iPad Pro in 2020 as only photo editing tool?

ean10775

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So I'm in the market for some new hardware for photo editing. As background, for the past year or so I've been converting from RAW to JPEG in camera on my EM5II, X100T and X-E3 and processing the JPEGs further in Snapseed and Darkroom on my iPad Air 2/iPhone SE. For the most part I've been happy doing this, but in the past few days I've gone back to doing some RAW editing in LR on my iMac and realize I miss the flexibility and better IQ. My iMac is a 2010 and is running Sierra and Lightroom 4.4 and Photoshop CS5 (ancient, I know) and I edit using a Wacom Bamboo tablet. Unfortunately the iMac and LR repeatedly crashes making editing a chore, and being tied to the office takes me away from my family when I want to edit photos. I'd like a more mobile solution.

I've looked at the Macbook Pro, but honestly don't really need a laptop for anything other than photo editing (I don't really shoot or edit video either) and seeing as I prefer to edit on a tablet with a pencil, the Macbook wouldn't be quite as portable as an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. I don't edit a ton of files and rarely need to batch process anything - really its just family photos and hobbyist stuff. I know that several people here use an iPad Pro and LR Mobile to supplement their primary computers, but does anyone have experience with using it as their only editing device? For those that have an iPad Pro and use LR Mobile and PS Mobile, what has your experience been? What are the limitations/problems you've come up against?
 
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Sorry, I can't answer your questions directly.

I don't know what the subscription is for LR and PS mobile. If it isn't that far off the full desktop subscription, then I would look toward something like a Microsoft Surface. It would give you full laptop capabilities in a very portable package.
 

Hendrik

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I’ve been in the position while traveling that the iPad, with LR Mobile, becomes the grownup editor. Otherwise, for my everyday editor, I use Lightroom Classic (CC) on a soon to be replaced iMac. I’ve found that the files I produce on the iPad need very little to no work when opened back on the iMac. I’ve also experimented with the new mobile PhotoShop app. It seems perfectly adequate to do run of the mill editing that might call for PhotoShop.
For instance, this post was accomplished on the iPad Pro.
 

ean10775

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I'd prefer to stay within the Apple ecosystem. I have a Microsoft based laptop for work should I need a full fledged computer for something in a pinch. My editing is usually fairly basic (curves, general exposure parameters, selective dodging/burning/clarity/sharpening using brush adjustments, perspective corrections and overall sharpening/noise reduction. I feel like this should all be easily accomplished with LR Mobile and/or Affinity Photo, yes?
 

Hendrik

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I'd prefer to stay within the Apple ecosystem. I have a Microsoft based laptop for work should I need a full fledged computer for something in a pinch. My editing is usually fairly basic (curves, general exposure parameters, selective dodging/burning/clarity/sharpening using brush adjustments, perspective corrections and overall sharpening/noise reduction. I feel like this should all be easily accomplished with LR Mobile and/or Affinity Photo, yes?
Yes.
 
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I’ve been in the position while traveling that the iPad, with LR Mobile, becomes the grownup editor. Otherwise, for my everyday editor, I use Lightroom Classic (CC) on a soon to be replaced iMac. I’ve found that the files I produce on the iPad need very little to no work when opened back on the iMac.
For instance, this post was accomplished on the iPad Pro.
I have the same use, but with a different outcome.
I use LR Mobile in travel. I get good enough results to share... but when I come home I generally do much better on my computer.
I always take a look at my "on the go" settings, but most of the times I start from scratch.
Note that I don't use "Adobe" color profiles but Huelight ones, and they are not available with LR Mobile.
I would also have a very difficult time using only Lightroom CC at home instead of Lightroom Classic.
 

threeOh

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I've been traveling for over 4 months a year for over 20 years. About 6 months last year and this. Dating an ex-CEO of a travel company keeps me busy. Been using an iPad, on and off, since the iPad I. For the last 2 years I’ve been using just an iPad with desktop LR being primarily DAM.

