QUEST FOR MOBILE: Update on iPad Pro + Adobe LRM

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

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 in Lightroom to a laptop in our digital mobile van.

Digital Tech/First Assistant Demetrius Fordham downloading CF cards into Lightroom to a laptop in our digital mobile van. ©Doug Menuez using iPhone6s

 

Sunday
18
September 2016

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RESPECT THE LEARNING CURVE: Further notes on my iPad Pro/LR Mobile Journey

“Respect the learning curve,” a saying I learned from engineers inside Apple back in the early 90’s when I complained about some complex new software. The other saying they had was “you have to waste an hour to save 10 hours,” both very wise and true. Once you put the time in to learn, productivity soars.

And that’s where I am now, on that steep part of the curve, where it feels like an acid trip – flashes of complete lucidity and understanding in between hours of confusion. So all you read here is likely wrong or incomplete, please bear with me.

The good news is I have both iPad Pros (both sizes) set up and running with LRM and syncing with my desktop, as well as my phone. This flexibility is simply the coolest thing about the process so far. Yes you can download RAW direct to the iPad it seems but I am waiting for the thunderbolt adaptor which should come today so I can try that. Meanwhile I’m downloading to the laptop and synching to LRM.

Forgive me all you LR maniacs, this is all new to me, BUT it’s freakin awesome to go back and forth. This is cool. I imported my raw/jpegs into Lightroom and synced with LRM. I went to the iPad and there was the collection, nice. I scrolled through and found an image to retouch and yes it was NEF, Nikon raw. I make my corrections, bw etc and then went back to the Desktop and boom, all there, very very fast. I understand this is done with instruction sets so only lower res jpegs are traveling, details…

For my previous workflow, we had Aperture on a laptop with a fresh library set up and would download the memory cards as we worked, backing up everything to three separate HDs at the same time. At the end, we’d copy the Aperture library to one of the drives which I could take with me for editing. If we were traveling on to another shoot or location, I could dropbox the updated library with all my edits for my studio to download and merge with our master Library (or fedex a drive), or on our return we’d merge. And we’d copy the RAW files onto our server when we return or via Fedex. So now, I’m going to try to replace or improve on that system.

We may be able to take the iPad Pro instead of the laptop if we keep it data free. I’ll go shoot, download the shoot, edit and so forth on the iPad. Since LR Mobile is syncing everything the “master” library/catalog is anywhere we want it to be it seems. I have to decide if I’m going to keep one catalog and separate shoots by collections, or make a new catalog for every shoot… tricky to get my head around that. But after each shoot we’d wipe the iPad clean. This assumes no shoot gets above 128 gigs or 256 gigs in case of the smaller one. And then comes the back up: I need to figure out how to back up in real time like we do now, as I don’t think I can connect HD’s to the iPad. That’s key. And the cloud seems unrealistic, even overnight, for as much data as we generate. Especially in some hotel in whereverville. Sometimes we are shooting 20, 3o, 50 gigs a day or more. Crazy I know.

So issues remain in regard to ICC profiles and color management and how much retouching I can actually do on iPad and what will likely get done in studio. If I can solve the back up in the field problem, then we’ll be exploring how far I can go with the iPad Pro. At some point it will make sense to bring everything back to studio for final retouching and exporting for delivery to clients but we’ll see…!

IMG_4703

Lightroom Mobile syncs across both size iPad Pros and iPhone 6s. Cool.

Monday
29
August 2016

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