All iPads iPad/iPad Pro RAW Photo Editing

Discussion in 'iPad' started by macduke, Nov 20, 2013.

  1. macduke macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Below are my thoughts on using an iPad for photo editing. This is more of a discussion with the community than a question or firm statement on the matter.

    No doubt that there are people who already edit photos on the iPad. But what I'd like to explore today is the possibility of editing RAW photos on something like an iPad Pro. Back in college when I first got my hands wet in the darkroom I appreciated being able to work hands-on with my images. To see focus the image with the enlarger, to slide in my paper and dodge and burn the results with my hands and spot the images. To experiment, to try painting with light and make photograms using various objects. To touch the paper, to manipulate the light with your hands is like a kind of magic. It's something that I was good at. I could get consistent results, nail my exposures, contrast and white balance and keep on going through dozens of images. It didn't feel like work and I loved the hands-on component.

    To me, working with digital images feels more like work. There is something lost in using a mouse and having to formally sit and stare at a screen. It's not something that I can just pull out and finish an image or two in passing. But I suppose the darkroom was also inconvenient. This is where I think an iPad Pro (or even next year's iPad with more RAM) could be a treat to work with. Especially if the Pro's digitizer has pressure and tilt sensitivity support. An iPad is more casual, I can keep it in my bag and pull out if I have a moment to do some edits (I hope the iPad Pro isn't too big). Something where I could move my fingers around on the screen to change RAW settings, to brush areas with my fingers or stylus to alter exposure, saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc. To quickly browse through my gallery. To dump photos from my CF card and quickly rate and store the images, while deleting the ones that are obviously bad. I know Adobe has been working for almost a year on a version of Lightroom for iPad. Maybe it will come out for regular iPads, or perhaps they're holding back for more RAM in next year's model or an iPad Pro. I'm not really sure. But I want it so badly!

    I get so backed up on images I need to edit. Photography is only a small part of my day job, so anything I do in my spare time gets lower priority to other responsibilities such as freelance, family, house work, etc. It would be great to just kick back on the couch and work on some images for 15-20 minutes on an iPad that has a slick interface that lets me burn through my backlog. I like Adobe's proposed solution of accessing the Lightroom Library on my Mac and downloading a lower-res version for the local iPad library, which would still allow me to see changes in real-time, while updating the RAW XMP files and syncing those back to the Mac. I think for now an integrated approach is best, especially given the limited storage space on iPads.

    So to summarize, I think the iPad could be a great platform for pro photographers. It's easy to carry out into the field, 128GB is enough for most trips to dump images, and I think the touch-component is could bring back some of the magic and fun of working in the dark room with my hands. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure if the hardware is there yet. I know RAW processing can use a lot of system resources. The software doesn't seem to be there yet either, as I've looked around and can't seem to find a true RAW processor for iPad. Some of them will read the RAW and just strip out the default JPG for viewing. Furthermore, I don't think there is a way yet to calibrate an iPad's display using a colorimeter, or connect the iPad to a professional printer to print. I suppose the final touches could be done on the Mac as that's where you really need to nail color balance for printing. I usually do library management and edits in Lightroom, and then if I need to refine things even more I pull it into Photoshop. I shoot using Adobe RGB for the larger color space (I often shoot nature and it has better depth in greens and blues), and then output from RAW to 16-bit ProPhoto RGB, and send the full 16-bit image to my printer to get the best tonal ranges from the 8-color cartridges. So finishing on the Mac might always be required for printing, but most of my images I don't end up printing and could get looking good enough to post online and also share with friends and family.

    So have I huffed too many darkroom chemicals and am crazy for thinking this? Do you think Apple is working on an iPad Pro, along with a version of Aperture, or even Logic? Do you think it will have pressure and tilt sensitivity for artists to use with a stylus? Do you think in the future that most photographers will be using tablets to edit their work? And if you have somehow found out a way to truly edit RAW photos on an iPad, please let me know! Thanks for reading.
  2. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    Check out the Wacom Cintiq:

    The current storage capacity of the ipad's isn't there for real heavy duty RAW processing IMHO. Could it be made so? Sure -- but I don't think there's enough market for it that Apple will do it in the near future.
  3. darngooddesign macrumors G3

    Jul 4, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Interesting post but a couple of things.

    What do you feel tilt sensitivity would do for efficiently working with images?

    Do you consider an iPad Pro to be just an iPad with faster processor and more RAM? Or do you think there needs to be a pro version of iOS that at a minimum allows you to calibrate your display?

