Using iPad Pro with Lightroom Mobile- how pro can we go?
The challenge I’ve taken on is to try to re-create our current Aperture workflow for assignments in the field using iPad Pro and Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Lots of folks have gone before and figured this out in one way or another but I’m sharing my own attempts here. A further caveat is there is so much we don’t know yet so please correct me as needed.
It’s been a few weeks now of shooting personal work on my new Sony a6300 and learning Lightroom desktop and LR Mobile. The first big question I had was: can I download SD cards with RAW files directly to iPad? And yes, that was a no brainer. Files go into Photos but LRM sees them and brings them into LRM instantly it seems. I need to understand that better as to why Photos is in the middle, but at least I did not have another import step.
The level of retouching available in the latest LRM is astonishing. Especially with the iPad Pro and pencil. Pixel level adjustments…! Overall, I’m really excited because for sure I can completely replace my Aperture workflow for all my personal work, using just iPad Pro and LRM. This means all my street photography, walk about and small projects.
The next big step was taking Lightroom and LRM into the field on a professional assignment to see how far we could go. My first assistant Demetrius Fordham and I did that last week for FedEx in Minneapolis. Interesting!
Before we started the shoot my question was if I could download CF cards directly to iPad Pro and get my RAW files on there. We did some tests in my hotel room And yes you can, but with some caveats, plus it took a few days of research and testing to get this to happen. Again, people out there are onto this, but there’s not a lot of information partly since Apple just began supporting RAW files. I went through a few wrong adaptor combinations until I got it right.
For CF cards, you need the Apple Camera Connector adaptor which has both a USB input as well as a lighting connection which you must have to power the CF card reader. That’s the main thing – the iPad can’t provide the power but with the power adaptor it’s all good.
Downloading CF card w/Raw files in hotel rom using Apple Camera Connector Adaptor
Again, the download was fast and easy and LRM pulled the files in from Photos immediately. I could then edit (yes the old fashioned term meaning to select, cull, choose images, not retouch them) in LRM. Easy. And you can sync to Lightroom on your laptop or main desktop. You can even merge catalogs, similarly to Aperture.
So at this point I know I can download RAW files directly from SD and CF cards, sync all over my devices, edit (cull) and do corrections on my iPad Pro. Some cynics might point out that if you have to find power for your iPad to use the CF card reader it’s not truly a mobile field solution. But since you still have to recharge your iPad I’ll ignore that, plus we always have cigarette lighter power adaptors anyway. (UPDATE: We can use Mophies making this non-issue.)
And I also figured out that the iPad Pro 12.9” is my preferred size to work on. I just love the bigger screen and keyboard when editing.
ROADBLOCK: THE BACK UP PUZZLE
We also knew at this point after much research that there was not going to be an easy way to do simultaneous backups from the iPad as we must do on any pro shoot. Normally we have a copy of all the files going to the desktop/laptop and to 3 or 4 external drives for all files on import.
This then is the big roadblock for us on a professional production. We did find some tiny solid state drives online that seem to connect to iPad Pro but we’d need them in 500GB size at a minimum. The largest they had available at the moment was 64GB. We played around with a powered USB hub and other ideas but really the only easy back up solution is iCloud.
Given that on this shoot we shot over 100 GB per day (insane but…) and our internet in the field is a kind of slow Verizon wifi card, not to mention the hotel wifi speeds are usually pretty slow, the cloud is not going to work. And it won’t really work in the near future for this size shoot until the planet is covered with blazingly fast wifi. Even overnight.
You could workaround this by airdropping files onto your laptop or desktop and backing up to externals from there but that kind of defeats the exercise. Of course for my smaller projects the cloud works fine. So where does that leave us? In a very promising middle ground.
CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
Did I mention that we actually switched our entire professional workflow from Aperture to Lightroom in the first hour of our shoot? We did. Steep learning curve but it all worked out great.
So here’s what we can do that I’m absolutely thrilled about:
We can download our CF cards as usual in the field (We convert a van into a digital mobile lab with Eizo calibrated screen plus sometimes a laptop, sometimes a Mac Pro, power inverter, etc.) and it’s syncing with my ipad/LRM almost immediately. So we’ve changed to Lightroom and LRM and it’s terrific.
Demetrius can keep working on backups and downloads and I can sit nearby on breaks or back in my hotel room after each day with a glass of wine, editing on the iPad Pro and it all syncs back to the catalog on the laptop. This is a breakthrough for our workflow because I have to stay on top of the editing or I’ll never get selects pulled for the client at the end. Truly, that’s brilliant!
Plus the iPad Pro is just fun. Did I mention the pencil and pixel level image correction? To sum up, the iPad Pro is a terrific field workflow solution with LRM for all my personal work. And we’ve found an amazing time-saver for the pro workflow by having the whole project sync to the iPad Pro for easy editing and corrections.
Apple and Adobe working together is powerful good news for photographers and filmmakers. I’m sure I’m tapping only a fraction of what’s possible at this point. And it’s only going to keep improving and probably pretty quickly. It’s a process. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Digital Tech/First Assistant Demetrius Fordham downloading CF cards into Lightroom to a laptop in our digital mobile van. ©Doug Menuez using iPhone6s