Is the iPad a Tool for Serious Photographers?

Whether you shoot, edit, or view, the iPad Pro delivers the goods

The iPad can replace many of the functions of a laptop, but is it a useful tool for photographers? The answer lies in the iPad model you choose and whether you plan to use the iPad to take photos, edit them, or store and view them.

Although early iPad models were underpowered for serious photographers, the iPad Pro provides features that are sure to appeal to shutterbugs.

iPad Pro Camera Specs

The iPad Pro (5th generation), released in 2021, has a 12 megapixel wide and a 10 MP ultra-wide camera with bright TruTone flash. Earlier iPad Pro models also had two cameras: a 12-megapixel camera for capturing images and a 7 MP FaceTime camera.

With advanced optical image stabilization, the 12 MP camera takes impressive photos even in low light, courtesy of an f/1.8 aperture. The 12 MP camera's six-element lens offers digital zoom up to 5X, auto-focus, and face detection. In addition to standard modes, the camera has a burst mode and a timer mode and can shoot panorama photos up to 63 MP.

Adobe Lightroom mobile on the iPad

The iPad Pro camera has wide color capture, exposure control, noise reduction, and auto HDR for photos. Every photo is geo-tagged. You can store and access your images on iCloud or leave them on your device and transfer them to a computer later.

Even if you prefer not to use the iPad to capture images, you can use it for other tasks related to your photography business or personal photo library.

Ways Photographers Use iPads

The iPad, for some photographers, makes an excellent field companion. It supports:

  • Backup storage.
  • Previewing, culling, and rating photos on a larger display than your camera offers.
  • Showing proofs to clients before leaving a shoot location.
  • Light photo editing and creative experimentation.
  • Posting photos online from the road.
  • Creating a mobile portfolio.
  • Providing access to your entire photo library using iCloud.

iPad as Photo Storage

If you only want to use the iPad as a portable storage and viewing device for your RAW camera files, no additional apps are necessary, but you need Apple's Lightning-to-USB camera adapter. With it, you can transfer your photos from the camera to the iPad and view them in the default Photos app.

When you connect your camera to the iPad, the Photos app opens. You select which photos to transfer to the iPad. When you sync your iPad to your computer, the photos are added to your computer's photo library.

If you copy files to your iPad while traveling, you still need a second copy for it to be a proper backup. If you have plenty of storage cards for your camera, you can keep copies on your cards or use the iPad to upload the photos to iCloud or an online storage service such as Dropbox.

Photo Viewing and Editing on the iPad

The iPad Pro display has a typical brightness of 600 nits with 1000 nits at maximum full-screen brightness and a P3 color gamut for true-to-life vibrant colors that will show off your photos beautifully.

When you want to do more than view your camera files, you need a photo-editing app. Most photo apps for the iPad work with your RAW camera files.

Until iOS 10, the majority of photo editing apps that claimed to have RAW support were opening the JPEG preview. Depending on your camera and settings, the JPEG may be a full-size preview or a smaller JPEG thumbnail, and it contains less information than the original RAW files. The current iOS supports system-level compatibility for RAW files, and the iPad Pro's M1 chip processor provides the power to process them.

Editing photos on the iPad feels more like fun than work. You can experiment freely because your original photos are never modified. Apple prevents apps from having direct access to files, so a new copy is always generated when you edit photos on the iPad.

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