Using an iPad Pro as Part of a Photography Workflow

I've been waiting for the day that a tablet could capably replace a dedicated laptop for photography work since I bought the original iPad in 2010. That day seems to be closer than ever with the latest round of iPad Pros. Check out this review of their ability to provide a dedicated workflow for photographers. 

While I could pick up a Surface Pro, I've been in the Mac ecosystem for quite some time, and adding a Windows machine is a bit more hassle than I'd prefer. So, I've patiently awaited an iPad that could step up to the plate. The problem is twofold: the device needs the requisite power to handle hefty raw files, and developers need to create workable iOS versions of their applications. The hardware side of things has definitely been met with the iPad Pro, and with Adobe continuing to develop Lightroom Mobile and applications like Affinity Photo filling in for the desktop version of Photoshop, it seems like that time may finally be upon us. This review from Tony and Chelsea Northrup should give you a good idea of the viability of such a workflow and help you decide if now is the right time to add a dedicated tablet. 

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michael andrew's picture

It's really big and can't run photoshop. I can't see this even remotely replacing my laptop yet, not even close. And when the day comes that is can run photoshop, it's not really that much smaller and lighter, so what are we gaining?

Roman France's picture

Man, did you even watch the video?


Dan Donovan's picture

Affinity Photo on the iPad can be a Photoshop replacement for most photographers out there. Really, the key is that you can now work on your photos on multiple devices.

Nick Franken's picture

DUDE Affinity photo!!! And retouching directly in a screen with the pencil! Workflow is much better compared with a Cintiq on a computer

Douglas Turney's picture

Dude you have to look towards the future and not the past. Lightroom and Photoshop aren't going away BUT they aren't going to be the only show in town. As the video showed there are many new options out there that do most of the stuff a photographer needs. I haven't switched yet because I have to use Photo Mechanic. But I sure am thinking about it.

michael andrew's picture

These products are readily available, and when everything on the software end is ready so will my credit card if i have an old laptop. Currently, in the now (not the present or the past, to which both are totally irrelevant) my laptop does everything my desktop can do, and much much more than an Ipad. I cant use an Ipad for everything I do (composting with layers to name one). So to me nothing has changed, I cannot use photoshop with layers from Lightroom today on an Ipad. That is all that matters.

Roman France's picture

I've been mulling this decision over for the last few weeks. I think I'm going to take the plunge. Tony's solution to importing photos doesn't scale well though, especially if you shoot A7r II and MF images as I do. I've been looking at things like the GNARBOX and RAV Wireless Hub as ways to backup photos onto external hard drives without the use of a proper laptop.

The iPad is just such a joy to use for photo editing and retouching. I've been using Affinity on Mac for a while now and while the RAW engine isn't as good as LR—both are a far cry from Capture One Pro, TBH—it's a good enough place to start from.

Alex Cooke's picture

I spent an hour in the Apple Store yesterday and finally decided to sell my second desktop and take the plunge too.

Maxim Syabro's picture

I'm using Ps/AP with converted by C1 photos for retouch only.

Chad D's picture

bought a new 12.9 pro :) love it !!!

will it replace a laptop NO! did your phone replace your camera?

people are to hung up on it replacing a laptop and IMHO they are not seeing the advantages that is way better than a laptop ever can be in certain areas (and of course a laptop can be better at what it does than a iPad)

I dont have ONE lens even in zooms each one has its own purpose and sure if you are looking for a do all everything but as photographers how many of you think some 18-400 zoom is amazing ?

I would much rather have a few nice primes and choose the best one for the job ! the iPad is a prime lens in that sense

michael andrew's picture

No but I need a phone, and a camera. I don't need a tablet when I have a laptop. The limited function does not replace my laptops infinite functions, but if my 5D made phone calls I might not need a smart phone.

g coll's picture

My ideal scenario is to shoot a wedding/portrait session/event/etc where thousands of images will result. The next day I go to my newest favourite outdoor spot with a view - beach, clifftop, park, etc and cull, edit & process my photos. 90% of the post-production done. The last 10% of photoshop time can be done back at the home office while listening to loud music.

The iPad pro is great for the above and the important thing is that it remains super light and portable. I think we're already at this point.

One thing I hate is culling/editing thousands of photos whilst sitting in an office setup. I want to enjoy the shoot and enjoy the post-production - I believe that this will bring the best out in me.

Martin Owen's picture

I too have been looking at upgrading my iPad Air2 to a Pro - can't decide on the 10.5 or 12 inch, but that's down to handling them! I agree that it's not a laptop replacement but a different device. I haven't used a laptop for a couple of years and don't miss it. I have an iMac back at the office and that handles the things I need that device for. A laptop is just a portable desktop with a smaller screen. There are things that can be done on an iPad Pro that you can't do on a desktop/laptop and vice versa.

One question. You mention importing images directly into Lightroom Mobile from a card reader. Can this be achieved without going through importing them to photos first? I can't see a way of switching off auto import to photos, or indeed an option to import directly to LR mobile. If you've found a way, I'd love to know!

Alex Cooke's picture

I eventually opted for the 12.9 yesterday after realizing I could type at speed on its smart keyboard, but he 10.5 was a bit cramped. That's a good question about the import; I'm not sure at the moment, but once I have mine in a couple weeks, I'll try, as I would prefer that as well.

stefano giovannini's picture

Hi any updates if you can import directly into Lightroom?

