I had first published this guide in early 2019 in an effort to simplify my post-process photography workflow using the 2018 iPad. After decades of desktop and laptop processing, I wondered if the iPad was a solution for me.
Can the iPad replace the laptop for my photography post-process?
So much has changed since then that I have continued the series and decided to write a new post about it. The evolution in gear, software, and process has been a fun process to look back on and wonder how we managed to get anything done at all. But where there is a will, there are many ways. I will cover what my photography workflow looks like, but ultimately, everyone needs to choose what’s right for them. Workflows are personal and modified as needed. This topic seems to be a crowd favorite because each year these posts receive a lot of traffic and attention (thank you!)
A few months after that last post, I upgraded to the 12.9” Apple iPad M1 (5th Gen) and fine-tuned my workflow. Now, I also upgraded the laptop to the 2021 MacBook Pro M1, and it is no slouch. However, the photo workflow is different, limiting and feels almost antiquated. For now, the MacBook is a tool for me to curate my digital photo archives using Adobe Lightroom Classic, and that’s it. Here are some of the ways an iPad is more beneficial to me:
Photography is a hands-on experience, and it is a joy to continue this on the iPad. Much like using your hands to develop your film negatives, so too are your fingers, the keyboard, and the Apple Pencil for finer control. Using a mouse to manipulate images is too impersonal for me now.
Thanks to the iPad and cloud services, there is an easier, more secure way to store images you’ve taken. This allows me to focus more on what I want to do (photography), rather than moving files around. I have 2 TB of iCloud storage waiting to receive my image uploads from either my camera or the iPhone. There is another 20 GB of storage in the Adobe cloud. Current images I am shooting are uploaded, stored and easily accessible on any of my devices.
My data transfer and storage needs to be effortless, to the point I don’t have to think about it. I mentioned the MacBook and my archives previously- that’s the only time I want to think about storage. I do organize images on the hard drive and then migrate them into the Archives stored on the 10 TB external hard drive.
The iPad has been granted a full-time job from me. It is the most powerful, fastest, and more interactive device I own. The ability to handle images in RAW format while asking for more work to do is remarkable to me. Battery life is spectacular, although it has a massive screen. Speaking of that massive screen, nothing makes me happier than reviewing my photos on such a beautiful screen. Much like the analog contact sheets, I can sort through quickly and determine which are the keepers and which get tossed into the digital bin. That M1 chip really knows how to process faster and distribute power evenly.
Sure, the 12.9” iPad is large, and the magic keyboard that it magnetically attaches to adds weight. But it is still smaller and lighter than lugging a laptop with all the dongles, charger and cables around. Something else I am enjoying is the 5G connectivity. The ability to travel, make images, load them up into the cloud instantly is nothing short of brilliant. Want to check the forecast for the next day’s shooting? Care to watch that video tutorial of local street photographers while you travel? Start post-processing your images and have them secured until you get back home? Publish your work while on the go? It is all possible with that iPad.
Hardware & Software
Below is what I minimally use to produce a maximum photography workflow.
- Apple 12.9” iPad Pro (5th gen) – My mobile photo lab.
- Apple Pencil – Precision editing tool
- CharJen Mini stick- A USB-C adapter with SD card port, charging port
- Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro – All in one keyboard & cover
- Apple Photos – Store, review, edit.
- Adobe Lightroom – for photo post-processing, organization
- iCloud – for backup and syncing across devices using Photos app
- Adobe Creative Cloud – for backup and syncing across devices in Lightroom
Extra Tools In The Darkroom
Capture tools include Sony A7III, iPhone, iPad Pro and a collection of analog film cameras. Post-processing labs include Adobe Lightroom, Pixelmator Pro, VSCO and Hipstamatic. Portfolio and galleries that host the final images can be viewed at PhotoDenbow.com and ChrisDenbow.com
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. This makes the iPad the perfect tool for my photography.