Yesterday I came home from the Sebring historics. 1,500 images, all that was left to do at home was sync LR Classic, populate an album in Lightroom CC and distribute an LR web album (did not use Portfolio this time). That was a 3 day trip. Longer and all would have been done on the road. Normally all I would do when I get home is sync with LR Classic, trash the CC files and pour myself a drink.

Some observations:
1) I use a regular iPad 9.7” with 128 gb. Not sure what I’d gain with a Pro. It does all I need it to do. Runs Adobe very well. Imports (Lightning connector) are slow but most of the time is uploading and that’s going to be the same no matter what you use. 128 gb can be tight. I’ll go with 256 gb next time. Have a pencil, don’t use it.
2) I import to Photos, cull, mark what I want in LR as a Favorite. Import favorites to LR. Delete all non-Favorites in Photo's, SD cards are storage. The non-favorites are not backed up, I have no problem with that as they get pitched eventually. Favorites are on an SD card, in the iPad, could be in iCloud and are in Adobe's cloud. Good enough for me.
3) I use Adobe Portfolio for distribution. It’s not all that intuitive but it’s gotten much better in the last year. Free including storage. So my $10/month plan is no problem with space as I shift most finished files to several albums in Portfolio and don’t keep any masters other than the active trip's post cull files in CC. I figure it’s just a matter of time before Adobe slams the door on that approach.
4) I run pretty much gadget free. My travel kit is the iPad, the Apple cover, Lightning card reader, charger and cable.

What's not to like: Apple Photos app. It’s near horrible and requires a series of workarounds to use as a front-end to Adobe. Every release is different. I am quite sure Apple's marketing staff is compensated for any ideas incorporated into the next release. What you get is stuff that worked replaced by stuff that’s not intuitive and doesn’t necessarily work. But someone made money. I don’t bother learning it any more, so maybe it’s not bad.I can’t find an app that would serve as a Photo Mechanic for the iPad. LR Mobile is raw only. I like jpegs at times.

Last year I got rid of my rmbp and a mini server and replaced both with a new mini. I’m getting quite close to the day when the iPad will replace the mini. I find Files and iCloud actually work well these days. Apple may be waking up, for a change. With usb3 and a decent hub, a keyboard and mouse at home, perhaps a display, the prospect of not needing a computer looks like it may be in sight.

There are plenty of tablet alternatives. Having tried near all of them at one point or another (Windows and Mac), for me, it’s either a MacBook Air or an iPad. Battery life and size/weight being the primary criteria.

If you need to be on the bleeding edge of tech, speed, backing up to multiple locations before you do anything, an iPad may not work. With life at my pace and having security in SD cards, an iPad works OK. It’s not a laptop. But it sure is a lot cheaper ($399 for my 6), lighter and versatile.
 

Generationfourth

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Hmm this is interesting. I've been toying with this idea as well. I use a MacBook Pro heavily as a freelance designer. For the majority of my work (web, app design, and presentations) a base level MBP is perfectly fine, maybe a little extra ram. Since getting back into Photography I've had to spec a much more powerful machine so I can comfortably edit large files on a 27" 4k-5k monitor. I also use a Wacom intuos tablet.

Here's the thing: I spend so much time on a computer for work, that as a hobbyist photographer the last thing I like doing is spending more time behind my computer. I see people making edits directly on a tablet or surface and kind of envy them. I'd much rather grab an iPad sit on the couch and do edits instead of behind a large monitor, with a very expensive machine, and inferior 'disconnected' tablet (Wacom drivers are crap nowadays).

I'm literally picking up a $3400+ MBP today from apple. Yes it maybe overkill, yes there are cheaper alternatives and lately I've been more privy to other options. It is a write off for my business and even if I spent $10k on it it would still pay itself off very quickly, but still I hate being chained to the machine!
 