    Don't you think that do real photo retouching and manipulation you still need mouse support? Its fun to move sliders with your fingers to adjust levels and curves, but how would you accurately nudge a selection over a couple of pixels without arrow keys that don't involve a couple of steps. There is a reason why we love keyboard commands and shortcuts.

    Many photographers would say you need to have 256GB of storage to work with a photo shoot's worth of RAW images. Without the ability to easily save their images to an external drive/card, the cloud won't cut it, too little internal memory is going to stop the iPad from being used. Especially since with 256Gb memory, the iPad is now more expensive than a whole lot of ultralight laptops.

    What else do you feel is necessary to have a photographer choose the iPad over their laptop?
  4. macduke thread starter macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Tilt sensitivity is good if you're using a brush that is oblong and want to dodge, burn, whatever by rotating it around and getting into those nooks and crannies, but it's more of a want for me when it comes to drawing and less for photography I suppose.

    I don't think the speed needs to be a huge amount faster. The iPad Air is already as fast as a MacBook Air from a couple years ago which could also edit RAW images. I suppose if you're shooting 36MP images from Nikon the processing could use a bit more improvement. The main hardware thing is RAM, maybe a USB port for convenience. iOS would need an alternate version. It would be great to be able to plug in a drawing tablet, or a professional printer, an external drive, or colorimeter. Not support everything that exists out there, just the common creative tools. Maybe have an "App Store Pro" where approved vendors could have drivers. Or perhaps the venders would just keep those files stored and approved on Apple's servers and the iPad would automatically load those drivers. It should be seamless. iOS would also need better file management support. So some work would need to be done!

    I don't think a mouse is necessary. In the darkroom I didn't need it. I often use a drawing tablet when doing complex edits and selections (like cutting people out from backgrounds, which I don't do all the time). Something similar could be accomplished on an iPad. Adobe has some pretty good selection algorithms in Photoshop Touch, and they will likely only get better so that you could use your finger to make accurate selections. Now for graphic design, that's a different story. You need the accuracy. Perhaps it's just my style of photography that I don't care about pixel accuracy? But I think it's more of a software engineering challenge to make things more accurate; to refine the controls and tools.

    I guess it depends on the shoot? 256GB for one shoot seems like overkill. Perhaps it's because the degree program I went through first trained us on film. It forces you to slow down and think more about the shot. From time to time I can get pretty snap happy, especially if I'm bracketing exposures of landscapes for HDR (don't worry, they don't "look HDR"). But I've also done some portrait photography, so I can understand shooting a lot of exposures in that case. But 256GB? Maybe on a 36MP D800. On my 7D, I can shoot at least 1200 images on a 32GB card.

    Some kind of basic snap-type multitasking would be welcome, in addition to the improvements I listed earlier for iOS. I mean, it's only a matter of time before iOS and Mac OS converge. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of figuring out the timing and feasibility of the different feature implementations.

    I think cheap, super-fast data plans would be awesome, but that won't happen any time soon. I imagine my iPad being in my bag, saving images as I shoot them and uploading them to the cloud or my Mac at home. Everything stays synced everywhere. That would be handy. I can't keep my library on my MacBook Pro, so even when I'm out somewhere with that, or even on my couch I'd have to go get the hard drives, run their power cables to the wall and connect them to the Mac. That's always annoying to me, that I have to go upstairs and sit at a desk. I can't just grab the MacBook and edit whatever I feel like that day.

    Perhaps I need a NAS? I've been looking into getting one of these things called "Transporters" that act as a NAS, but also let you access your files on the go like DropBox from your Mac, iPad and iPhone:

    Something like that might be able to alleviate the need for super-huge iPads. When you get back to the hotel or whatever, where you have WIFI, cut out the photos that aren't good and upload the rest to your Transporter. But it just might take forever! High speed internet is getting there, so it's a matter of time.

    Thanks for the thoughtful questions.


    I've seen that, and it's pretty cool, but the nib is too fat. Adobe is working on a pen of their own, "Project Mighty", that is supposed to offer tilt and pressure sensitivity while also having a tiny nib. They are partnering with Adonit to build it, which makes the popular Jot line of drawing stylus for iPad. Unlike previous Adonit pens that use a clear circle end part, this one uses a new technology called "Pixelpoint" which allows for a smaller nib by reflecting back a signal that to the capacitive screen that makes it think a larger surface, such as a finger is touching it. iOS always takes the average of that in the center, so that's how it works. Pretty cool stuff. They are actually shipping the tech in their new Jot Script, but this version does not support the advanced features of Project Mighty such as pressure and tilt sensitivity. It's expected to ship sometime in Spring 2014.
  5. thisisasticup macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2009

