iPad Pro as my main photo machine

Jun 26, 2017 · 3 min read

You’ve heard this talk before: iPad was supposed to replace PC for the majority of casual users dragging us into the sci-fi future of thin and powerful devices that can do everything.

Of course, it didn’t happen and is unlikely to happen shortly, but iPad can indeed replace PC in certain use cases. The exciting news is that the number of these use cases is growing.

I’ve been using iPad as my travel computer since iPad 2. Emails, simple texts (like this one), presentations, coding, and even spreadsheets — as I changed the devices, their ability to do more serious work grew. I’m still not at the point where iPad can replace my MacBook Pro or a desktop, but I feel way more confident taking short trips with just iPad Pro.

I’m an amateur photographer, and I’ve been using iPad with Lightroom for quite some time now. My process was always the same:

1. Take some pictures
2. Transfer RAW files to iPad with Camera Connection Kit
3. Edit them in Lightroom Mobile
4. Post some decent ones on Instagram
5. Come back home and finish editing in the desktop version of Lightroom
6. Post to Flickr or 500px (or to my SmugMug)

The step #5 with the desktop PC is necessary not because iPad can’t handle advanced photo processing. It’s because Adobe decided to limit Lightroom Mobile’s interface. The visualization engine is absolutely the same.

The hardware is no longer the limiting factor, and hopefully, at some point, Adobe might decide to let its paying users access the features they’re paying for.

Thankfully, Adobe isn’t the only company on the market. Serif recently released Affinity Photo for iPad, and while it’s not exactly Photoshop, it’s a remarkably powerful photo editor with layers, masking, non-destructive editing, HDR and a lot of other features. More than enough for a casual photographer like me.

I’d even go as far as to say that Affinity Photo on iPad Pro provides better user experience because of Apple Pencil. Making simple edits, replacing backgrounds, removing shadows and visual clutter from the picture is so much faster on iPad Pro than on MacBook Pro.

In the recent weeks, I stopped transferring photos to MacBook unless I want to do some cumbersome stuff like merging HDR from photos shot hand-held. There is just no reason for this anymore: Lightroom renders JPEGs faster on iPad Pro 10.5 than it does on my MacBook Pro 2015 and I can do almost everything else in Affinity Photo.

Your mileage will certainly vary, but I found that for short trips I can leave my MacBook Pro at home. And if I find something difficult to edit on iPad Pro I can always access it on MacBook Pro (or desktop) later at home because it’s already in the cloud.

While I think iPad is unlikely to replace my laptop in the nearest future, it’s getting closer and closer to that.

The biggest limit is not the device anymore — it’s the software. I feel like software developers are rightfully cautious about creating expensive full-blown apps for the device that is still considered to be a modern version of a coffee book.

Sergey Galyonkin

Written by

Steam Spy, game development and marketing.

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