Image Editing on the Ipad 9

What’s the iPad? Well, cynics would say that it’s an oversized iPod Touch. Add in a faster CPU and an HD screen and the cynics are absolutely correct.

And that’s a good thing.

Viewing images on an iPad is a wonderful experience compared to the iPod Touch. Photographs look better presented on it then on a physical print. But with the larger screen real estate and faster processor alongside the multitouch interface, how well does the iPad work as an image editing tool? The answers are: awesome, adequate, and abhorrent. To break it down without the alliteration:

Imaging & Editing Tools
At the time I am writing this article I am primarily shooting digital with an Olympus E-P1 and a variety of lenses, mostly adapted from my rangefinder kit. On the iPad, my primary image editor is Photogene. I also have Camerabag and Filterstorm installed, both of which are more-or-less one step filter apps and don’t have much in the way of editing functionality. Of course, iPhoto comes installed and is an excellent image browser, modeled directly off the OSX version.

The Awesome
Probably the best thing about the iPad with regards to photography is it’s native support for RAW file formats. This doesn’t just mean the ability to browse RAW files in iPhoto, but edit them too. Of course, the same iPhone OS limits as other image formats still apply (see under the abhorrent heading), but it’s still pretty wicked. Thanks to the snappy processor, my 15MB files opened up quickly and editing them was fast, too. The image below was opened from it’s RAW (.ORF) file in CameraBag and a variation of the 1974 filter was applied.

As mentioned toward the beginning of this piece, the screen and touch interface also deserve to be listed under “awesome”, especially when using apps like FilterStorm, which allow you to “paint” on effects using your finger. This more direct experience then using a mouse or tablet isn’t as accurate, but gives you a feeling of being more connected to what you are doing.

The Adequate
When it comes to large sensor RAW files, having 16, 32, or 64GB storage isn’t impressive and I suspect the iPad doesn’t make a good archival tool. However it is more then enough to store a good portfolio on along with a few images to play with. You also have the option of installing the free Dropbox app for a little cloud storage (see RAW file caveat in abhorrent, below) or buying the camera connection kit, which will allow you to utilize SD cards and a limited number of USB storage devices. Either way, you still have to move the source file to your iPad in order to edit it, but once finished you can always move it back to the card/device.

Photogene, as well as other mature image editors available in the iTunes store, provide all the basic functionality you use regularly in Photoshop but not much beyond that. Fast access to curves and the channel mixer is there as are the required filters such as unsharp mask. Really, for quick editing and for only around 5 bucks, I should be putting this under “awesome”.

This was done in 5 minutes using Photogene, and involved the native “Heat” filter, text overlay, and finally a resize for posting here.

The Abhorrent
For me, the worst thing about editing images on the iPad has nothing to do with the available editors and their functionality, but with what seems to be a restriction of the iPhone OS. No matter how large an image is, it can’t be saved larger then 2048px and only as a JPEG. What this means is that I can edit a 12MP (4032px) Olympus RAW file just fine, but when I want to save it I can only do so as a 2048px JPEG image. In addition, images cannot be upsized, only downsized. On the plus side, edited images are always saved as a new image in a “Saved Images” album, so the original image is preserved. What this really means is that the iPad is limited to being a place to model edits before getting to a desktop to do “real work”, edit images meant for presenting digitally via a projector or the iPad display where you would never really need anything greater then 1020px, or edit images for use in social posting or digital publishing as I am doing for this blog article. It is my sincerest hope that this limitation disappears in the v4 release of the OS.

Now on to a couple of minor complaints aimed at specific apps.

Dropbox, RAW file support is built into the operating system. What’s keeping your app from recognizing them as images so that I can move them into iPhoto?

Photogene, take a look at this image fully edited in your almost-brilliant iPad application:

You know what it needs? Take a look at the right side of her face. A DODGE TOOL! While you’re at it, throw in a burn tool, too. Seriously, that’s basic photo-editing 101 stuff.

In conclusion, the foundations are there and there is a huge amount of potential (*cough* Liveview *cough*) so my fingers are crossed for some improvements in future OS updates and until then I’ll just play happily with what’s available so far.

About Brian

Brian Q. Webb is a photography enthusiast from Los Angeles, California who spends most of his time in Taipei, Taiwan. He is especially interested in street photography as well as large format portraiture and pinhole photography. He also likes to shoot lifestyle portraiture and occasionally acts as an agent for foreign newspapers wanting event coverage in Taipei. He was also on the staff of deviantArt and is co-founder of PhotoMalaysia, the largest photography community in that country.

  • david on formosa

    Has the combination of Olympus and Apple converted you to digital?

  • Brian

    To be honest, what converted me to digital was my surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. Being stuck using one hand only (the other being occupied by either a crutch or now a cane) pretty much killed my ability to use my mechanical rangefinders for street photography.

    The Olympus E-P1 is actually perfect for me. It’s small enough that I can carry it on a wristband and use one-handed, yet has a dSLR-sized sensor and controls. Plus I have adapted my favorite RF glass to it. I doubt I’ll get a dSLR as that will introduce the 2-hand issue again.

    Right now the iPad is regulated to “fun toy” status, but has potential. I realized a few moments ago that the OS size restriction is actually the same resolution as the iPhone 3GS camera, so with the 4G rumored to have an 8MP camera that editing limit should go up, although maybe not to the 12MP file sizes that I’m using.

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  • melmok

    hey there Brian,

    SInce you have experience using the Ipad with your camera.

    I want to find out from you, can i shoot and keep my images in the CF card and at the same time view the images from the iPad?

    my boss is thinking of getting an iPad for our mini photo studio.
    intending to replace the macbook air with the iPad for photo viewing before editing it. Editing would be done at our own workstation.

    my normal process is
    -shot-view in the macbook-transfer the files to thumbdrive-edit in my workdesk.


  • Brian

    @melmok This is more camera dependent. You can plug your camera into the iPad via USB (using the CCK) and transfer images, but some cameras (like my e-p1 and e-p2) go into a storage-only mode when a USB is connected while some dSLRs allow a simultaneous “shooting & storage mode” option.

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  • Paolo Polesana

    thank U Brian for your post.

    You wrote it a couple of years ago: what about the restriction i the present iOS 5.1? Do they still apply? Is it still impossible to export High Resolution images from RAW format?

    Thank you very much

  • photojazz

    I mentioned it briefly in an article I posted a few days ago ( but basically it looks like this:

    iPad on on iOS 5: 7.5MP in some apps, 22MP in others.
    iPad 2 on iOS 5: 22MP in all apps except when adding layers. New layers can only be 1600px, so don’t do any edits involving layers.
    iPad 3: unknown, but I’m guessing the same 22MP limit with 2300px on new layers.