The iPad wasn’t built for photographers. The in-built lenses are punier than those on most smartphones, memory space is limited, library functions are poor, bulk processing is impossible and upload a RAW image from the iPad to another device and you’re going to lose noticeable quality. When we asked one photographer what surprised him the most about using a borrowed iPad during a shoot, his reaction was a blunt “how useless it is.”
Maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough. The iPad isn’t a replacement for a Macbook or a desktop and it certainly can’t function as a camera, but with the right apps it can make a useful and mobile tool for photographers on the move. These are some of the most important apps that a photographer should pack into their iPad.
Image editors of one sort or another are among the most popular iOS apps but for serious photographers, they’re also among the least useful. Image editing is the kind of work that requires attention to detail, a large screen and software with a wide range of options running on hardware powerful enough to offer them.
Adobe Photoshop Express isn’t that software; Photoshop is. But the company’s free companion to Photoshop.com does allow for some simple procedures such as exposure, color saturation, soft focus and borders. It’s not going to save you all that time in front of your computer but it can let you make some simple changes before you get back to the studio and get on with the real work.
The iPad’s in-built Photos app is fine for simple photo-showing but it doesn’t allow for organization and there’s no place to add information such as captions and metadata. A number of apps do offer better image management. Most are based on folders, allow for easy importing and exporting, and protect access with a passcode.
Photo Manager Pro provides all of those functions, as well metadata, drag-and-drop folder management, geo-tagging and custom sorting. It’s also worth looking at Photo-Sort, Photo Shack and, for Flickr users, Portfolio to Go. Most of the apps are similar enough to make choice based largely on personal preference rather than unique features, but Photo Manager Pro has a particularly long feature list.
Photographers shooting on commission are unlikely to take payments on location, and pros with their own studios will probably have their own payments systems set up as part of their business. But portrait photographers who like shooting outside or art photographers selling at fairs can certainly make use of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s billion-dollar company to accept credit card payments on their mobile devices. It might not be an app that’s on the need list of every photographer but for those who do sell when they’re outside the studio, Square is both unique and invaluable.
You could just carry a stack of model releases with you when you’re shooting models or photographing stock but it’s not very convenient and you’d still have to file and organize them afterwards. Easy Release from ApplicationGap was designed by Robert Giroux, an editorial and commercial photographer who has shot for Newsweek, Time and Getty Images. The app has been approved by both Getty and Alamy.
The app comes with industry-standard releases, but allows photographer to add their own text if they want, as well as brand the release with their own logo and details. On the iPad 2, you can even shoot an ID picture of the model to include with the release, and the organization is pretty simple too, allowing photographers to find the releases they need easily. Signatures can be made on-screen with a finger or written using an iPad-compatible stylus.
While Sunlight, a rival app, will give you the time of sunrises and sunsets around the world, Daylight provides localized information that’s both more focused and more functional. Set your location and the app will tell you times for civil, nautical and astronomical twilight, but more importantly, according the blurb it’s also “Perfect for photographers who want to prepare for the ‘Golden Hour.’”
As well as providing a single moment of time to mark the sunset and sunrise, the app also visually marks a period allowing photographers to know when they need to be ready to capture the best light at the best time of day.
For anyone who likes shooting outside and wants to know the best time to do it, Daylight is a great reminder — and it’s even free.
So with the right apps, the iPad can do a bit of light editing, manage some of your images, take payments, provide and store model releases, and even tell you when to shoot. It can also take the pictures for you. DSLR Camera Remote lets photographers control a long list of compatible cameras from a distance.
You can remotely adjust the white balance, shutter speed, aperture and exposure. You can look at images sitting on the camera’s memory card. And you can even look through the viewfinder to see what the camera sees when you’re on the other side of the studio.
Again, that’s not going to be something that every photographer is going to find useful. But it’s easy to see how it can save commercial photographers from running back to their viewfinder after every small adjustment, how sports photographers can leave a camera behind the goal while they shoot from the stands or how art photographers can create self-portraits without having to stop posing.
Of course it’s possible to shoot efficiently and well without an iPad, and Apple’s tablet is never going to replace the laptop. But a few well-chosen apps can make life easier for photographers.
But maybe there are better apps out there. Let us know which iPad apps you’ve found the most useful in your photography.