How I use my iPad as photographer’s tool – a second look

I have often blogged about how I use my iPad as a photographer’s tool. I have written posts on apps such as CameraSync, Photogene, Photosmith, Adobe Carousel and others.

I even wrote a post about a fictitious app I called “iPerture”, a mobile version of Aperture for the iPad.

It is actually the lack of such an app that made me switch from Aperture to Lightroom, but that’s another story although it is tightly connected to my use of the iPad as a mobile tool.

I thought that it was time for me to revisit my mobile workflow and share it with you guys and girls. Actually, I must admit that I do not often use my iPad to its full potential as a mobile tool. However, over the holidays I did have time to do so, so here is that tale.

My main applications for my mobile workflow

Of all the photography apps that I have installed, I mainly use only three: the standard Photo app, Photosmith and Photogene.

First, I import my pics from my SD card using the Photo app, leaving the originals on the card as a backup.

Then I open Photosmith and import all new Photo app pics into its proprietary library. One thing I like is that it does not make a full copy of each RAW file, which would waste valuable space, rather it only makes a copy of the thumbnail.

Afterwards, still in Photosmith, I create collections for each event. For example, I created three collections for this holiday: “Family Reception”, “Quebec City Walk” and “St-Laurent River Birds”. These collections will be imported as is into Lightroom once I connect my iPad to my iMac.

Where Photosmith adds additional value into the workflow, is its ability to rate picture (i.e. “star” them), add keywords (btw, you can sync your keyword list between Photosmith and Lightroom) and delete pictures you do not want to keep.

There currently exists a limitation with Photosmith (or with Lightroom or with the iPad API itself) that limits the delete functionality. Even if I delete pictures from the PS library they are not deleted from iPad’s photo library and they “re-appear” once imported on the computer. To circumvent that limitation, the editors of Photosmith were quick enough to provide me with a workaround: I tag each pic that I want to delete with the color red. This way, back in LR, I can quickly select them using the filter function to delete them once again for good.

When I import my pictures in LR, I do so in a temporary LR folder I simply call “Import”. Because I have created collections in Photosmith, these are integrally copied into Lightroom. I then select pictures in each collections and move them into their proper folder which in my workflow is <Year>/<Month>/<Project>.

However, I wished that Photosmith could do more (and crash less often on my iPad 1).

The first thing would be the ability to export to email, Facebook, Flickr and Dropbox. When I travel I like to share with friends at home what I have seen during the day by posting some of the day’s best pics on Facebook.

Note that will change with version 2.0 of Photosmith scheduled early 2012.

Since Photosmith can not export at this time, I use Photogene. Photogene was one of the early iPad photo apps that positioned itself as a complete solution for editing pictures on the go. There are a number of apps to do that today but Photogene as always been up there in the rankings. And today PG has high end features like noise reduction and RAW support.

UPDATE: Chris Morse, co-developer of Photosmith, just emailed me to say that you can actually export from PS. Just select your images and then tap “Share” on the left side right under your currently selected collection. Then tap either “Send Selected” or “Send all” and a list will pop up with all of those choices.

Although I don’t do lots of editing on my iPad on the road, I will from time to time correct exposure brighten up a pic or reduce its noise. The two reasons I do not do more editing are, first, that the iPad is not powerful enough and, most importantly, that my changes will not be reflected back in Lightroom.

Maybe Photosmith will have that feature as well in the future. I understand the editors of the software to have a wait and see attitude, especially towards the evolution of Adobe Carousel, although I do not buy into its subscription style pricing.

Other photography applications

There are other apps that I use on my iPad.

One of them is ShutterSnitch which enables me to shoot tethered with an EyeFi SD / WiFi card. When doing on location portraiture, this is very valuable to check your exposure, focus and lighting on a large screen (or larger than the 3″ display of your camera).

Another app that I used recently while traveling was LightTrac. It allowed me to know when the sun would rise at my location and from what angle it would light so that I could plan my early morning outing. It’s integration with Google maps is an awesome feature.

There is one more app that is worthy of mention: Ken Rockwell’s D90 Guide. I know that a lot of people do not like Rockwell; I don’t mind him, but I am no fan of his. His app, although an iPhone only app that does not exploit the iPad to its fullest, is useful for that quick feature you quite can’t remember how to make it work.

PhotoBuffetHD is another tutorial type application. It is not camera specific like the previous one. It tries to teach you shooting and composition techniques in various situations. I do not use that much. Maybe I should use it more or maybe I no longer need it.


Then there are tons of photography ebooks that I read on my iPad; a lot of them from David duChemin, Digital Photography School and Ed Verosky, to name a few. I love reading them while taking the subway to work.

One more ebook that I keep on my iPad is the user manual of my Nikon D90. It is a simple trick that I read somewhere and that I made mine (btw, I did the same with the user manual of my new car).


I use Evernote a lot. And most of it as a photographer’s tool. But this is another blog post that is sitting in my drafts folder. So, more on that topic later.


The iPad is not only a consumption device, it also is a creation one. It can not beat a MacBook Air (and Lightroom) on power but it is much more handy at reading, browsing, viewing and locating yourself with its built in GPS.

When I go to South Africa I will sure bring my iPad.

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8 Responses to How I use my iPad as photographer’s tool – a second look

  1. Pingback: Dropbox integrates with iPhone – soon |

  2. Jez says:

    This is a really great review – thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I have only just purchased my iPad 3 in the last week and am coming up to the stage you’re at with PhotoSmith.

    My ONLY issue with it is transferring the images across my iPad into Lightroom. I wish to use the Advanced import method (i.e. in Lightroom, File -> Import Photos etc) but I find the system ‘hangs’ for me and so the only sure way so far (and extremely slow) is to do the import wirelessly.

    Once this area of my workflow is cracked, I believe I’ll be following your style of file handling, so I really appreciate you putting your blog out.

    Kind regards,


  3. maximegousse says:

    I do not have issues with the advanced import method except with very large collections. Try this: reboot the iPad (it will clear some RAM) and try importing smaller collections.

  4. Jez says:


    I could try rebooting the iPad (never done this before).

    But also, the image collection I wish to import into Lightroom has only 47 images……

    apple tech support is a waste of space, I’m not sure if adobe would have anything to do with it, maybe it’s a Windows thing…..

  5. maximegousse says:

    Try tech support on the Photosmith site. The guys are pretty quick!

  6. Pingback: 3 iPad Solutions for Travel Photography |

  7. Wedding Reception says:

    Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

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