Tyler Kenney's picture

so, workflow follow up question: once Lightroom has synched with your mobile account (when you're ready to move on to your next project, say), can you just delete the big files from your iPad?
I've only ever gone the other way- desktop to iPad.

Alex Cooke's picture

I believe so. Tony mentioned in the video that they sync across the Creative Cloud and end up on his desktop as if he had imported them normally. That's what happens when I take a photo in Lightroom Mobile on my iPhone.

Tom Burke's picture

My problem is that I have organised my LR catalog/photos in a folder system. I now want to move photos that I've imported into an iPad Pro and then synced via CC to Lightroom Mobile on my desktop machine, but I can't seem to be able to do it. There seems to be a lot of talk about Collections in discussions about Lightroom Mobile syncing. I therefore have an awful feeling that this is where my folders decision is going to bite me in the bum. Perhaps I should have been working with collections all the time.

Aldo R's picture

Great article, thank you! I think these Apple Photo extensions are *Essential* for any photographer using the iPad or iPhone:

Photo Extensions Pro Bundle

Photo Extensions Education

Jacob Lundqvist's picture

Let me guess, you are Digiguys Inc? ;)

George Falls's picture

Would Alex Cooke be affiliated with BHP photo video..? Are you linking the iPad Pro to them for a commision..?

Nick Franken's picture

Today I shot a model at my studio using Phocus on my iMac. All RAW files were uploaded right away to google drive. I went home took my 12,9 iPad Pro 2017. Launched Affinity photo and loaded the HAsselblad RAW files into Affinity. After that I loaded a picture I took earlier and start composing and even do some color correction. This workflow is awesome. I saved the file and shared it with my client. It is fast, accurate and fun!

Andrew Curtis's picture

Two things, do you sync to a hard drive through the IPad as well? And does lightroom mobile let you use your personal presets?

Dennis Qualls's picture

My iPad Pro 12" is good for the Canon wifi app, letting customers see the images as I'm taking them. But, that was impractical for editing, even with the Apple Pen.
So I tried the new Surface Pro i7 & 500GB HD. Used it for two weeks and returned it. The pen had lag and I found it to be very clumsy vs a Wacom tablet. So then I purchased a MacBook Pro and I've never been happier. Between the iMac 27 for editing at the office and MacBook for on the go, it's a perfect combo.

Trust me, the iPad and even Surface Pro have a few years before they're a viable solution. They'll come around.... eventually

Anton Averin's picture

I doubt this video is full without mentioning of Astropad, that basically lets you retouch with iPad as with Cintiq, for example.

The only thing that blocks me is that there is no Windows version yet, and my main processing rig is on Windows.
But for those who are on iMacs it should work absolutely fine.

Combining this with everything mentioned in the video, I think latest iPad Pro + Pen really rocks for photography now

Marcelo Vaz's picture

I am a true enthusiast of this workflow. But mobile photo editing comes up against some issues, such as lack of disk space, lack of lightroom presets, lightroom metadata editing, and syncing with google photos (which offers much more space than the creatve cloud). Not to mention that the copy of raw pro ipad files takes longer times.

Susan Mayne's picture

Just bought a 10.5 iPad Pro and after fretting over which size to buy, I'm now fretting over what case to buy. Any recommendations? Do I really need the keyboard? What's more important - protecting it from breaking or sleeker and lighter design? What about somewhere to hold the pencil? The Apple keyboard cover doesn't protect the iPad or hold the pencil. It's a dilemma for me.
Decided on the 10.5 size due to weight and size considerations while traveling. Loving the syncing of images from iPad to iMac to iPhone. Do you always upload from iPad to iMac and never directly from card to desktop?
I am so happy to be unchained from my desktop! Absolutely loving Lightroom Mobile.
Thanks for an encouraging video.

Alex Cooke's picture

The keyboard and pencil are up to you! I ended up getting a messenger bag designed specifically for it. I frequently upload directly to desktop, but both work for me. Glad you're enjoying yours! :)

D E's picture

It's a nice fast piece of kit. Excellent as a graphics tablet in conjunction with my MBP. I've got the old cintiq and the iPad Pro with pencil is a joy to use. The hover gesture is great, as you can see where your cursor is before making a mark. Works so well with Lightroom mobile and Photoshop fix. Shame it's not all in one app, but not too big a deal. Testing out affinity photo and Astropad studio - the price tag for Affinity Photo is superb compared to Photoshop. Affinity seem to be missing some portrait tools, but maybe that will come. Can definitely take iPad Pro out and get work done, then finish later. Love it.

stefano giovannini's picture

What about filling metadata fields like captions and keywords? can you do that on the iPad and LR mobile? That is an essential part of many photographers' workflow as I need to transmit captioned photos after an assignment.

Also I use the star rating for selections, not available in LR mobile?

I have multiple LR catalogs, usually one for each year and I use a YYYY-MM-DD dated folder system to store the photos. How do the iPad pro and LR mobile deal with such folder structure?
Can I choose which catalog on my desktop LR mobile syncs to?

iPad Pro seems quite nice for video editing, but I do not see if organizing files and metadata might be an issue.

It would be nice to have part 2 video that informs about those issues.

Sean Chandler's picture

great article - any idea how a 'normal' iPad compares to an iPad Pro for these tasks? The Pro is twice the price of the normal iPad. I know the Pro is pencil-compatible and has a better screen etc.

I've got a 16GB iPad Air 2 which I'm looking to replace very soon and wondering if I really need an iPad Pro