I'm experimenting with aperture, and it seems the preview and thumbs file is 3x (Three Times!!) larger than the actual photos in the album.

Basically, I have a folder with ~ 2.61 GB (~12,000 images) images in it, predominantly jpg files. It is on a network drive. The .aplibrary file is 7.52 GB.

I am importing it in-place, so as to enable other computers on my network to access the files as well, and in an apparently misguided attempt to prevent the local library from taking up too much space.

To clarify, the .aplibrary does not even contain the original images, as the images are imported without moving.

Looking inside the .aplibrary file, ~60% of the size is coming from the AP.thumbnails (4.9 GB) file, which seems strange as there are also thumbnails stored separately (In the /Previews/ folder).

I have changed the preview quality settings to 2 (out of 10) with little effect on the size of the aplibrary file.

This seems so ludicrous that I've actually completely deleted the local library, and re-run the import process several times, with no change. I can only think I'm doing something wrong, but I don't see any settings aside from the above mentioned preview quality which would affect this.

I'm on a mac-mini with a 320 GB HD, and am eventually hoping to import my full library, which is ~280 GB, so this is a serious deal breaker.

Further Info -
I decided to see what would happen if I manually removed the AP.thumbnails file. I opened the .aplibrary package, and simply removed it.
On restarting Aperture, everything seems to still work fine, though the thumbnails do load slightly slower.
This reduces the .aplibrary to 1.49 GB, which is at least smaller then the actual library files, but is still absurdly large.

What the heck is going on?

  • Just off the top, two things: (1) deleting the thumbnails and noticing that they load slower means that it's just regenerating them for each photo you view, and (2) you plan to import 280 GB of photos into Aperture on your 320 GB drive? FWIW, I have 4000 photos, my Thumbnails take up 3.3 GB and my Previews (1440 x 1440, quality 11) take up 2.6 GB. – fideli Nov 7 '10 at 18:02
  • As I said, all the photos are on a network drive. I have ~20TB (!) of networked storage space, all on a copper gigabit network. I am running the import using the "Store files in their current location" option in the import dialog. – Fake Name Nov 8 '10 at 1:10
  • As a comparison, I'm upgrading from picasa, which manages the whole 675,000+ image collection using only 6.75 GB of local storage space. – Fake Name Nov 8 '10 at 5:18

Given your 12,000 images are 2.61 GB in total, they're about 228 kB each — is this right? and is this typical of your entire 280 GB of photos?

By default, Aperture makes previews and thumbnails to speed things up, based on the assumption that your images are quite large (e.g. 2+ MB) and loading + displaying them will take a long time.

For low resolution cameras, Aperture wastes quite a bit of space (relatively speaking)... but you can improve it somewhat...

Disable/shrink previews

If this size is typical of your entire library, you should probably disable the automatic creation of previews since they'll be pretty redundant for 228 kB images:

  • In Aperture Preferences, go to the Previews tab and uncheck the box for automatic generation of previews for new projects
  • In the library, click on Photos (at least in 3.x, in older versions you may need to make a search for all photos?), select all, click "Delete Preview".

If you really want previews, but want them lower quality/size, then change the settings in Preferences and then make sure you select all photos, right click and "Update Preview". You might need to delete them first if it says they're already up to date.

Not much you can do about thumbnails

According to this apple article, Aperture thumbnails are 1024x768 resolution JPGs, and I know of no way of disabling their creation. For low resolution images, this is obviously pretty silly/redundant, since the speed-up will be minimal. Other than complaining to Apple (that "fixed size thumbnails even for low resolution images is stupid"), I'm not sure what you can do here. :(

I have a library of 34,000 photos which has produced 22 GB of thumbnails, an average of 680 kB per thumbnail. For your 12,000 photos 4.9 GB of thumbnails its about 430 kB per thumbnail. This overhead doesn't really bother me, because my 12 megapixel JPG images are 2-5 MB each (and RAWs are more like 20 MB), but for a library of smaller (say 2 to 5 megapixel) images, the thumbnails aren't that much smaller than the masters...

Just a warning, that according to posts like this one, Aperture will slowly regenerate your thumbnails, so while you can delete them to save space, they'll slowly come back.

If you've only tried with your smaller photos from an older camera, and your newer one has bigger files, then you'll see a big improvement in the amount of space "wasted" in thumbnails once you put the larger photos in. 280 GB of 288 kB photos seems unlikely (1.3 million photos?!) so I'm guessing you've got some much larger images in there... in which case it might be okay in the long run...

Should be easy enough to calculate the Aperture thumbnail waste from the total number of images multiplied by about 500 kB per thumb.

  • Ah, oh well. This is actually an archive of predominantly web-sourced content, which explains the small image size. I have two predominant workflows, and this is the one that continually causes problems (Every piece of software I have ever tried has problems with a 600k image library). Dealing with RAW images is actually easier, because I have many fewer of them. – Fake Name Nov 10 '10 at 9:57
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    Hmmm. Is it possible to configure where aperture stores the .aplibrary? I don't see why I can't move the whole thing onto my NAS. It might even be faster (RAID5 FTW). – Fake Name Nov 10 '10 at 9:58
  • Yep, just move the .aplibrary to your NAS and double click on it (: I think there's also a setting in the Aperture preferences to choose the "default" .aplibrary if it doesn't auto detect the moved location. You can also split the library into multiple aperture libraries if there are clear subsets of the library that you'd be using at different times — Aperture can switch between libraries fairly easily. – drfrogsplat Nov 11 '10 at 0:38

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