a configured capacity (15% for us)

We won't lie, the Eye-Fi Pro X2 has a few quirks, like disconnecting randomly from the USB dongle when we hook it up for updates or configuration. But the hardware+software generally does what its supposed to. So overall, we're quite happy that it eliminates those first few steps of the import process.

How To Further Improve the Upload & Transfer Process:
We then got to thinking there had to be something out there to help us out with the rest of the process. Eye-Fi's own sites links to an Aperture Hot Folder script that imports photos to Aperture as you shoot. But we found it a little clunky in that you have to leave it on your dock, run the program manually, and it's unreliable when you import photos to a folder that's not on your desktop.

We had a little "ah-ha!" moment when we realized we could tap into OS X's own automation script programming tool, Automator, a tool with built-in support for Aperture. Automator is a pretty slick program with an intuitive drag and drop approach to writing a script for your computer. You can choose among several options depending on your need, "Folder Action", "Workflow", "Application", etc.

For these purposes we chose the "Folder Action" option, which setups up your machine to 'watch' a folder. When that folder is modified, Automator is triggered into action. Our Automator was programmed to set into action when any Eye-Fi photos were imported into our specified folder; when new files are detected, each of the new images are then also imported into Aperture without any input on our end.

How to Set Automator to Automatically Detect and Import Eye-Fi Files Into Aperture:

  • Open Automator and select "Folder Action" (watch for new files)
  • Apply timer allow time for Eye-Fi to finish importing photos; we set to 10 minutes (found in Utilities -> Pause)
  • Ask if we are ready to import (Utilities -> Ask for Confirmation)
  • Import RAW/JPEG photos to Aperture (Photos -> Import Photos)>
  • Choose import folder location then check Delete files after import

Done! Now our import process is simplified and automated, thanks to this partnership between Eye-Fi, Automator, and Aperture.

But we wanted to take it even further, so we added a few tweaks.

We like to shoot in RAW, and as stated previously Eye-Fi only supports GPS location info with JPEG files. But if you shoot in RAW+JPEG, you can use a program called ExifTool to take the EXIF GPS data from the JPEGs and append it to the RAW files. Normally, you'd have to run this every time you want to add GPS information. But once again, you can turn to Automator to take this mundane task off your hands.

How To Setup Automator to Embed EXIF GPS Data Into Image Files:

  • Look for RAW files
  • If exist, run ExifTool script
  • Delete old RAW files
  • Import all photos to Aperture

A nice surprise you'll find upon setting up this workflow is the latest Aperture opens up the option to store/share your photos via iCloud Photostream. So not only are all our imported photos imported automatically into Aperture, but now they are automatically synced across our iOS devices as well!

Here's our final workflow in all it's glory:

This setup works for us quite well, but maybe you'll require a few tweaks specific to your own particular workflow. If so, by all means leave a comment and let us know what cool tricks you got up your sleeve, since we're always looking for additional tips and tricks from other Automator users out there!

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