My iPad workflow – some conclusions

Over the last couple of months I have been looking hard at the whole idea of an iPad and iPhone based workflow for the kind of photography that I do. I have tried to find a workflow that is repeatable and adaptable that could replace my tried and tested (and damned good) workflow on a laptop or desktop computer.

I’ve failed.

After trying different iPads and iPhones as well as dozens of apps and an endless combination of those apps I have come to the conclusion that there is no way that an iOS device can replace a computer for the vast bulk of my work. There are several reasons for this but the main one is that iOS was never designed for this kind of heavy lifting and the way that you move files around between apps is still pretty painful and that it is even worse with RAW files. Don’t get me wrong, using a fully-loaded top of the range iPad Pro with decent internet connectivity and a keyboard you get really close to a good workflow but by then you have a device costing at least £1,000.00 (and a lot more if you go for the 12″) which weighs and costs almost as much as an Apple MacBook without the access to rock solid made-for-the-job applications.

Now all of that doesn’t mean that there’s no place in my working life for an iPad workflow. If I’ve got to offload a few Jpeg files quickly on the spot then the small, cheap and very lightweight iPad Mini with a few carefully selected apps can do a great job. My cameras are wifi enabled and the iPad fits into even my smallest Domke J3 camera bag which means that half a dozen images can be sorted an uploaded/emailed pretty quickly. Anything much more than that and it pays to get my ageing MacBook Air out and use that.

So far I’ve been through four stages of my quest on this blog:

  • The introduction to my quest asked questions and promised an answer. Eventually.
  • Part Two of my iPad workflow was an investigation of the various ways to get images from the camera onto the tablet. By the end of it I was still unsure which method(s) provided the best results.
  • Part Three of the series included a video showing how I processed files on the iPad Mini. I still use that same workflow and so that video is still worth watching.
  • Part Four concentrated on distributing the captioned, toned and cropped files to the clients. This will always be changing because new clients have their own requirements and old ones seem to keep changing theirs too.

In this final (for now) section I’m going to quickly go through my preferred Jpeg workflow stage by stage. I’m sure that this will only work for a few of you as it is but I hope that it provides you with a few ideas to incorporate into your own workflow and/or some ideas to reject because they don’t work for you.

  1. Use the wireless functionality built into my cameras to send the files to the FSN Pro app on the iOS device using the FTP option.
  2. Select those files, add IPTC captions from templates (the main description is often pre-written in Apple Notes and copied and pasted).
  3. Export them to specific folders in Files.
  4. Use Adobe Lightroom CC to crop and tone the pictures.
  5. Share pictures to a different folder in Files.
  6. From files I share them using the Transmit app for FTP, the Mail app for email or either Photoshelter, Dropbox or WeTransfer apps for jobs where those are preferable.

It’s a simple process with Jpegs but trying to do this with RAW files is a lot harder and has extra stages that make it unsuitable for what I need it to do. You may have noticed that I have avoided any mention of the Apple Photos app. That’s because it annoys the heck out of me. It keeps renaming files and tries to bring images into the Photos system at every stage. I just don’t want to send files to clients with file names starting img. I go to a lot of trouble to use custom filenames in my cameras and I want to be able to go back and find the matching RAW file without having to compare images. I may have shot a couple of thousand images on a job and only picked out six to send for urgent (social media usually) use and by avoiding the Photos app I save myself a lot of headaches later when I come to do a proper edit away from iOS.

An interesting journey which has increased my understanding of the way that Apple’s iOS works as well as giving me a useful, usable and adaptable workflow for when a few quick Jpeg files are the client’s priority. I mentioned near the beginning of this post that I’d failed and that’s true but in failing to replace my desktop workflow I have added yet another string to the bow and that makes the time and money that I’ve invested in this project well spent.

There’s a good chance that I’ll revisit this if and when some better apps come onto the market or if Apple finally decide to stop their Photos app renaming every file. Until then, enjoy working out whether your own work would benefit from a tablet or phone workflow.