Bypass the Camera Roll in iOS 13

At Apple’s WWDC Keynote today, previews of iOS 13, macOS Catalina, watchOS 6, and even a new iPadOS were shown to whet developers’ appetites and upcoming caffeine levels between now and fall, when these versions will be released.

One thing in particular stood out for me, given my history with the iPad and photography: we won’t be forced to import photos directly to the Photos Camera Roll, as has been the case since the release of the first iPad. Images can be copied to the Files app, which supports reading any USB, SD card, or hard drive. The import process will allow you to review photos before copying them, including raw files. Or, image files can be imported directly into an app such as Lightroom Mobile. According to the iOS 13 preview, the latter will require developers to tie in to the Image Capture API.

Why is this a big deal? Until recently, you had to live with two copies of the same imported image on your device: the one in Photos, and then one imported from Photos into your photo editor/organizer of choice, dramatically reducing your free storage on the device. At the beginning of this year, a novel solution emerged using the Shortcuts feature in iOS 12: after importing images, the shortcut ran an automation that imported them into Lightroom, and then deleted the original copies from the Photos library. It works, but it’s far from elegant.

The Photos app under iOS 13 gets some interesting enhancements, like a refreshed UI, more editing controls, and the ability to edit video using the same controls. But right now, I’m feeling a definite sense of “finally” at this one change.

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