Apple iPad and Photographers

Unless you have been under a very remote rock today (and, of course, if you are a photographer you might have been… ;-) you heard about Apple’s announcement of the iPad, their new tablet computing device. I’m not going to rehash all of the specs, but I have thought a little bit about how this might (and might not) fit into the lives and work of photographers.

I think that one possibility is that many who now may create content (like some of the articles and/or photographs seen on this blog) may find an avenue for publishing in a more book-like format and perhaps even distributing content via the iTunes (or is it iBook?) store. While the big publishers are getting the initial press for porting their collections to electronic versions, if the iTunes store is any guide there will be some great opportunities for small runs of electronic books. In the same way that some musicians and bands now self-produce creative work and then sell it through iTunes (or eMusic and so forth) this may provide a way for photographers to distribute electronic versions of their photography and their related writing. Advice: if this makes sense to you, start working on it now!

The iPad might also be a wonderful way to carry around and share a large portfolio of work. Imagine that you have been asked to show some work to a potential client. She has some specific work in mind. You bring along a traditional portfolio or other method of presenting some work in this area. The conversation diverges to other areas of mutual interest and you realize that you have some additional work that the client might want to see. Imagine that you have a very large collection of your work organized and ready for immediate search and display on the iPad.

If the iPad will allow connections to cameras – and there is some information suggesting that it may – it could also be a very small and lightweight device for backing up memory cards on location, and it might also serve as a usable display device for these images while in the field. I can also imagine the possibility that it or something like it could serve as an attached “external viewfinder” for cameras with live view and similar features. (This is admittedly speculative – I don’t know whether the connectivity of the iPad will allow this yet.  It is also worth recognizing that with a maximum memory of 64GB that the usefulness for external file backup would seem to be a bit limited.)

Finally, photographers (like lots of other folks who travel) may find that the iPad is all the computer they need in order to stay in touch on the road. While a small laptop is great, an even smaller device with greater battery capacity could be better for many of us… as long as we don’t need to have our copy of Photoshop or Lightroom ready to roll. Those don’t work on the iPad as far as I can tell. Along these lines, I’ve been intrigued by the iPhone and the iPod Touch, but I haven’t quite felt compelled to make the purchase because a) I have wanted a larger screen, and b) the cost for cell phone access with the iPhone seems exorbitant to me. The iPad seems to address both of these issues – it has a screen that is big enough for real online access and it can come with (if I understand correctly) a much less expensive form of data-only access to the ATT cell system.

I wasn’t certain how I’d feel about the tablet concept, but after seeing what was actually announced I’m more intrigued by this device, and I’m sure there are other applications of the device for photographers. Other ideas, anyone?

Updates: Over the first few days after the announcement I’ll add to and modify this post rather than spawning a series of iPad posts at this blog – so don’t be surprised to see some editing here after the original post.

  1. I knew I wouldn’t be the only person thinking about this – Right away there was this post at Photofocus.
  2. Michael Reichmann on The Apple iPad: What it Means for Photographers.
  3. D-Day for Tablet Freaks at A Photo Editor.
  4. Will the iPad Save Photography? by Bastian Ehl at Black Star Rising
  5. I see that Greg A. Lato also has a very interesting post on this subject, too.

(And another update in mid-July: I finally gave in and order an iPad. I should arrive by early August or so, at which point I’ll be able to update this post with – wait for it! – actual use reports!)

17 thoughts on “Apple iPad and Photographers”

  1. As a dedicated Mac junkie, I had pre-ordered a 3G iPad. I’ve had it all of ten days now and am really starting to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. First of all there is not a better way to show your your portfolio on the fly than this piece of hardware.Period! I usually carry a small satchel and it fits right in- much easier than my Macbook to have at hand at all times. Second, it can be used for backup storage on a days shoot. Probably not enough storage for a pro-shoot, but for a serious amateur like myself it will work. the images are then easily transferred to iPhoto on your desktop or laptop. If one does not like to use iPhoto there is software available that will allow you to make the transfers to your computer bypassing iPhoto or iTunes. Of course, it’s a great way to preview your shoot in the field.

    However, the iPad even gives you so much more as a television, ereader, a web surfer, and doing email. I’m currently on a long trip and have been using it for all of the above. I have my MacBook with me also, and have used it only for Lightroom, when I get back to where I’m staying.
    The iPad is for real and definitely has a great future ahead of it.

  2. iPad seems not much more than a glorified digital picture frame to me. For other purposes, I can use my Droid or MacBook Pro. It’s just that it has bigger screen than phones and lighter than laptops that makes it potentially interesting… because it’s a portfolio that fits in a briefcase.

