iPad3: The photographer’s friend?

apple ipad 2

The Apple iPad 2

I was amongst the initial wave of iPhone owners at the tail end of 2007. Compared to the original version, today’s phone is almost unrecognizable. Back then there was no MMS, no video camera and not even an app store. How many of you remember web apps? The platform has come a long way in the last few years and evolved into a mature platform for mobile computing.

But it’s by no means perfect. Each iteration of iOS is fulfilling more of the platform’s potential, but there is still a long way to go in my opinion. There is room for improvement in the hardware, too, and the iPad3 might just bring it up to a level where I’m willing to part with my own cash.

The headline feature of the iPad3 is its high resolution display. I’ve used the original iPad and iPad2 extensively, and while the screen is excellent I always thought it fell far short of being “magical” when compared to the iPhone4. Other rumoured features include an improved camera, although just how much improved I suspect will disappoint a few people. If I know Apple, the camera will be a modest upgrade. I will be very surprised if it matches up to the camera in the iPhone4S.

So why photographer’s friend? More and more, I’m using my iPhone for photography-related tasks. Email, podcasts, video, reference guides, scrapbooking ideas, storing photographs and even checking on this blog. The modern photographer, amateur or otherwise, seems to benefit greatly from being connected and flexible with their digital resources.

When I think of the process of digital photography, I think of it in four phases – vision, capture, processing and presentation. I think an iPad (or alternative tablet computer) can really support us photographers in working through these stages.

Vision

Vision is one of those slippery concepts. I’ve read whole books on the subject and come away not feeling any wiser. Let’s just say, for the sake of simplicity, that two key components of vision are knowledge and taste. With the web, there has never been a greater or more efficient way to expose yourself to content from other photographers. You know what you like, and you know what you don’t like. Absorbing information and images from online sources, even if you decide you don’t like what you see, is gradually refining your taste and contributing to your knowledge.

I’ve also noticed that some resources that I want are available only as apps/ebooks… I hope this doesn’t become increasingly common, but this is the reality of digital distribution methods. It’s something to keep in mind.

I’m not going to spend any more time preaching to somebody reading a photography blog about the value of the web. You already know it.

Capture

Capture is perhaps the least of all the stages that the iPad can contribute to. There is no way I would plan to take a picture with the onboard camera although, as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you at the time. So never say never.

Where I do think it can come in more consistently useful is getting yourself in a position to take the shot in the first place. One thing I like to do when visiting a place is make a Google maps search of the local area. There are often people who upload their tagged photographs in the vicinity and this can give you a really good starting point for where the best spots are.

“f/8 and be there.” Being there just got a bit easier.

Processing

When you think of processing, you immediately think of things like white balance, curves and sharpening. I would say you also need to think about file transfer, redundancy and management.

I travel light and that means the laptop often gets left at home, which regularly gives me two gripes about the digital workflow. The first is that I often find myself in the hotel room wishing I could start sorting the days images. There are a couple of reasons for this – not least to free up valuable space on my memory cards, but because I hate the initial sift through your files – binning out of focus shots and the like. It is a job that is best done in small chunks, and if I can do a little bit every day instead of two weeks worth in one sitting I’d be much happier. The iPad could help me in this regard, and also provide me with some convenient storage for creating backups.

Regarding the more traditional idea of processing, I admit that I think it’s very unlikely a tablet computer will replace my PC when it comes to this task. We’re seeing more powerful apps like Photoshop Touch emerge, but I see these as a stop-gap until you get back to the office. When you take into account the cost of the app, though, they are worth the purchase even if you only use them to spice up your social networking snaps or experiment before you get the opportunity to process for real.

Presentation

Maybe I’m wrong, but presentation always strikes me as an often neglected stage of photography. To me, the final destination of the journey of photography is a finished print. There is something about the finality of the physical copy that appeals to me. It’s one of a kind.

However, for better or for worse, most of today’s digital photography has become exactly that – photographs that exist only in the digital world from the second the shutter button is pressed. That is the reality, so we should make the best of it.

The display of the iPad3 will be stunning – perfect for showing off our photographs to friends or prospective clients. The operating system is also connected – from private emails to friends and family to uploading for the world to see on one of the many photo sharing sites. In the jungle of low resolutions and un-calibrated monitors, we give up a little of our photograph’s integrity in exchange for an audience unimaginable a generation ago. The iPad not only makes this possible – it makes it easy.

Closing thoughts

I hope you don’t think I’m an iPad “evangelist” nor try to sell you on the idea that the iPad is all things to all people. It isn’t. For what it’s worth, I think Windows 8 tablets will be better. But I believe in the right tool for the right job, and right now that is the iPad.

The iOS platform has reached a level of maturity that is allowing it to gain traction in areas that maybe Apple themselves did not originally anticipate. I see more and more sales reps and educational institutes using these devices. You could be forgiven for thinking schools and colleges may be caught up in the hysteria regarding these computers and have purchased them on a whim, but believe me when you see businesses deploying them to their staff make no mistake – real work is being done.

And they could work for you, too.

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