When I first published this guide in early 2019 the goal was to simplify my post-process photography workflow using the 2018 iPad.
Now, with my newly upgraded 2020 iPad Pro, the hardware has improved and the photo software developers have taken advantage of it. So will I.
An iPad photography workflow has to include everything from importing your images, culling out the ones you don’t want, processing, and then exporting to hard drives, your portfolio or for printing.
Ideally, I want to trust that the iPad can take the place of my laptop as my personal photography developing studio.
The MacBook will be continue to be my main driver but I don’t want to take it with me everywhere I go either. I need the confidence to take my iPad everywhere I go for my next shoot or my next trip.
Now I believe I can.
We can now directly import photos from our memory cards, we have mouse & keyboard support, desktop-class web browsing, a filing system, connect to external displays, access and use external storage, and more.
Working on a tablet feels as comfortable as we do working on a laptop but with added benefits such as better battery life and support for mobile data connections.
Before, it was a challenge to import images into an iPad. We had to first import photos to the native iOS Photos app, then import into our software app of choice and then immediately delete the redundant copies to save space. This was a big hassle that hardly seemed worth the time, but we made do. Now we have access to eternal hard drives and a cloud-based filing system that will allow easier access to images.
Apple Photos has been fine-tuned for performance as well as simple editing and presentation of images.
Overall, the iPad operating system has been reworked to allow us to speed up the workflow and process our images faster.
Adobe’s suite of photography software has taken advantage of these improvements and once again, sets the standard. Coupled with their cloud support,images I take on one device is accessible to all my other devices almost instantly.
Other software developers like Pixelmator Pro, Darkroom and Affinity Photo have native versions on all devices as well for those wanting an alternative to Adobe. All are now professional grade apps for iPad OS.
Before the shoot and during
I don’t ever plan on taking photos with my iPad due to image quality and bulk awkwardness but it is an amazing tool to help plan and organize my photo shoots. Update the amazing camera app Halide may have just changed my mind on this. More on that later.
I’ll have a list of locations I have scouted ahead of time, a shot list of things I want to capture and even a mood board for inspiration. Thanks to the Apple Pencil, I have had clients sign paperwork before and after we worked together and sent the final copies to them right away.
And let’s not forget that music in the background is a great way to keep the energy going during a shoot or while working on the post-process. All possible to Apple’s iPad and software services.
IMPORTING CAMERA PHOTOS ON AN IPAD
When I am traveling or shooting at home, I have my SD card almost full of RAW images. The iPad is a great tool for working with those shots, but they need to get on to the tablet first.
My main method is using the Apple camera SD/USB-C adapter to import the photos directly into the iPad. Another way is to transmit them wirelessly from the camera to the iPad although this is not as smooth or fast as I’d like need. Another dongle connects my images taken with my iPhone to the iPad but with the advantages of a cellular data connection this may be obsolete. Images from my phone are then stored into the Cloud and can be retrieved on the iPad.
The least convenient option is to bring along an external hard drive and connect it to the iPad with a separate USB/USB-C dongle and import the images to the aforementioned Files app.
It doesn’t matter what option we choose, the workflow is simple: plug your SD card in and transfer your images as needed. Then, you can either transport those files to Lightroom or your iCloud Photo Library from the disk by connecting it to your iPad, or you can access them directly from the drive via the Files app for later use. All these options are ideal because you want your photos to be backed up and not lost.
MANAGING AND STORING PHOTOS
With the improved file handling, managing photos on the iPad is no longer as challenging as it once was. No matter what approach you take, your images are organized and managed the same integrity you’d get on the Mac.
I have two approaches to processing my images in the digital darkroom, basic editing with my presets that emulate the look of analog film stock or advanced editing where I am adjusting light, exposure, curves or HSL toning.
With basic editing, the only tool I need is my index finger. In advanced editing I use either a mouse or the Pencil for the finer details.
There are a variety of software apps I use, and each one brings something unique to my desired final images. Because when I want to quickly experiment with different looks, I will use VSCO (Visual Supply Company) or Darkroom.
I’ve been using VSCO for about six years now and enjoy their filters. They’ve been diligent in maintaining the analog film stock filters but it is cumbersome to work with in that you have to individually import your shots to their app to develop them. At one point, I honestly believed and still hold out hope that VSCO will over take Instagram with their beautiful web presence and social engagement.
Darkroom takes the place of Snapseed for my go-to. Don’t get me wrong, Snapseed is a fantastic, free app but it was purchased by Google awhile back and well, I am anti-Google. Darkroom connects seamlessly to the Apple Photos app so I don’t need to import my images each time. Just open and edit. With its own set of filters, it has a ton of editing tools, including curves, HSL, exposure, contrast adjustments, grain, sharpening, and more such as using those those same tools to transform your videos as well.
As good as Darkroom is, when it comes time to edit photos from my camera, I almost always turn to Lightroom. Lightroom’s library is where all my camera photos live, and the editing capabilities are sophisticated and familiar to me after years of use.
When it is time comes to for advanced editing work, I rely on Pixelmator Pro and Lightroom.
Pixelmator Photo is new to me, thanks to one time purchase price and their 50% discount that I took advantage of last week. I was hoping that it would finally allow me to ditch the $120 a year subscription to Adobe but it isn’t there, yet. PP has continued to make improvements and allows me to build up my catalog of film emulsions as well as take advantage of their amazing editing tools powered by Machine Learning.
These ML-based capabilities are compelling because I can use them to color-match from another image and replicate from an inspiring photographer’s image. PP is seamlessly built in to the operating system and can access images directly from the Apple Photos app or Files app.
As good as PP is, when it comes time to editing photos, I almost always turn to Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom’s library is where all my camera photos are stored in catalogs, and is second to no one when it comes to organizing decades worth of my Archives. The editing tools are most familiar to me since version 1 way back in 2007. Now that they have gone to the cloud, I have access to all of these tools and images on every device for immediate access and processing .
All the software applications that I mentioned above support the processing and editing of RAW files, which is crucial to my desire to create large files without losing data integrity.
SAVING AND SHARING
The last step to an all iPad workflow is moving our processed images to their final home wether it be your hard drive, your social media, a client’s inbox or the printing lab.
Here is what I think is missing from an iPad only workflow and where it could do better:
No tethering option for starters. With my camera plugged into my laptop I can immediately transfer images for review and saving and then make adjustments as I shoot. Not possible with iOS yet.
No real way to print directly from iPad to the printer.
Better externally display support. Sidecar, the iOS feature which allows you to use the iPad as a second screen to your Mac is fine, but limited in size and resolution quality.
These limitations are not enough to get me to stop using the iPad for my photo workflow, it just means that in the next few versions of iPad, we’ll see these upgrades soon.
The iPad is a great workspace for editing your photos. It is my personal, mobile photo lab. I can process my images in bed or on a plane or even in between photo shoots when I am out and about.
None of these benefits I have mentioned today were possible a few years ago. I love the advancement of technology, don’t you?
MY DIGITAL DARKROOM
- Capture tools include Canon T6, iPhone, iPad Air, Halide raw camera app, and my collection of analog film cameras.
– Devices uses to post-process images are the MacBook, iPad Air with a 5G unlimited cellular data connection and an SD card reader. Cloud storage, 2 TB external hard drive, and the #2 pencil
– Post-processing labs include Adobe Lightroom, Pixelmator Pro, VSCO, Darkroom
– Portfolio and galleries that host the final images include my website, SmugMug, Flickr and VSCO.