    Seems you predicted the future.
  6. macduke thread starter macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Thanks, but I don't predict the future. I've been wrong before—although you should see the early design mockups I made back in the day for notifications with actions on the lock screen, haha. Additionally there are all of these app ideas I've had over the years that I've seen turn into million dollar products. I don't ever talk about them on the forums because I was afraid someone would steal them. But they get made anyway because I'm not able to pull them off on my own—mostly because I'm stuck in the midwest. One of the big ones I had from a few years ago I came up with while chatting with my buddy. I said "The trend lately seems to be that everything in social media is getting shorter. Tweets are text snippets. Instagram is cropped photos that fit into a nice little square. I think the next big thing will be short video clips." Then Vine became a thing literally within 6 months of that, and then Instagram did the same, and now Apple has these live photos. It was also around this time that animated gifs made a big revival. I just see emerging patterns and the potential but there isn't enough talent around me to build something worthwhile. So I muse about things here.

    Anyway…getting back on topic…

    When I held that first iPad in my hands in 2010 I knew it was something special and that people would eventually be using it to not only consume content—but to create it. It was only a matter of time before Apple created a stylus for designers. We are a core market segment for Apple and they need to keep designers on their side. I saw the iPad and what I needed out of it as a creative professional and they delivered a product that addresses many of the shortcomings I mentioned. I've been repeating this same line on the forums for years and people told me I was crazy. They said if you see a stylus they blew it. But as a designer I know the difference between a stylus and a drawing stylus and the Apple Pencil is the latter. It's not the primary input for the device. It's a tool for creative professionals. A tool that makes up for the problems with every other drawing stylus on the market. It's needed because we aren't all finger painters.

    I'm really looking forward to trying out the Pro, however, I don't think I'll be purchasing this first version. First of all my iPad Air 2 is running really well with the extra RAM. Lightroom runs well on it. My Adobe Ink stylus does not because of screen refresh issues. The Apple Pencil alone makes the Pro worth it to me. But I'm going to give it a year and see what kind of apps and software improvements they will bring to it. We need more professional apps on the App Store and we need Apple to provide better file management support in iOS. When working on a big project I'll have a working folder with all kinds of assets. How do I manage that on an iPad? And it has been two years since I wrote the above and Adobe still hasn't opened up Lightroom Mobile for importing RAW photos. You still have to sync those through CC from your mac. This iPad Pro should handle even high-MP RAW photos fine being faster than 80% of mobile PCs. And if all else fails they can simply show the low-res preview while editing. Then I should be able to easily dump my photos from my iPad into my main Lightroom Library. The main problem is how huge hundreds or thousands of RAW files can be. WiFi syncing might work. Syncing over a cloud service would be quite slow but is the future for that. USB would be the simplest and fastest but also pretty lame and backwards. If I had to guess, they haven't done it yet because they want us to use the CC to sync those back to our Macs but the CC isn't fast enough yet. But will it ever be? Canon is talking about 120mp cameras for 2017. I don't know how that will sort out but generally wireless, automatic transfers are the best UX practice.

    I've been saying for a while that iPhone 7 will have no home button, but instead Touch ID integrated into the display. Others have jumped on that bandwagon. Early this year I added an extra thought: It will come in three sizes at 4", 5" and 6" with reduced bezels to make the devices overall similar to the 5.5", 4.7" and 3.5" models. My latest prediction is they would share a PPI around 489 @3X. Let's see if that one comes true. It's a lot more specific than an iPad Pro. But also more difficult to pull off. Might not be until the iPhone 8 that the tech is available for Touch ID in the display and significantly reduced bezels. We'll see.

    My Apple Watch prediction from a couple years ago was off. I thought Apple would make a band with a wrap-around flexible display. I initially thought that perhaps they didn't do this because the technology wasn't available. And while that may be true—the fact remains that a significant part of their Apple Watch income will be from accessory sales. I thought Apple could design an always-on display that could show different fashion patterns. They won't do that for a long time if ever because it's too geeky and again this would hurt accessory sales. People like physical objects. Making the Apple Watch too abstract would have been a bad thing. Perhaps my iPhone prediction is too abstract. But then again 3D Touch is also fairly abstract and they're still doing it.

    Apologies, I've once again written too much and should get back to work. Have a good afternoon.
  7. newellj macrumors 603

    Oct 15, 2014
    Boston, MA, US
    The two issues for me right now, or at least the principal issues, are (AFAIK) inability to calibrate the display and lack of what I'd regard as proper/suitable software (both of which you identified). I don't see why either should be a real obstacle, especially on an iPad Pro, but I don't think it's there yet.

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