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my 2 cents:

A ’17 12.9” iPad came my way two years ago so I got the Affinity Photo on it during the first days of use after a recent change in my lifestyle meant no more possible to use my ancient ‘08 Macbook along its nice & simple DXO Photos plugins inside the fairly powerful native Photos application.

Two years later Affinity still has not “clicked’’ for me and I seldom use the very powerful but all too congested suite besides a very effective automated panorama stitch or so. Until the iPadOS13 the Photos app mostly sucked but the current version is mostly ok, perspective corrections included. But I do miss the fabulous DXO denoising plugin both in the Photos and the Affinity apps.

HOWEVER, after remembering to turn off NIght Shift and True Tone every time I want to edit a photo, I must say I really ENJOY the calibrated screen (no more fighting with cheap but branded monitors!). I feel it worths its value even if using it just as a “proof” screen (via iCloud) while editing on another machine.

Also, beware of the all too often Apple-in-denial expensive mishaps like the “bendgate” of the current iPad Pros and this slight screen edge delamination issue that also affects me a bit and it is really annoying spoiling the screen’s perfectness (1st world problems...):
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/ipad-pro-12-9-light-bleeding-covered-by-warranty.2127615/
 
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tkbslc

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I would argue that there is no need for the lastest "pro". An iPad Air 10.5 or last gen Ipad Pro runs any of the editing software with zero lag. (iPad Air has slightly faster CPU and is more recent, last gen Pro has the 120hz screen and better speakers). I know the newer iPads benchmark higher, but there is literally nothing I have ever had to wait for on my 2017 iPad Pro 10.5 in any photo software. I've played with the latest iPad Pros and the same is true there, so they don't really feel any faster to me. I do like their keyboard and pencil attachments better, if you plan to buy those.

I haven't given up my computer yet, but I do 90% of my editing on my iPad. If my computer died, I could live with iPad 10.5 for a long time.

File management is the major annoyance, but it's getting better. if you have your older ios devices updated to 13, you already know how the file management is going to work and what the software can do. A new one will just do it faster. So I guess you can answer you own question by trying to work from the ipad air 2 for a while and seeing if your only annoyance is speed.

Edit: noticed you shoot Fuji. One thing that sucks is that iOS only supports Fuji RAW files if they are uncompressed. So you may need bigger memory cards, ipad storage and cloud storage. I shoot JPEG most of the time and save the RAW for special shoots, so it isn't a huge deal for me.

Which reminds me, get the lighting to SD reader! It is FAST and using the camera's wifi is not.
 
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demiro

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I'm doing all of my editing on iPad Pro as well. Biggest plus for me, as others have mentioned, is not being stuck at my desk. Worth the trade-offs of possibly sacrificing some ultimate IQ and dealing with clunky file management. I don't know the Pro is needed, but I think it is better for use with Apple Pencil, which I use a lot for editing.

The Pro has also replaced 99% of paper I used to use for work. That was my goal, but I'm honestly surprised I'm enjoying it so much. I've always liked a nice notebook and pen.
 

tkbslc

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I don't know the Pro is needed, but I think it is better for use with Apple Pencil, which I use a lot for editing.

The Air can use the gen 1 pencil (from the earlier ipad pros). It also has a laminated screen, so it feels the same as it does on the pro models. The gen 1 pencil also works on the base $300 model, but they don't have the laminated screen and there's a bit of a parralax gap when writing. Easy to overcome, but the laminated screens are better.

So basically the Air has the full pencil experience from the previous model ipad pros - which is to say very good. It doesn't have the magnetic charging or the tap to change editing tools features that the gen 2 does, but that's it.

Don't get me wrong, the latest Ipad Pro models are great. But you can get a very similar experience and run all the same software for half the price. I also like how the air and older Ipad Pro have fingerprint sensors and headphone jacks.
 

