I didn’t really understand the appeal of a tablet until recently. I’ve been an iPhone user for years, and love having email, maps, and apps with me wherever I go. The iPad always seemed like too much of a compromise. I’m not going to process raw files and stitch panoramas on a tablet. That’s a task better left to a laptop. Heck, an 11” MacBook Air has a bigger screen, more computing power and overall flexibility than an iPad, and the 64MB version is only a few hundred dollars more. Yeah, the iPad 2 is a little bit smaller, and just over a pound lighter – but for someone who’s used to hauling around 25 pounds of photo gear, what’s an extra pound? Based on this logic, I put the iPad out of my mind as something I didn’t need.
A Photo Folio iPad Portfolio App
Well, I had a chance to borrow an iPad 2 over the holidays. I use A Photo Folio (APF) as my website provider and last year they updated their photographer’s portfolio app for the iPad. The APF app automatically syncs your entire website to an iPad portfolio. No need to resize anything — just download the APF app and press sync. You can customize the images and layout if you want to, but if your website is dialed, then your iPad portfolio is just as dialed.
APF also includes a nice looking iPad version of my website, but the APF iPad app has bigger images that are already loaded to the iPad — no waiting for images to load, and no internet connection necessary. APF also has another free app that automatically syncs your web galleries to a Facebook fan page.
Once my web galleries were synced to the iPad app, I was blown away by how sharp and detailed everything looked. The 132 ppi screen on the iPad 2 is insane for viewing photos (most computer monitors are between 90-110 ppi). I have rarely seen my images look so consistently good. Only a perfectly executed print with proper lighting does a better job. I’m telling you, my jaw hit the ground after I installed the app and looked at my images.
Get Your Foot in the Door, and Show Them Some Photos
I managed to pick up a used iPad 2 for a good deal. Tucked away in a SwitchEasy Canvas Folio, it’s a pretty small package that’s about the size of a notebook. The iPad actually looks more like a digital photo frame than a laptop. There’s a novel, tactile fun-factor to viewing images on an iPad. Showing people my work is an important part of getting access to interesting locations. The iPad will be a cool way to show people my photos when traveling. Instead of a few 8×10′s in a case, how about an LED backlit interactive touch screen? “The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!”
When I searched for iPad apps for photographers, most of the articles were about photo editing apps like Photogene, Filterstorm, and PhotoForge2. I’m not really that interested in shooting and processing photos with the iPad. However, some of my favorite iPhone apps look great in their iPad versions, especially GoSkyWatch and Google Earth. After using an iPhone for years, the iPad’s email interface and keyboard are a pleasure to use, and the performance is snappy. The iPad version of WordPress is also quite nice.
iPad as a Second Monitor
OK – this feature is crazy cool. You can use a $10 app called Air Display to use your iPad as a wireless second monitor. If you work on a laptop, now you can put your Photoshop palettes on the iPad, and see the image full screen on your laptop. Or if you’re running Lightroom, put grid view on your iPad, and touch the photo on the iPad to see the large version on your laptop or desktop. This Julianne Kost video shows 3 different options for using Lightroom on 2 monitors.
iPad as a Backup Device
I almost bought a Hyperdrive last year for backing up images on short trips where I don’t want to haul a laptop. Because I don’t shoot a huge volume of images, the iPad will be able to occasionally double as a backup device. I got the camera connection kit, but haven’t tested to see if my compact flash card reader will work with the USB adapter for loading photos. The other option is to just plug the camera in directly using USB.
iPad Tethering Options
If you’re shooting tethered with Lightroom, plug the camera into your laptop or desktop, and have the iPad be a wireless second monitor using Air Display. This could be used for a client or art director to review images. There are also tripod mounts for the iPad that allow you to review your own shots on the 9.7″ iPad screen instead of on the back of your camera. You can even fire the camera from the iPad.
If you’re shooting with Capture One software, you can use Capture Pilot to view, rate, and tag images on an iPad. The app is free, but you need the $400 software to make it work. For an extra $15 you can control your camera from the iPad.
The other common iPad tethering option is to use an Eye-Fi SD memory card and a $16 app called ShutterSnitch. This combination wirelessly transmits photos from your camera to the iPad. For cameras with dual card slots, save your RAW files to one memory card, and save jpegs to an Eye-Fi card that sends to your iPad. Unfortunately there is not currently a compact flash Eye-Fi card available.
What are Your Favorite iPad Apps?
Next time you see me, ask to see my iPad portfolio – but don’t blame me if you end up wanting your own! Buying a refurbished iPad is a way to take a little bit of the sting out of the price. If you’re already using another portfolio app on your iPad, let me know which one you’re using and how it’s working out. And if there are any other must have iPad apps (Atari’s Greatest Hits?), I’d definitely like to hear about them!