Why Photographers Should Upgrade Their iPads 3

I’m going to start with a preemptive “No, not because the iPad 2 has a camera.” because, let’s face it, the camera in the iPad is crap. You’re better off using the camera in your phone in a pinch if just for awkward hold-ability reasons. And I guess I should also clearly state that it’s not because the screen is better. The iPad 2 retains the same 720p resolution display with ‘magical’ oliophobic coating that ‘magically’ exaggerates finger marks. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin at the beginning.

What the Original iPad Did for Photographers

Prior to the iPad’s introduction last spring it was ridiculed for not having a specific use case. However, after seeing how their images glowed on the bright 9.7″ screen, photographers quickly grasped on to it as a portfolio device. There are even apps for those photographers high-end enough to afford to send new iPads as portfolios to prospective clients. Over time image-editing apps entered the AppStore, first with very simple functionality, such as cropping, or with cheesy Hipstamatic-like filters. These have evolved over the last year-and-a-half to rival many mainstream desktop image editing applications. Applying edits, enhancements, and filters with one’s fingertips “directly” onto an image works pretty well. With the Camera Connection Kit, a more natural touch interface, and an always-connected platform, the iPad is actually preferable by many photographers looking to do quick edits and posting to their website, Flickr, etc.. 


Unfortunately, hardware and OS limits hinder the iPad’s use as a serious image-editing tool. iOS has changed somewhat making things a little better. The maximum image save resolution in iOS 5 is now 12MP, up from 7.5MP in previous versions of the operating system. But, the OS is still limited by the hardware. This is where the biggest improvements of the iPad 2 come in.


iPad 2 as a Serious Photographic Tool
The biggest hindrance with regard to large image editing on the first iPad and the source of many an app crash is the measly 256MB of RAM. Yep, that’s less than even the cheapest Android phone has nowadays. This is offset a little by some dedicated graphics hardware, but in the end doesn’t leave a lot of space to open and manipulate large images in. The iPad 2 not only doubles the size of this ‘memory playground’ but has even better hardware graphics acceleration (Apple claims the GPU is 9x faster). This translates to not only faster rendering of image edits but into that nasty 7.5MP (iOS 4)/12MP (iOS 5) limit being raised to 22MP. Considering that and some of the more advanced image editing apps available, I believe that the iPad 2 has arrived as a valid, viable professional photographers tool. Even with that crappy camera.

Did I Say ‘Tool’? I Mean ‘Swiss Army Knife’!

There are some excellent image editing apps in the AppStore and I will get into those in some detail in future articles. I want to end this article with a list of apps that make the iPad even more useful to the photographer then just a photo-editing platform. All of these apps can be used on both the iPad and iPad 2. They’ll just work faster and force-close less often on the latter. :-)


Easy Release – This is a must-have app for any photographer wanting to sell their images commercially. It creates propery and model releases of many different types and in many different languages. The subject can sign the release right on the iPad and the completed document is then stored and available for access at any time. In addition, the completed form can be saved as a PDF and emailed to the subject directly from the app.


Strobox – This one is a little bit of a cheat. It’s actually an iPhone app, but it upscales well enough to fit the iPad screen. Strobox is something that should be on every studio photographer’s iPad. Basically, it allows you to visually plan out subject and lighting placements.

I hope these guys are working on an iPad version.
Softbox Pro – need lighting on the go? This app turns your iPad into a softbox, including customizable grids, shapes, and colors (a-la gels). It’s cheap (sometimes on sale for free) and easier to fit in your bag then a lighting kit. Of course, even with the brightness on your iPad turned all the way up it comes no where near the brightness of an actual flash and you’ll need someone to hold the iPad close to your subject, but it’s still pretty nifty.




Foliobook – Of all the ‘iPad-as-portfolio’ apps, this one is is the most mature. You can create simple, linear slideshows or more advanced, menu-driven presentations. It also locks your client out of the rest of the iPad, something typically overlooked in other slideshow apps.




Photosmith – Do you like Adobe Lightroom? This is Lightroom on your iPad. That’s not hyperbole. It takes images imported into the iPad via the Camera Connection Kit and allows you to tag them, rate them, keyword them, create collections, and edit their metadata. Through a Lightroom plugin, the next time you’re on your wifi network, you can synch/export all the images (RAW & JPEG) and their data to the copy of Lightroom running on your workstation.

That’s all you need to plan, edit, display, deliver, and archive your photography. And play Angry Birds. What’s the point in the space and weight of a notebook computer, especially with the hardware improvements in the iPad 2.

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.