Most high-end compact cameras and all D-SLRs will let you shoot RAW and JPEG files at the same time, and there are some good reason for doing this. You might want a JPEG straight away for posting online, for example, or for sending to other people, then use the RAW version for your proper image-editing work.

It’s also instructive to compare both in programs like Aperture and Lightroom, because although the RAW file is technically superior, you may find the JPEG is more accurate or more vibrant because the processing has been optimised by the camera maker according to the strengths or weaknesses of the camera or the particular settings you’ve chosen. RAW files can usually be made better, but the default conversion’s ‘look’ is often worse until you do some work on it.

Note, too, that if you’ve used a Picture Control (Nikon) or Picture Style (Canon), this will be visible in the JPEG but ignored by third-party RAW converters – you’ll have to replicate the style manually.

So shooting RAW+JPEG files is often a good idea – but then you have to decide how you want Aperture or Lightroom to handle them. And these two programs have two different approaches, even though they look the same to start with.

Today I’ll look at how Aperture handles RAW+JPEG pairs, and tomorrow I’ll explain how Lightroom does it. Both programs try to be helpful by combining them into a single entry in the library, but that’s not always what you want, especially if you want to view and edit them individually.

01 Import Folders as Projects

Aperture RAW+JPEG pairs

There are two ways to import photos into Aperture. The one I prefer is the File > Import > Folders as Projects command. I prefer this because I often sort through my images first, and this option preserves the folder structures and names I’ve created.

This dialog displays RAW+JPEG options at the bottom as a pop-up menu. By default, Aperture will import both but combine them as a single image within your library. If you want them to be imported as separate images, you need to select the ‘Both (Separate Images)’ option.

02 Import button

Aperture RAW+JPEG pairs

But if you use the Import button (circled) on the top toolbar, these import options aren’t displayed… unless you know where to look. You need to open the ‘Import Settings’ menu (circled, top right) and choose the ‘RAW+JPEG Pairs’ option…

03 Import options

Aperture RAW+JPEG pairs

This displays an ‘Import’ panel which offers the same options as Step 01. Again, you can choose to have the RAW+JPEG pairs combined as a single image or import them as separate items.