Tool or Toy? The Apple iPad 2 for Photographers
Using the iPad 2:
The iPad's built-in photo handling capabilities are pretty basic - you can email images to your contacts and set your desktop wallpaper, view slideshows (something the large, high-res screen was made for) and, if you've paid out the $99 for Apple's MobileMe cloud-based service (which, according to rumors, is soon to be overhauled, and possibly made free), share your photos on the web. But that's pretty much the extent of it. However, it isn't just about the hardware - amongst the 65,000+ applications available for the iPad are almost 200 relating to photography. If you include photography apps designed for the iPhone/iPod Touch (all of which will run on the iPad at reduced resolution) this number increases to almost 4000.
We could never hope to provide a complete overview of all the applications available for the iPad here, but hopefully this brief roundup will serve as a useful taster of what's out there.
Please note: hyperlinks to apps will send you to Apple's App Store.
PhotoSync ($1.99)One of the iPad's main weaknesses as a tool for photography is the relative difficulty of moving images between it and other devices. If it was impossible to move images from the iPad's internal picture library the device would be next to useless to photographers. Remember that unlike a computer, you can't just plug in a USB stick or attach an external drive. That's where PhotoSync comes in.
PhotoSync solves these problems by allowing you to transfer images to and from your iPad, iPhone, and/or computer using a simple interface very much akin to Apple's Photo app. You can sync single or multiple images, all you need to do is download the PhotoSync application to whatever phone/computer that you want to use. PhotoSync also features built-in Flickr support, so you can send images directly to your photostream.
Adobe Photoshop Express (free)One of the best-known names in photography, Adobe offers Photoshop Express - a cut-down-almost-beyond-recognition version of Photoshop - for free. Available for Apple's IOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad) and the open-source Android platform, an online version of Photoshop Express is also accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
|Photoshop Express is useful for quick, basic adjustments, like cropping. A simple touch-and-drag interface couldn't be easier to master and although basic, the included filters and borders are fun.|
Don't expect to get anything like the same level of versatility from the Photoshop Express App as you would from 'full strength' Photoshop. Adjustments are limited to crop/rotate, basic contrast/hue/saturation and exposure tweaks, 'one click' black and white, simple sharpening, soft focus and a range of pre-baked effects filters and borders. Applying adjustments is easy - you simply drag your finger horizontally across the image. The intensity of the adjustment is increased by swiping to the right, and decreased by swiping to the left.
Photoshop Express is a quick, highly intuitive and convenient way of performing a limited amount of basic photo finishing. The only serious annoyance is the inability to zoom to 100%, which makes checking critical focus between shots impossible, and makes applying sharpening a complete lottery. Just before this article was published, Adobe announced the Photoshop Express 2.0 update which allows the in-app purchase of Adobe Camera Pack ($3.99) - for iPad users this comprises only an utterly non-essential noise-reduction extension. Our advice? Stick with the free functionality.
See also: PhotoPad
Photogene for iPad ($2.99)At the opposite end of the spectrum from Adobe Photoshop Express is Photogene for iPad. Actually, Photogene is the nearest thing to a 'true' mobile version of Photoshop that we've seen. You can use Photogene to perform basic photo finishing like exposure and contrast adjustment, but this is only a fraction of what the software can do.
More advanced features include highlight/shadow adjustment, curves, white balance and saturation sliders, as well as sharpening and noise reduction controls. It is even possible to clone out offending dust spots or distracting details from images using the (rather Lightroom-esque) Heal/Clone tool. Photographs can be saved at full resolution to the iPad's photo library, printed wirelessly or uploaded straight to Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox or FTP. We don't have the space to go into all of Photogene's functionality here, but at $2.99 it is an essential purchase for iPad-toting photographers.
See also: Filterstorm
FlickStackr ($1.99)Flickr is one of the best, certainly amongst the biggest photo sharing websites in the world, and a lot of casual photographers rely on it to showcase their images. There are several Flickr apps available for both iOS and Android, and FlickrStackr is one of our favorites.
Designed solely for the iPad, FlickrStackr provides almost all of the core functionality of the Flickr web interface, including support for groups, full screen browsing and image uploading from the iPad's photo library. FlickrStackr supports multiple Flickr accounts, but if you don't have an account you can still install FlickrStackr and use it to view other users' image streams. However, if you don't have a Flickr account you're better off installing FlickrStackr Explore, which is free.
