Photographer on the Go: Replacing My Laptop with the 10.5" iPad Pro PART I

If you're a photographer, I'm sure you've had the same question: Can the iPad replace a laptop for a photographer on the go? For me, a professional photographer that travels frequently, this is one of my most reoccurring questions. I'm also in need of a new travel solution because my MacBook Air is struggling a bit these days. So after the announcement from Apple at WWDC 2017 about the new iPad 10.5" Pro, I immediately placed an order, which will be shipped to me in two days, while I'm traveling to New York. In this post, I cover what problems I'm hoping this setup solves, and then in next week's post, I'll be posting the results. 

But let me first address one thing:

Desktop vs iPad: While I think the iPad could be a great travel companion, there's no way it can beat having a dedicated desktop for a photographer. Having a large monitor, that's color calibrated, and in a consistent environment is invaluable for editing and retouching images. Unless you want to carry around a 27" iPad, I suggest you get that first. But I'm assuming no one is using an iPad as their main editing device.

Ok, there are three main reasons why this iPad setup has potential to be the golden ticket for a traveling photographer.

1. Simple Setup for Retouching

Ok, this is the main reason I decided to purchase the 10.5" iPad Pro. My current travel setup (MacBook Air plus Wacom tablet) makes it impossible to edit on a plane (not enough room), and is just a lot to carry around in my bag. The iPad's ability to retouch on the screen, with the Apple Pencil, theoretically combines both of those things in a smaller package. 

Now there are two main things that make this setup possible in the first place. Adobe's recent update to Mobile Lightroom/Photoshop Fix apps, that allow for RAW image editing (reviews say 50MP files from Canon 5DS R work fine), AND the Lighting to SD Card reader which allows RAW images to be imported straight from the card. (Apple also makes a cable that connects to your camera to pull them from there, but this card reader from Ikadeer is supposed to have much faster import speeds). Both are game changers, and I imagine Adobe is currently developing even more tools for photographers using their iPad for editing and retouching.

In addition to the SD Card Reader and the Apple Pencil, I also purchased this keyboard case from Logitech which basically turns it into a more Microsoft Surface-esque device. The Apple keyboard looks better designed possibly, but this one has a Pencil holder. 

So the main question is, will this setup work for retouching on the road? Obviously, I'm not retouching large numbers of files or big deliverables on this iPad. Just want to be able to make simple edits, and if somehow it turns out that a file HAS to be delivered, I think I'll still be able to accomplish that, minus some extreme Photoshop technique, like frequency separation or something. But honestly, trying to do that on anything other than a dedicated monitor sounds rough anyway.

2. Photoshoot Tethering

Another interesting use of the iPad is tethering to it on a photoshoot. Being able to hand it off to a creative director or client that can view images as they're coming in, especially if we're in a spot that doesn't allow for the full tether setup or we don't have the time, is huge. Now, I shoot Sony so our wireless tethering options are still limited. You can view files via the Sony Remote (like wireless tethering), but it disables the EVF, which is a deal breaker for me. Side note: I've spoken to Sony about this, really hoping it's fixed in the near future. But for now, you could still use it as an additional monitor on set by connecting it to your computer.

3. Portfolio Display

Now this might not be that important to everyone reading this, but if you show your portfolio work and need to display a motion reel, this is a really nice way to do so. This will be a great addition to my print portfolio at agency meetings. 

And to top it all off, the functionality of the iPad Pro is going to be revolutionized when iOS11 comes out this Fall. If you haven't watched any videos about the new operating system, I highly recommend doing so. Not to mention the forthcoming FILES app looks to be a great way to incorporate files from the cloud, which is perfect because it eliminates the need to always travel with an external harddrive (not exclusive to the iPad, just now gets integrated further into the OS).

So basically my workflow will look like Import RAW selects from camera to iPad > edit using Lightroom Mobile or Photoshop Fix which allow for seamless files exchange (or some other app) > back up on Dropbox. 

Seems like it could be legit. Results on retouching, workflow, iPad functionality, all coming next week. Subscribe to the blog or my newsletter to stay informed.