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.

My iPhone & not taking pictures with it

iphone_grabThere’s no getting away from two facts:

1. I am a fan of almost everything Apple for the work that I do and the way that I do it.

2. I rely on my two and a bit year old iPhone 5S for quite a lot of things when I’m out on assignments.

The speed of the 4G network and the brilliant array of apps available for all smartphones has changed the way that I do some of my jobs quite a lot in the last few years. Recently I wrote about getting pictures away quickly  and I have also written about the workflow that I use with some of the phone apps and you can see from a current grab of one of the app pages on my phone I have quite a few ways to do similar things.

I’d like to talk in this blog about some of many of the ‘un-sung heroes’ of my mobile life – at least one of which is a very new and a very, very welcome addition to the set up.

The backbone of my mobile image acquisition and transmission system is formed of the Eye-Fi and Photogene apps which have been covered at length before but you can also see plenty of other work related apps on this single screen.

The newcomer (bottom right) is ColorTRUE – an app from X-Rite that allows you to colour calibrate your mobile phone or tablet screen if you have a suitable X-Rite monitor calibration device. Sadly, iOS doesn’t have system-wide colour management (yet?) but it is possible to view your images in the ColorTRUE gallery and see very accurate renditions. They have a partner program to allow other app developers to take advantage of this big leap forward and I hope that others will take advantage of this soon – I’ve just written to the makers of Photogene to ask them very nicely if they would get involved in this very useful scheme.

The screen grab below shows what the app looks like in action


Also on the home screen is Easy Release which is a brilliant way to get model releases signed on-the-fly that I’ve been using for a few years. Lenstag is a way of recording and verifying ownership of equipment, Transmit is a fully functioning FTP upload app and the mobile version of WeTransfer is incredibly useful for sending big batches to some clients.

My phone has a couple of dozen apps that are photography and business related apps but last, and by no means least, comes the Dropbox app. I have lost count of the number of times I have been able to send links to clients for images and folders of images that I have stored in the cloud using Dropbox Pro whilst I am literally in the middle of shooting and nowhere near a computer. The Dropbox app is excellent and it really does make having all of my edits stored on Dropbox a great idea. Two minutes or less after opening the app the client has access to their files no matter where I am. So simple and so clever.

I do also use my iPhone for making and receiving phone calls but its use as a portable digital hub for my business has made being out of the office a pleasure.

Experimenting with EyeEm

©Neil Turner, June 2013. Fisherman's Walk, Bournemouth.

©Neil Turner, June 2013. Fisherman’s Walk, Bournemouth.

A lot of photographers have been playing around with various image sharing sites. Most are doing it because it’s fun and others because they have been told that it’s a great way to get noticed by new audiences and to be seen by clients as “up-to-date”. I simply wanted to ‘have a go’. Get with the fun. A lot of photographers that I like and respect have been uploading some lovely work using EyeEm over the last few weeks and, although I’ll never beat them, I thought that I’d join them.

I missed out on Instagram and I have publicly parted company with Flickr. I’ve used Moby to share a few images in Twitter and of course TwitPic has seen a few of my pictures too.

A couple of weeks ago I set myself the challenge of uploading a few pictures to the EyeEm sharing site to see what happened. The experiment isn’t over – far from it but I am starting to find it a bit limiting and I’m starting to worry that the lens of the camera on my iPhone is showing it’s 3 years and 4 months age.

Anyway, if you are on EyeEm please let me know and please think about following my experiment. I promise not to bombard you with art – even if I’m tempted! Most of the images have nothing to do with the kind of professional work that I do and a surprising number so far have been shot around my home town of Bournemouth.

The picture that you can see above is about the most extreme treatment that I’ve given any of my pictures to date. For the geeks amongst you it was processed (contrast, sharpening and cropping) in Adobe Photoshop Express on an iPhone and then given the moody treatment and distressed border in the EyeEm app on the phone.

Fun picture: bird house to let

©Neil Turner. February 2012, Bournemouth

Completely staged photo opportunity this morning in Bournemouth…