Survey Results: The State of the iPad for Photographers 2015


I started September with a question: How are people using the iPad with their photography? Is it really an invaluable addition to one’s camera bag, or is it an occasionally useful item? Is it even being used at all? Sales of iPads have been steadily dropping over the past couple of years, though I think that has more to do with the fact that people aren’t buying new iPads at the same rate as new iPhones. (Any company would kill for even Apple’s “low” sales numbers of iPads, but that’s a rant for another day.)

In 2011, I saw the potential of the iPad as a photographer’s tool and wrote the first edition of The iPad for Photographers, which detailed how you could review photos you capture using other cameras (at the time, the iPad 2 had only just come out, the first model to include an admittedly terrible camera), apply metadata to them to streamline the tagging process, and of course edit and share them—all without using a desktop or laptop computer. I published, in cooperation with my friends at Peachpit Press, two subsequent editions of the book.

So how are you using the iPad in 2015? I created a survey to find out, and the results are in some ways unexpected and other ways surprising. I encourage you to view the full results, but here’s the short version:

  • Most people who import photos to the iPad do so using the wired Camera Connection Kit (older iPads) or Lightning SD Card or USB adapters. Almost as many sync via iCloud, Lightroom mobile, Google Photos, or some other cloud service. The number of folks transferring photos directly from a camera’s built-in Wi-Fi feature was about half of those others, but considering how long it’s taken companies to implement Wi-Fi into cameras, the number is larger than I expected.
  • People rarely assign ratings or favorites to elevate the good photos from the not-so-good. I suspect this is because the process of importing photos onto the iPad is still time-consuming.
  • Most people don’t bother with any additional metadata. The fact that the apps designed for doing so (such as Photosmith and PhotosInfoPro) have all gone dormant bears this out.
  • More effort seems to be going into editing photos, and of the tools available, Snapseed is the leader, followed by Lightroom mobile and Apple’s built-in Photos app.
  • Surprisingly, the iPad Air 2 was the most-used model—the latest model available at the time the survey was posted. I expected that there would be a broader spread of older models. Of those, a little more than half were Wi-Fi–only models. The 64 GB configuration is the sweet spot in terms of storage.

A quick but important caveat: The survey attracted just 132 responses, which is less than I hoped, but it at least provides a window into the preferences of those who chose to take the survey.


The iPad is strong on editing, but the effort needed to get to that point is greater than it should be. That means using an iPad as a field companion—appealing especially for people who don’t want to tote a laptop along—is possible, but it’s hampered by slow ingest and limited storage. Perhaps the iPad Pro, which will offer USB 3 speeds through its Lightning port, may improve this.

I’m not too surprised that the Cloud has turned into a preferred method of moving photos onto the iPad, although of course the usefulness depends entirely on your current Internet connection—likely fine when you’re at home on the couch, but not so great in remote locations.

And, lastly, no one is using the iPad to apply metadata. This is the top request I hear from professional photographers, but I don’t think most regular people are doing it. Perhaps services like Google Photos, which comes up with its own metadata based on automated visual searches of photos, is the future here. I still believe that metadata is a powerful thing for photos, regardless of your photo skill level or interest; in my book Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac, Second Edition, I present a painless way to do it on the Mac.

The big question as I write this is how, or if, the iPad Pro will affect the field. Apple still hasn’t implemented any type of raw format support into iOS, which reduces the Pro’s appeal for many photographers in terms of editing, although perhaps the iPad Pro will be fast and powerful enough to run an app such as PiRAWhna smoothly. We’ll have to see.

The survey results appear below. Thank you to everyone who took the time to take the survey and share their comments!













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Lightroom Mobile Article Featured in Adobe Mailing

Cc plan email

If you subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan (which includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC, plus Creative Cloud syncing and Lightroom mobile for $10 a month), you probably received an email today containing a familiar name: me!

One of the highlights is a pointer (shown above) to the article that I published in Adobe Inspire in June, “Take Lightroom on Your Next Shoot.” If you missed the article when I pointed to it then, it’s all about how I used Lightroom mobile during a photo workshop in May through the California Redwoods.

I love writing articles like this, which point to practical things you can do with your photos in addition to inspiring you to get out and make more images. It was a fun one to write.

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How to Prepare for Travel Assignments Around the World

Over at PetaPixel, National Geographic Traveler photographer Susan Seubert explains how she prepares for international photo travel. Research is key, as is using apps such as Easy Release and Sun Seeker on her iPad while in the field. Read the whole thing, which covers valuable information on researching destinations and packing photography gear.

How I Prepare for Travel Photo Assignments Around the World

Take Lightroom on Your Next Photo Shoot

Skyward, Redwoods

Knowing that I was away on a photo workshop in Northern California, an editor I’ve worked with for years contacted me with an interesting assignment: to write about how I use Adobe Lightroom in the field.

I’ve spent a lot of time (and three editions of my book The iPad for Photographers) thinking about how best to incorporate mobile technology into photography, and the field keeps moving forward. As a Lightroom CC user, I really like Lightroom mobile and how it syncs photos and adjustments from my iPad to my Mac and vice-versa.

The result is a new article, with a generous helping of photos from the Redwoods, posted today at Adobe Inspire: Take Lightroom on Your Next Shoot.

