If you are a photographer who loves to travel (or hates to travel, but has to anyway), you need to be able to upload and edit your images on the go. Having a device specifically for photos can prove useful, even if you already have a laptop. Maybe you’re not supposed to use your work laptop for personal photos, or just want a separate machine with more memory, so you can store more images. Here’s a checklist of what you need from your gear if you are serious about photography:

– A screen with high resolution to spot focus issues and motion blur
– Small and light for travelling/ airport security, especially if it’s a second laptop
– Plenty of battery life – there’s no point having it if it dies 10 minutes after you try and view your images
– Recharging accessories that are small and flexible- you may have to go without AC power when travelling
– Enough memory to back up the images from your cameras
– USB port, memory card readers, and CD drive, so you can always get your pictures on there
– 3G or Wi-Fi (ideally both) to easily back up, send or upload pictures

iPad, anyone?

While not the cheapest solution, an iPad does seem to tick the boxes when it comes to portable photo technology. It’s small and compact, has a high resolution screen, and is easy to use. If you get an unlimited 3G plan, then you can upload all your images from nearly anywhere in the world. So you don’t have to worry about losing them. And because it recharges over USB, you can recharge it from a car battery, if you have the right adaptor. But does it cut the mustard when it comes to photography? Read on to learn the pros and cons.

How easy is it to copy files onto the iPad?

Transferring images from your camera to the iPad is easy, once you’ve bought an iPad Camera Connection Kit. These have to be bought separately, so order it with your iPad. You can import images from either the memory card or the camera, as the kit comes with an SD reader and a USB cable. It is also supposed to be compatible with USB card readers, but this is unreliable. You may just have to use the cable to get them through the camera instead. The software will be familiar to anyone with a Mac who has used iPhoto – the app detects duplicates and asks you whether you want to import them or not. So, you don’t have to choose between deleting the images on the memory card or importing the same images repeatedly. The only problem is that all the files you import, go into the same folder, and you can’t move them around. If you want to organize them, you will have to upload them to the internet first, or wait until you get home and put them on your main computer.

What about viewing and editing images on the go?


The iPad can handle large RAW files from a digital SLR as well as simple JPGs and AVIs, and it doesn’t convert them. So there is no problem transferring them to your main computer later on. Basically, any format compatible with Mac OS will work on the iPad. This includes all but the newest formats. This means, you don’t have to shoot in RAW+JPG. Which means, you can take more pictures in one go. This could make a crucial difference if you are traveling and shooting something rare. It also has no problem with AVI video files. You will really appreciate the difference if you are used to traveling without a device and looking at everything on the camera’s own screen. With the iPad, you can preview your images and see smaller details. This will help you judge which are worth keeping and which are not. If it hasn’t come out right and it’s something you can take again, you can reshoot on location. It beats going home and coming all the way back again.

There are plenty of photo editing apps available for the iPad like the Photogene, so you can make changes before sharing your pictures with the world, but its fairly small processor means that any major editing will have to wait until you get back to a proper computer with Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop or something similar. Also, because the iPad edits the embedded JPG in a RAW image, rather than the RAW image itself, the edited versions will be smaller and saved as JPG files. They are saved separately in “Saved Photos” rather than “All Imported”.

How easy is it to get images off the iPad?

If you’re using a Mac, getting images from the iPad on to your computer is no problem at all. As soon as you plug the iPad into the Mac, it gets them ready for import into Aperture. This is in the same as when you plug your camera into the computer. From Aperture, you can organize and edit them. The images from the iPad show up as daily “Events”. It makes a separate event if the images are from multiple cameras, which can be quite useful. It also puts edited images from the “Saved Photos” folder in a separate event. If you would rather have all your pictures together in chronological order, then you will need to do a bit of moving around.

If you are using iPhoto, you’ll get one “Event” for every date, whether the images are from multiple cameras or not, although it won’t always tell you the date. Any edited photos are organized by the date of editing, not the date the original photo was taken. When you plug the iPad into a Windows PC (with Windows 7 or Vista), the images will be imported to the Windows Photo Gallery. If you’ve set up another program, for example Adobe Photoshop, as your default on the Scanner and Camera Wizard, then they will automatically open there.

What about backing them up remotely?


Even if you’ve backed up the images from your camera to the iPad, you may want to protect them by backing them up further when you are travelling. After all, if you’re in a situation where your memory cards could be damaged or stolen, then the same thing could happen to the iPad. Apple’s security system can make it harder to copy material from the iPad than to it. You can’t plug it into a USB or flash drive. However, there are several ways to send photos wirelessly to a remote location, which work with different levels of success:

– You can e-mail directly from the iPad’s photo app. This will give you full sized RAW files, but will shrink JPG files to 2048×1536 pixels.
– Copy and pasting from the photo app into an email will convert the RAW files to 1600×1200 pixels, but keep JPG files at their original size. Using Photo Transfer App (this only works on Wi-Fi) has the same results as copy and pasting into an email.
– Transferring files using the iPad app FTP On The Go PRO will reduce RAW files to 1600×1200 pixel JPG files and JPG files to 2048×1536 pixels. Using Dropbox (free online file storage) has the same results.
– Using the gallery on the MobileMe app will reduce the JPGs to 1024×768 pixels. It can’t handle RAW files.

So emailing directly from the Photos app is your best bet for backing up RAW images, and much simpler than copying and pasting into the Mail app. Nonetheless, you will have to do that if you want full-sized back ups of your JPG images. You will find that using a Wi-Fi connection to upload your images is much faster than using 3G, so if you stop at a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, make the most of it.

Is an iPad right for you?

An iPad may not be the ideal mobile device for every photographer, if you are on a professional shoot and need to send the images quickly, you would need something with better processing power and your own Wi-Fi dongle. To sum up, the iPad does do pretty much everything you need for storing photos on the road, plus it’s light and easy to carry around. If you already want one, just for the apps and other fun functions, then you know you can use it for backing up images when you need to. Also, because it’s got a decent sized, good quality screen, it makes an ideal portable portfolio.

~ Zahid H Javali