X-to-iPad workflow

photosmith

For tethering? Hmmm, not so much…

Since late 2012, I have been attempting various ways of using my iPad Mini with my X-cameras. Ideally I would love to be able to do the following:

  1. Shoot tethered
  2. Import proxy JPEGs
  3. Review, select and tag images
  4. Integrate selections and edits with the full-sized images in my Lightroom catalog
  5. Remotely control my X-camera to test shots in the studio

While I have been able to do all of these things in one way or another, I have not been able to do it seamlessly nor have I continued to attempt some of these things with the current apps available.

photosmith

Which apps work (for me)

By default, the iPad Photos app works because it is the mechanism through which photos are imported. It is possible to avoid using the Photos app, but I haven’t found a way to avoid it completely, so I use it. When I first connect a SD card to the card reader, I import the photos to my iPad with this app. One reason that I do like using it is because the file name remains unchanged when importing this way. That is not the case with some import mechanisms.

I have abandoned tethered shooting with the iPad, for now…

Photosmith works both as a sorting tool on the iPad and as a means to synch the photos I select on the iPad and my Lightroom catalog. I have attempted to use it with the Eye-Fi Mobi SD card to shoot tethered, but found the process too frustrating and slow to continue. Despite the limitations, it’s the only iPad app worth using with Lightroom (not Lightroom Mobile). A very nice feature of Photosmith is that if I shoot RAW+JPEG and import only the JPEG onto the iPad and only the RAW file to LR, the app will still synch my selections based upon file name. Hence the importance of keeping the original file name unchanged, before the synching step.

Eye-Fi Mobi app has been a complete bust, as has using their SD cards. The photos imported this way are renamed (bad, bad, bad) and the SD card is too slow. A complete waste of time and money in my opinion.

Snapseed, on the other hand, is fabulous. If I need to edit any images from a job and I only have my iPad (or iPhone) with me, I know that I can produce excellent files by using this stellar editing app. And, it’s free. There isn’t anything that I have found that is better and more intuitive.

The Fujifilm Camera Remote app feels like a work in progress. Allowing me to remotely control my X-T1, this app gets used a lot for studio tests. I setup lighting using myself, as a model, and my iPad, before having the client walk into the studio. I can also use the app to import via the ad hoc WiFi network, if I don’t want to bother with the card reader. However, the file names are changed, so I only do this if this won’t be an issue. Of course, what I want to have happen with this app is to have it work as a tethering app for the iPad, where I can use my camera normally and image proxies are automatically transferred to the app as I shoot. My hope is that this will be the part of an upgrade to the app by Fujifilm. I’m optimistic.

I include the Flickr iPad app here because I use it for work. The initial landing place for some of my work photography is the government Flickr account. There are a couple of ways for me to get the photos onto the account, but the iPad app is the simplest. It’s hardly perfect and has some serious limitations, but it works well enough.

I had high hopes for the Lightroom Mobile app. Sadly, it has not proven to be useful in it’s current implementation. In short, the attempt to make me use the Creative Cloud by Adobe has turned me off to their mobile app. I found the entire experience of using LR Mobile frustrating. As I can’t imagine that Adobe will change development direction for this app just because I don’t like it, I can not see a way that it will work for me in the future.

How I work

My iPad/photography workflow has changed in the past year. First of all, I have abandoned tethered shooting in studio with the iPad. I do hope and expect that Fujifilm will continue to develop their Camera Remote app to incorporate tethered shooting and it can’t happen soon enough for me. The attempts to use Eye-Fi Mobi SD cards and either the Mobi iPad app or Photosmith were just too frustrating.

However, I am using the iPad more and more on the road for both work and personal projects. Travelling with two X-camera bodies, 3-4 lenses and the iPad mini is fantastic. My camera bag weighs less than half as much as it does with two FF DSLRs, two lenses and the MacBook Pro. And, I’m not losing anything in image quality or shooting experience. By not taking the laptop, I am somewhat limited for catalog integration and image editing. But, the speed of importing, selecting, editing and delivering photos after an event is so much faster with the iPad, that I can live with the other limitations.

Post-events, I transfer photos onto the iPad. After a quick cull in the Photos app (clearly missed or out-of-focus shots), I link to the latest import in the Photosmith app. Here I can mark photos as selects and move the selected photos into a new folder in the Photos app. I find this way of reviewing and selecting images much better and more like LR than what is possible in the Photos app. The Photosmith app also allows me to synch my selected photos on the iPad with the same photos in my desktop Lightroom catalog, when I return to the office.

