iPad for Photography

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

Adobe Lightroom mobile on the iPad
Adobe Lightroom Mobile for the iPad arrived in Spring 2014. © S. Chastain, Splash Screen © Adobe

The iPad can replace many of the functions of a laptop while you travel, but can it be a useful tool for photographers? The answer lies in 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 and iOS 10 provide features that are sure to appeal to shutterbugs.

The iPad Pro Camera Specs

The iPad Pro has two cameras: a 12-megapixel camera for capturing images and a 7 megapixel FaceTime camera. With advanced optical image stabilization, the 12MP camera takes impressive photos even in low light courtesy of an f/1.8 aperture. The 12MP camera's six-element lens offers digital zoom up to 5X, autofocus and face detection. In addition to standard modes, the camera has a burst mode and timer mode and is able to take panorama photos up to 63 megapixels.

The iPad Pro camera has wide color capture, exposure control, noise reduction and auto HDR for photos. Every photo is geotagged. 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 Can Use iPad

Here are some of the ways an iPad can be used by photographers:

  • 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
  • Provide access to your entire photo library via iCloud

iPad as Photo Storage

If you simply want to use the iPad as a portable storage and viewing device for your RAW camera files, no additional apps are necessary, but you will need Apple's Lightning to USB Camera Adapter.  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 are copying files to your iPad while traveling, you still need a second copy in order for it to be a true backup. If you have plenty of storage cards for your camera, you can keep copies on your cards, or you can 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 brightness of 600 nits 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 vast 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. IOS 10 added system-level compatibility for RAW files, and the iPad Pro's A10X 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.

Here are some of the iPad photo editing and photo organizing apps photographers enjoy:


Updated by Tom Green