A Photographer's Thoughts on the iPad Pro
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the iPhone's 10 year anniversary. There's no denying the impact this device had on the technology industry, and the world as we know it. When the iPad was originally introduced, many critics argued that it was just a larger iPhone and that it would go down in history as such. However, with the ten year anniversary of the iPhone, the iPad finally becomes its own. The iPad Pro with iOS 11 seems to finally be the computer many of us were always looking for. I picked up a 10.5" model a few weeks ago, after a long hiatus from iPad ownership, mostly due small variation in screen size between the Plus sized phones and the 9.7" iPads.
When it comes to editing photos, I use my MacBook Pro 75% of the time, with the remaining time spent on my iPhone. I try to force myself to edit on my laptop when possible to ensure consistency with my post-production process. I have a few presents I've created and tuned over the years and even when using the same presents on my mobile phone, the result tends to be a bit different when compared to the result of editing on my computer. This is probably due to the difference in display color profiles, brightness, etc.
One of the reasons why the iPad Pro is such an exciting device is that with the new hardware combined with the extensibility and robustness of iOS 11, it finally feels like it can offer a richer and more fluid photo editing experience compared to a traditional computer. Having the gorgeous 10.5" ProMotion display only inches from your eyes, and being able to edit curves and retouch blemishes with the Apple Pencil is like editing in the future.
Now that it's been a few weeks since the device was launched, many of you may be wondering how close the dream is to reality. In short, it's really damn close. I still think the hardware far outshines the software, but that gap is mostly specific to third party software, as Apple's iOS 11 has made tremendous leaps forward this year. Below are some thoughts about the main workflows and apps that photographers will be interested in working with.
Ever since Apple transitioned from iPhoto/Aperture to Photos a few years ago, I've used it to store and backup all my iOS images along with some curated camera photos, after editing them in Lightroom or elsewhere. My library is close to 50,000 photos, and around 200 GB. With Photos on OS X, I have a few Smart Albums setup for each of my cameras. These albums use camera make and model metadata to filter and show photos taken with a specific camera, so it's easy to see all my photos shot with a Fuji, or with my Canon, etc. One of the downsides of Photos on iOS is that it doesn't support Smart Albums. Thus, these albums show up empty when I view them on my phone. I'm always looking for ways to filter and bubble up photos from specific days, camera, etc. so I'd love to see this come to iOS soon.
VSCO for iOS was the first photo editing application that I began using even before buying my first "real" camera. Over the years, I've moved away from it for a few reasons, one of them being the lack of granularity via curves. I'm a subscriber to their VSCO X membership, which offers some exclusive filters, but I hardly find myself using the app. I find that it takes me too long to use, due the initial presents and settings being too dramatic, forcing me to dial them all back. The end result is great for social media, but I find the image lacking detail when viewing them on a larger screen.
This isn't a photo editing app, but it's still a go-to for me on multiple platforms. Flicker provides 1TB of storage free for all users. I use this as an easy way to store my favorite photos in the cloud, but it also allows me to instantly access these photos from all my devices. I'm sometimes hesitant to dump large amounts of RAW files into Apple Photos since I've had issues in the past with the service syncing RAW files (which I believe has been fixed in iOS 11).
LR mobile is the app that should rule them all, but this is not currently the case. LR has made huge improvements recently, but the app is still lacking some core features of is desktop counterpart, such as user presets and filters. There are some workarounds to access these, such as copy/pasting edits from a synced photo that includes the settings contained in the present, but this isn't ideal and is lackluster. The live histogram and extensive toolset of editing options are welcome though. If Adobe can dedicate some more resources and time to this, it could really convince many folks to edit solely on the iPad.
Priime is the newest kid on the back, with the iPad app just releasing last month. I've been a Priime user on iOS since it was launched and I've been beta testing their new iPad app for a little while now. It's one of the few iOS apps that actually supports full editing of RAW photos, with the other being VSCO (with some of their exclusive filters). I'm not sure how I feel about the app needing a subscription rather than a one-time purchase model, but it's definitely my favorite editing app right now. It uses machine learning and their own algorithms to suggest filters that would best suit your photos, which is awesome. One aspect of the app that can be frustrating is that you can't save any metadata within the app, since it doesn't seem to use its own database. Rather, it overwrites or saves a copy of the photo you're editing. This makes it a bit slow and cumbersome when switching between photos since the OS constantly asks what you want to do with the photo before moving to the next.
I don't think this is the end of this investigation. I'm eager to see how each of these applications progresses over the next few months, with iOS 11 being released in the fall. The iPad has proven to be a great canvas for many of the needs of the photographer; however the applications are still lacking in some regards. Another favorite app that I use regularly on my iPhone is Darkroom; however there isn't currently a version for iPad. Darkroom is great because it offers curves and is non-destructive while also omitting the need to import photos, which leads to a more fluid user experience while also decreasing storage space.
As always, if you enjoy these photos, you can see more on my Instagram.