I outline a workflow for shooting, importing, and reviewing photos within Lightroom and the Creative Cloud ecosystem. One thing that surprised me: I found myself shooting more bracketed photos and side-by-side collections knowing that I could process those easily using the new Photo Merge HDR and Panorama tools in Lightroom CC.

One note, for those of you who have followed this field with me: I bypassed mentions of importing photos to the iPad while out shooting, which leads to special considerations for syncing and loading raw files later. (You can read more about that in my book.) What’s in the article is a streamlined, more sane approach to syncing and reviewing photos that won’t scare away novices.

Check out the article, and feel free to leave feedback here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Lightroom mobile 1.3 Adds an Unexpected Editing Capability

While everyone was focused on the news of the new Photos for OS X developer preview, Adobe released a very interesting update to Lightroom mobile, its mobile companion to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

In previous versions of the app, there was a truly hidden, super powerful editing feature: not only could you copy adjustments made on the device between images, you could also copy adjustments made in the desktop Lightroom application. So, for example, if you’d applied a graduated filter on the desktop to an image and synced that image to Lightroom mobile, copying its adjustments to another photo also added the graduated filter—even though Lightroom mobile doesn’t offer a graduated filter tool. (See item #4, Copy Adjustments Between Photos, in this article of Lightroom mobile tips published at a few months ago.)

Lightroom mobile 1.3 takes that one step further by enabling copying of adjustments in a more granular way. You can choose to copy only one type of edit and paste it. And that includes settings like Lens Corrections.

Watch the following video by Adobe’s Russell Brown to see the feature in action. It’s wonderfully cool.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile 1.3.0 from Russell Brown on Vimeo.

Review: WD My Passport Wireless Hard Drive

WdfMP Wireless

Ever since I started writing the first edition of The iPad for Photographers, one aspect of the process has been a sticking point: image backup. I know, that sounds like the most boring part of being a photographer, but it’s also vitally important.

Importing photos onto the iPad for review is one option, but it takes up valuable storage (and digital camera files aren’t getting any smaller). That also means you have just one set of image files, unless you use the SD memory cards you originally captured the photos onto as backup (which is also a good idea).

A number of companies have made hard disks that incorporate Wi-Fi radios, primarily as a means of storing lots of media (movies, mostly) and stream them to the iPad and not take up the device’s storage. The Seagate Wireless Plus also added the ability to copy photos from the iPad to the drive, but its implementation is pretty basic and time-consuming: You need to import photos to the iPad, and then copy them to the drive.

All this is lead-up to a new product that makes the whole problem less thorny. The WD My Passport Wireless is a portable, battery-powered hard disk that adds one crucial element: an SD card reader. With this addition, you can dump the contents of a memory card while you’re shooting with another card, then connect to the drive on your iPad and review your work.

The drive is available in two configurations: 1 TB for $175 and 2 TB for $219. (Those are the current prices at Amazon as I write this; clicking either link earns me an affiliate percentage and helps support the work I do.)

My full review at is here: Review: My Passport Wireless for the Traveling Photographer.

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iStick Hampered by Poor Software

When the iStick was introduced earlier this year, it promised something not previously available for the iPad or iPhone: copy files via the Lightning connector. Apple built iOS with the limitation that the connector not be used as a generic USB file transfer mechanism. That meant companies needed to get clever, resulting in methods such as having a portable hard drive create its own Wi-Fi connection to stream media to the device.

I don’t know how the iStick gets around that limitation, but according to Derrick Story, it works. Unfortunately, the software to run it is so basic that it’s almost unusable. Sure, you can copy images from an iPad to the iStick as a backup… but you won’t be able to view thumbnails until you get back to a computer. Currently, it sounds like a fine solution to bring media like movies and music along so it’s not stored on the iPad itself. But that’s about it.

Derrick Story Reviews the WD My Passport Wireless HD


My colleague Derrick Story got his hands on WD’s new My Passport Wireless hard disk, which he calls “the best new gadget I’ve tested in a while.” The My Passport Wireless includes an SD card, which is the essential ingredient for taking it on location: You can make a copy of your memory card’s photos without having to transfer them to the iPad first.

The drive comes in two configurations: 1 TB for $179 and 2 TB for $219. I’m looking forward to using this on my next photo excursion.

How Does iOS 8 Time-Lapse Work?

[Video by Dan Provost]

Dan Provost at Studio Neat (the inventors of the Glif tripod mount for iPhones) took a closer look at the Time-Lapse feature in the Camera app under iOS 8. If you’ve tried it out, the mode is dead simple; there are no configuration options, you just start recording and the app’s “dynamically selected intervals” do all the work.

Studio Neat also makes a time-lapse app called Frameographer, so Provost experimented to see what the Camera app is doing. Turns out it’s pretty cool. Read all about it: How Does the iOS 8 Time-Lapse Feature Work?

Lightroom mobile – Iceland

Adobe’s Russell Brown sent a group of photographers to Iceland to shoot a promotional video for Lightroom mobile, and boy is it wonderful. The visuals are just gorgeous, but the clip also does a great job of explaining some of the editing tools and presets available in Lightroom mobile.

(A reminder: I wrote a Fuel ebook that covers Lightroom mobile: Adobe Lightroom mobile: Your Lightroom on the Go, only $8!)

After you’ve watched the video a couple of times, be sure to take a look at the behind-the-scenes video, especially if you lust after photo drones.