We took a family trip down to Durango, Colorado, for Christmas. Instead of packing a suitcase full of photography and computer gear, I wanted to experiment with taking only what was necessary…the minimalist approach to packing and saving my aging back. So I left the 40-pound laptop at home, along with the other gear I knew I wouldn’t need, and instead packed my camera, a few lenses, and my iPad to see to what level I could take and post process images without using my normal workflow of Lightroom on a huge, heavy laptop.
Equipment and Software
- Nikon D7000, 50mm f/1.8, 70-300mm f/4-5.6, 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6
- iPad (3rd Generation)
- Apple Camera Kit (SD Card Reader)
- Software: iPhoto; Snapseed; Photogene for iPad; Adobe Photoshop Touch
Importing The Images
The D7000 has two SD camera slots, and I typically shoot RAW to one card, and a JPEG to the second card. I expected that the iPad would only be able to use the JPEG files, but the iPad recognized the Nikon NEF format, and I was able to import the RAW images. With the card reader in the iPad, I simply inserted my SD card with the RAW images, the iPad image import dialog came up and prompted me to select which images I wanted to import.
I did not test it, but you can also use the other USB adapter that comes with the Camera Kit to plug your camera in via a USB cable to import the images, which would be handy if you are using a camera with an CompactFlash or other type of media.
Depending on how much space is left on your iPad, you may not want to import all the images, especially when your SD card might be larger than the capacity of your iPad. I suggest importing only the ones you want to edit or to work in batches. Process just what you need on the iPad, and save the rest for when you get back to home base.
Editing The Images
Once on the iPad, all the different photo editors that I tried were also able to pull up and edit the RAW file, as well. None of them, however, seemed to be able to access the images while still on the SD card, which would have been a great way to conserve space…maybe in a future release.
Ideally, a mobile version of Lightroom would exist, but unfortunately the only Lightroom application in the App Store are tutorials, not editing software. So instead, I looked around for the best candidates that would allow me to do more than just the basic editing that the native camera app provides. To do this, I started with the image below.
My test image was underexposed, which forced me to adjust the exposure, as well as test the noise reduction necessary to handle an image at a higher ISO, in addition to some of the normal edits I would have done in Lightroom, include white balance, contrast, and sharpening.
There are a lot photo editing applications available in the app store, so I limited myself to some of the more popular applications, namely: iPhoto, Snapseed, Photogene, and Photoshop Touch.
I don’t use iPhoto on my Mac, and I don’t see iPhoto fitting in to my mobile workflow, either. The features were limited, and the interface was clunky, so it didn’t take me much time fumbling around to decide to move on to another application.
Snapseed is a free application, but it has a lot of the features of its non-free peers. Accessing those features, though, takes a little getting used to, with a combination of vertical and horizontal swipes to select and apply adjustments. It wasn’t my overall favorite, but the image I was able to produced compared well to the other candidates, and the price was right.
Photogene for the iPad was the low-priced ($2.99) but full-featured step up from Snapseed. It had a lot of nice features, was easy to navigate, and produced an excellent image. The noise reduction algorithm worked very well; so well, in fact, that I had to dial in back in some images. The iPad version is better than the original Photogene for the iPhone, and easier to navigate than the new Photogene2.
My favorite application turned out to be Photoshop Touch. The most expensive of the bunch at $9.99, Photoshop Touch had all the feature that I was looking for and the feel of the full version of Photoshop, which made it a very comfortable choice with a minimal learning curve. The noise reduction worked well, and the ability to maintain edits in layers, just like the full Photoshop, made managing changes a breeze.
Editing images on the iPad presents its own challenges, include the capacity of the device as well as processing power for larger images. But with the ability to import RAW files, and the features of the available applications, both free and paid, it is within the realm of possibility to process images with great results without needing a computer. Now, I’m not giving up my laptop or Lightroom any time soon, but the next time I find myself wanting to travel a little lighter, I feel confident that I can survive with just my camera and my iPad, and still create print-ready images.