    1. Thanks for posting, Ryuji:

      I don’t own one – yet – and I felt a bit like you do before I had my hands on one. The value of the device as a way to carry and present photographs is real, in my view. The images are, obviously, presented much larger than on the iPhone and the form factor and interface of the iPad are both conducive to this use. The first time I saw one (two, actually) was at a meeting of photographers where a group of people simply handed the thing around. Shortly after that another photographer wanted to show some images in the more typical way, on his laptop. After looking at the photographs on the iPad we all now found the experience of viewing them on the laptop to be, believe it or not, quite clunky. And, of course, the iPad also does do some other stuff besides showing photos… :-)

  3. A device that has just started shipping could be one of the answers to the question of importing, storage and viewing of images on the iPad. The device is by AirStash and it is a wireless media server. It uses a web browser and HTML5 to create an interface with which one can view photos, videos or listen to music. This content would be on an SD card of a maximum of 32GB (at least at the present time). The content is not actually imported to the device but remains on the SD card and is accessed through the web browser.
    My Canon 40D uses compact flash cards but my reader is a dual SD compact flash/SD and it is a simple thing to transfer files from the CF to the SD. One could also use a CF to SD adapter in the 40D but I’m not sure how well those work. Anyway, I thought that this was VERY interesting so I thought that I’d share it.

  4. The iPad fills a big void between the smartphone and laptop, combining chic with geek in the best of both worlds.

    I’ve certainly landed clients by showing them my work on my iPhone, but you feel like a dweeb playing with your cell phone, and clients can have a hard time seeing images well, especially if they need reading glasses.

    Laptops are useful and powerful for their size, but they are uninviting and unintuitive to share with a client who may not be as tech savvy as you.

    The iPad, if it worked no differently than an oversized and souped-up iPhone, would still combine the best of both worlds with the speed and display size of a laptop and the drop-dead easy, intuitive interface and stylish presentation of a good touchscreen device.

    Warm, inviting, piques curiosity, inspires adventure…this is exactly the type of platform you want to share your portfolio on. The more time they spend with your port, and the more they enjoy the experience, the bigger the impression you’ll make.

    And that kind of impression can be a game changer in a competitive (or worse, apathetic) market.

  5. As a dedicated Mac user I am in full agreement with G Dan Mitchell’s thoughts about how the iPad and how might fit into the photographers life. I have been anticipating a tablet from Apple for a long time, MAINLY to use as a storage and viewing device in the field. My Macbook Pro is wonderful but it’s not light when you are trekking or even going from airport to airport. And I’m not getting younger at age 63. I recently returned from Southeast Asia (20 days) and came to the conclusion that I really wanted to lighten my load, so I bought a PC (aaahhh!!!) netbook. Actually a white Eee PC and pretty nicely designed for a none Apple product. It is half the weight of my Macbook Pro and works very well windows notwithstanding! (at least the OS is XP)
    That said, It does seem that the new iPad has a USB adapter ( this is on Apple’s website) that allows one to import from a DSLR. At this point I don’t know if there are any editing features bundled into the ipad’s photo app but if there aren’t, it won’t be long before developers hit the market with possibilities. I’m really not so interested in the editing feature because I use Lightroom 2 for most of that work. Which brings me to my next point. Once these photos are imported to iPad (and I sure hope there is RAW support), the question remains – (and I haven’t found an answer yet) how do I export them to my desktop when I get home?
    This has the potential to be a real important device for a serious amateur or professional photographer so I’d be very curious to hear from more of you.

    Thanks for your thoughts, everyone


    1. Thanks for your thoughts Dennis. Again admitting that I’m speculating and extrapolating somewhat wildly, a few thoughts and reactions:

      • The weight and bulk issue is definitely one to think about. I have one of the 13″ MacBook Pro models right now, but I rarely use it to its full capacity. For example, I do almost all Photoshop work on my desktop system. I mostly use the laptop for email, web browsing, social networking and the like.
      • If you can move photos from camera to the iPad, my approach would be to still carry sufficient CF cards to hold all of my photographs without erasing a card and reusing it – cards are cheap. I’d like to have the secondary backup on the iPad. (Now I do this by either transferring files to my laptop or to an external drive attached to the laptop.)
      • It wouldn’t surprise me if someone provides a way to view RAW files pretty soon, if that isn’t actually available when it comes out. Until then, if you anticipate needing to view on the screen or upload unedited jpgs, you could use the RAW + jpg mode on your camera.
      • I haven’t investigated to closely just yet, but so far the information about photographic capabilities of the iPad, especially as to ability to move files between cameras and the device, seems pretty limited. From the Apple site: “And there are lots of ways to import photos: you can sync them from your computer, download them from an email, or import them directly from your camera using the Apple Camera Connection Kit.”


  6. Bill, I don’t know the details yet, but I’m guessing that eBooks in PDF format (?) are perhaps going to be the way to go. I’ll also be interested to see if the publications can also be downloaded to machines other than the iPad. My guess is that they will – the iTunes store certainly allows you to get music and movies onto a variety of devices.

    It will be interesting to see what Brooks Jensen, publisher of Lens Work, has to say about this since he is already big on pdf publication of photographic titles.

  7. I thought of that external viewfinder idea, too. If an iPhone app like DSLR Camera Remote were modified to take advantage of the larger screen of the iPad, it could be pretty useful. I’d also love to see a simplified version of Lightroom that let’s you review RAW images and do basic post-processing and keywording in the field, export results to email and the Web for quick turnaround, and then sync changes with your main LR catalog on a Mac or PC when you get home. If it did that much this could be a reasonable substitute for a laptop on shorter trips.

    1. As I understand it, if an iPhone/Touch app exists now it should work in most cases on the new tablet. The idea of some version of Lightroom running on the pad is also quite intriguing.

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