Could an iPad, for photographers, be a real computer?
With Apple announcing two new iPad Pro machines this past week, that’s a question on some photographers’ minds.
About two years ago, I ditched my old MacBook (it was 4ish years old at that point) and had a choice around my next portable computer. Did I want to go with another laptop, or could one of the new-at-the-time iPad Pro models serve as my portable machine?
I chose the iPad (Pro, 9.7” to be specific). Let’s look at how that has worked out for my various use cases for a mobile computer as a photographer.
The biggest factor in whether you’ll be successful editing photos on an iPad is how willing you are to embrace the differences from editing on your desktop computer. If we look at the iPad for photographers it requires embracing some differences.
Applications such as Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed, and Apple Photos can perform a bunch of editing functions, albeit in slightly different methods than you’re used to with your computer. You’ll use touch to manipulate the image, and instead of everything being a slider, the interfaces in most iOS photo editing apps are often different than you’ll find on the desktop.
Affinity Photo is currently the most Photoshop-like experience on the iPad, and if you have the Apple Pencil, it’s not too far of a drift from the Photoshop experience, albeit with a learning curve. And as we heard a few weeks ago, Adobe is bringing Photoshop CC to the iPad in 2019. The new hardware released this past week from Apple is certainly powerful enough to handle it, and I look forward to trying it out.
While editing of individual images is quite doable and involves embracing new paradigms, one area where the iPad really isn’t there is for bulk editing.
As an event shooter, It’s not practical at this point to come home with several hundred images and work through those for quick edits and publication as I would with Lightroom on the computer. That works fine in my situation, because I don’t generally do that in the field. But if you’re dependent on volume editing while mobile, a laptop is still going to be your best bet.
Overall if you’ve embraced a cloud-based photo management system, you’ll be in a good place. If your photo workflow involves moving a lot of files manually, the iPad makes that a pain.
I give workshops, presentations, and other talks on a fairly frequent basis (probably 8-10 times a year). The iPad is a fantastic device for this, with the iOS version of Keynote for my slide decks and speaker notes, and I use a Satechi bluetooth presentation remote.
The iPad is great for travel. I can use it for typing on an airline tray, even in economy class, and if I’d rather watch movies or other media, the tablet form factor is perfect for hand-holding.
Running My Photo Business
An iPad for photographers is more than capable when it comes to various business functions. Whether it’s on the couch at home or away on a week of vacation, I can take care of email, website and blog updates, invoicing (I use FreshBooks which has a very functional app), and the other routine administrative bits of a freelance photographer’s world.
When it comes to the business aspects, I really didn’t find any compromises in using an iPad as my mobile computer.
The iPad for Photographers: Pretty Dang Good
Can an iPad do everything that a traditional desktop computer can do? It can’t.
Does that mean it’s not useful for many purposes? It doesn’t. Given that I have a workhorse machine on my desk (an iMac), the iPad Pro has served me quite admirably for the last two years as my mobile computer, and I will be acquiring one of the just-announced iPad Pro replacements to continue using iOS as my mobile computing platform of choice. It requires thinking in different paradigms, but I’m convinced those are the paradigms of the future.
At this point I can’t recommend an iPad to replace a photographer’s primary computer, but it’s a very capable second machine and mobile device, as long as you don’t need to do bulk editing on the go.