See also: FlickrStudio, Flickpad Pro for Facebook, Explore Flickr, Photobucket for iPad
LightTrac ($4.99)LightTrac is one of a number of applications which are designed to help photographers do what they like to do best - take pictures. In essence, LightTrac is a simple application that uses the iPad's built-in support for Google maps to show you exactly where the sun and moon will pass relatively to any given position.
|LightTrac offers a simple interface which shows you the track and elevation of the sun and/or moon relative to your position, using the iPad's built-in support for Google Maps.|
The ability to accurately predict the angle and elevation of the sun or moon at a location ahead of time is invaluable for landscape, architecture and wedding photographers. LightTrac is simple, elegant, and very inexpensive compared to wood or plastic physical sun compasses, which can cost a lot more than $4.99.
See also Sun Seeker
Simple DOF Calculator ($1.99)There are only a handful of depth-of-field calculators available specifically for the iPad, but of these, our favorite is Simple DOF Calculator. Simple DOF Calculator is - as its name suggests - a simple depth of field calculator. At the top of the screen are two tabs, which allow you to select up to two cameras (one per tab). Cameras are grouped into formats, so the Canon EOS 7D, 50D, 40D are grouped as a single option for example. Unfortunately, these lists don't seem to get regularly updated, and a little digging reveals that a lot of recently released DSLR and compact cameras are absent.
|Simple DOF is a straightforward depth of field calculator with a simple interface. It is reasonably customizable, but very easy to get to grips with. The iPad's large, touch-sensitive screen is great for apps like this.|
Dominating Simple DOF's decidedly 'no frills' interface are large aperture (the translator missed this one as it's labelled as 'diafragma'), focal length and focus point rolling drop downs, which allow you to select all relevant shooting parameters. Depth of field in front and behind your subject is updated 'live' on a simple graphic in the main screen, and the circle of confusion for your selected camera is calculated automatically.
See also: PhotoCalc (below), PhotoBuddy
PhotoCalc ($2.99)Ultimately, although we like Simple DOF, there are better depth-of-field calculators available in the Apple and Android app stores. One of the best in our opinion is Photocalc, which combines a depth of field calculator with a flash exposure calculator and sunrise/set display. Unfortunately, at time of writing there isn't an iPad version of PhotoCalc, but the iPhone/iPod Touch app can be installed, and will run, albeit at a reduced size on the iPad's screen (see below).
Honorable mentionsOf the thousands of photography in the app store, we've only scratched the surface here. With this in mind, we'd like you to point you towards some apps that we really like, but which didn't make the full list for various reasons. Firstly, Capture Pilot. Capture Pilot, developed by Capture One is a free app which allows you to use your iPad (or iPhone/iPod Touch) as a wireless viewer for images, while you shoot. Note though that although the app itself is free, it will only work in collaboration with a computer running Capture One Pro 6 or DB 6 from Phase One. Shuttersnitch offers similar functionality, but isn't reliant on expensive peripheral software. It isn't free either, but at $15.99 we think it's pretty good value.
Still on the subject of using your iPad as a remote image viewer, DSLR Camera Remote HD from OnOne lets you go further, and use your iPad for tethering, and remote capture. As well as a live 'through the viewfinder' preview, you can also adjust key shooting settings on your DSLR. DSLR Remote HD also features an intervalometer which allows you to create a custom self-timer. It isn't cheap though - at $49.99 this is one app that you should make sure that you need, before you download it (remember the app store doesn't do refunds). If you're unsure, we hope to produce a dedicated review of DSLR Camera Remote HD in the near future, so watch this space.
If you shoot RAW files, we've got bad news for you. The iPad, like comparably-sized netbook computers, isn't suitable for heavy-duty RAW editing. That said, it is possible. Just. If you're curious about RAW editing, we're recommend that you take a look at PhotoRaw Lite. PhotoRaw Lite is free, and allows you to view and convert RAW files - something that the iPad's Photo App does not allow. The downsides are that it will only recognise files from one camera (selected when the app is used for the first time) and it is extremely slow. Import times can run into minutes for single files alone, and our version is prone to crashing. But you can live with the limitations, the full version of PhotoRaw (which allows you to process files created by more than one camera) is available for $9.99.
Photography is enjoyable on many levels, not all of them hardware and software-related. Looking at beautiful and striking images never gets boring, and the iPad's large LCD screen makes it a great device for simply viewing, as well as adjusting, pictures. With this in mind, we love The Guardian Eyewitness. One of the UK's best and most respected newspapers, The Guardian has a reputation for exceptional photojournalism. Although you can use it to share pictures by email, on Twitter or on Facebook, Guardian Eyewitness is essentially a lightbox, showcasing the paper's 'Eyewitness' series of images, one of which graces The Guardian's centre spread every week.
Photography isn't all about equipment, and apps like Guardian Eyewitness (and other, similar apps like Reuters Galleries and 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic) remind us of the power of the photographic image.