Today’s Question: Scattered among my JPG files from the iPhone are some AAE files. What are these, and what did I do to create them? Apparently I need some new app to open them, but maybe they’re not worth the trouble.
Tim’s Quick Answer: The “AAE” files accompanying JPEG captures downloaded from your iPhone contain information about adjustments applied to those photos. The presence of one or more of these files indicates you applied adjustments to the images using the Photos app on the iPhone. The adjustments will be retained if you import the photos into the Photos application on your computer, but are ignored by Lightroom.
More Detail: When you apply adjustments to photos using the Photos app on an iPhone, those adjustments are non-destructive. This is similar to the workflow in Lightroom Classic, where the information about the adjustments you apply is stored separate from the actual image files, and the source image is not modified.
When you download photos from an iPhone to your computer, the “AAE” adjustment files are downloaded alongside the source capture. This is similar to the XMP sidecar files you may already be familiar with in the context of Lightroom and Camera Raw. In this case, the AAE files can be interpreted by the Apple Photos application on a Macintosh computer, but are not used by Lightroom Classic.
Therefore, in the context of a workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic, those AAE files are not useful and can effectively be ignored. Of course, if you want to retain the adjustments applied on the iPhone, that means you would need to create a separate copy of the image with the adjustments applied before you download the photos from the iPhone and import them into Lightroom Classic.