Darmok N Jalad

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Totally a possibility to use an iPad for photo editing. I actually did this for several months with a 12.9” iPad Pro, and this was before iOS 13 and external file support. iPad handles RAW files natively, so you don’t need to open one in a photo editor to do a simple viewing.

Anyway, what I used to do was import my SDcard to Photos, do an initial culling, then edit the RAWs in Affinity and save a JPG back to Photos for sharing. You can then offload the RAW files, or just get an iCloud tier that can handle your RAW files. They key is to make sure you keep all your RAW files in an album so you can identify them easily.

Now with iOS 13 and external drive support, you can just import RAW to the iPad’s storage and save yourself some shuffling. You can then move your RAW files off to an external drive.

Affinity photo is great on iPad, and the 12.9” Pro is essential, IMO. You get more room to make proper edits and see what you are doing. I find the 11” and under just not big enough. So long as you manage your storage and keep backups, it’s totally doable now, and performance is really good. No lag in the sliders at all.
 

Galengwath

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I frequently use my iPad Pro to import photos into Lightroom as well as for editing. My only laptop at the moment is quite slow and my iPad is more responsive for editing. Except for when I'm stacking images or stitching panoramas my iPad is generally my go-to.
 

Repp

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My biggest problems with LR Mobile were that it didn’t sync keywords with Classic and it took forever to to copy back to my desktop.

I’m also looking to go mainly iPad for editing as I travel a lot and it’s size fits nicely with m43, currently I have a 2yo pro. The nicest thing the pro offers for me is USB-C drive support and UHS-ii card speeds. Software wise I’ve been impressed with Affinity Photo and LumaFusion, but I’m still trying to find a DAM since dropping Adobe last week.

If you’re looking to buy, wait a bit. A new iPad is possibly on the way this March, and if nothing else the current models will drop in price.
 

bassman

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I travel for 3 or 4 weeks at a time and don’t own a laptop, so iPad + LR Mobile is it for me on the road. I find it quite good - easy to use; the new File app makes the whole process more robust. I have an Apple Pencil but rarely use it. But when I get home, I find that I can do a better job on many images using LR Classic on my iMac. The bigger screen and touchpad, along with the additional features, give me more control over the edits.
 

aukirk

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I increasingly use iPad Pro and Lightroom Mobile for editing... love the ability to use the pencil to dodge and burn. Since the recent addition of direct importing to Lightroom (rather than importing to Photos, then adding to Lightroom, waiting for sync, then deleting from Photos). It has been a game changer.

I find myself rarely using Lightroom CC on my MacBook. Haven't felt limited by the iPad editing and it feels much more natural in my opinion.
 

threeOh

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@bassman & aukirk

Sounds like you’re importing directly to LR Mobile. Is that where you do your culling? Do you pause sync during culling? Are you ok with your workflow?

My culls frequently go over 90%. Sort of silly to upload on a marginal travel connection just to trash.

In spite of the fact Adobe has never been high on my list of admirable companies (since the mid-80’s), they have done an admirable job with their mobile solution.
 

Mack

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I have an iPad Pro and an older Air along with a SIM card in each to T-mobile as I use them on drones. My issue is Apple has to be the most difficult to move images between them and Windows machines. My Apple pen only works with the Pro model too.

The Apple color is a bit too saturated so I've tried to calibrate the Pro screen with an x-rite Display Pro but for some reason the iPad OS (13 security perhaps?) will not accept the hook-up so it cannot be done. I would like to use them as field monitors too on location, but Apple is only HDMI out and not in via its Lightning port. Firmware updates to the drones can be problematic too, but I can use an Android phone and complete the firmware update. Apple has far too much security and OS issues to be user friendly, imho. I may venture to a Windows Surface next. Dunno.
 
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Mike Wingate

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Apple iPad pro 12.9” 2019, with the most expensive pencil in the world. I use Panasonic App to transfer and select images. Then I have Snapseed, Affinity, Lightroom and an improving Photoshop to edit the RAW shots.
 
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