At this point, I have the photos I want to deliver to Flickr or to my office colleagues. If I need to make any edits, I will do that in Snapseed. A downside to working in Snapseed is that, unlike working in Lightroom, I have to edit each photo separately. Therefore, I only make edits that I absolutely have to make. Snapseed does a fantastic job on the photos I do edit. The last step is to upload to the government Flickr account or to email to our office.

The great thing about this process is that I can do it periodically during the day, if I’m shooting an all-day event, or I can do it while I wait to travel to my next destination. It can take as little as a few minutes, depending upon the number of photos to process. Image quality is more than adequate for the various media outlets that will use the images in print. The iPad mini fits into a smallish pocket in my camera bag, easily accessible when I need to use it. It’s a great way to work.

Upon returning to my office, I will copy the files off of the SD cards into my LR library. At this point, I synch the photos that I selected in Photosmith on the iPad with the new imports to Lightroom. This flags the photos in LR that I selected to upload on the iPad. If need be, I can create new edits of the photos selected and/or work with the RAW files, if I shot RAW+JPEG. Although I can’t edit files in Photosmith, using it for sorting on the iPad and synching with LR later, is a big help in keeping my photo library organized.

Where will this take us?

Currently, the iPad workflow handles most of my traveling jobs and my computer/Lightroom workflow handles studio jobs and high-profile events, where I have the time and need to create top-quality, high-resolution images. To use the iPad workflow, I shoot either both RAW + JPEG or just JPEG. The type of job and lighting conditions will determine which I choose. Having a JPEG option for import means that it will be faster to import, process and edit than if I attempted to do this with a RAW file. And, the JPEGs take up much, much less room than the RAW files. Also, Snapseed won’t save an edited RAW file, so there is no point in trying to use the app on these files.

I’m certain that photography app development will continue and my iPad workflow will evolve. I’m now using it as my primary editing and delivery tool on the road, because of the light weight and convenience. Hopefully, new developments will only improve the experience and deliver some of the still-missing features.

Photos of Andrew captured with the Fujifilm X-T1, fronted with a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens with a Kipon T+S adapter. Each photo shot at f/4 with varying degrees of tilt.

7 Comments

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  1. Hello Don, nice topic. I recently started to use Photogene on my iPad3.
    Don’t have the time to list its features (advanced exposure controls, batch export to many photo sharing services), but maybe you might want to give it a look.

    • Hey Fabio, thanks for the comment. Interesting. Very interesting. I will take a serious look at Photogene.

      So far, I can’t tell if it gives me the type of control of metadata and catalog management I would like. If I wasn’t interested in a integrating my iPad photos into my Lightroom catalog, this looks like a great option. I will need to explore it further…

  2. Hi Don,
    If you replaced your iPad Air with a Surface Pro 3 you wouldn’t have the hassle of using Apps etc. Just a thought.

    • Bart, thanks for the comment. Wow, I’m so far from using a Windows-based piece of hardware, that it’s difficult to formulate a response. But since this is work-related issue and I’m supplying my own iPad mini, I won’t be moving over to Windows. It has taken enough time to get the designers, videographers and myself onto Macs at work. I’m happier in that world and have always been so.

      And given how Apple appears to be backtracking on their absolute control over App development, in order to better compete with Android devices, perhaps the newer versions of the Apps I mention will have the types of features I want. Here’s hoping.

  3. Interesting, I have the Eye Fi X2 Pro card and love it. I shoot tethered all of the time…right into LR…both on the Laptop and into my iPad.

    But…we each have to find what works for us and I can’t stand removing the SD card for any reason.

    • I might give the X2 Pro card a try. I may just wait for Fujifilm to solve my problem. I am really only looking for a way to look at the images large while I’m shooting. I can transfer RAW files to LR later. But, you’re right, we all have to find a way that works for each of us.

      • Don,
        that’s exactly how I use it…to see focus and things that aren’t apparent on a small LCD.

        I shoot (when it’s important) raw + smallest jpg and use the jpg for the “tethering” part because each file takes only about 5 seconds to transfer into LR and then I “tag” the “keepers” and then pull the card and edit the raw file in LR.

        Lately I’ve just been using large jpgs only and tethering.

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