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Review Photosmith for iPad review

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by flash, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    If you’ve got an iPad and you use Lightroom you’re going to love this. Sorry Aperture and Android users. Maybe next time.

    For the last month I’ve been one of only 50 people,worldwide, beta testing the new Photosmith app for the iPad. This may actually be the first review of this program, in the world. Photosmith is in for review by Apple and should be available any day.

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    Photosmith is a companion app for the library module in Lightroom. It allows you to use many of the library modules organisational and metadata functions on your ipad and then sync that data, collections and images to Lightroom on your PC or Mac.

    The idea behind Photosmith, is to let you keyword, rate and sort images in the field, using your ipad and then sync those files and metadata with Lightroom at your desk. This could save some people hours, by being able to get this work done in the field. I know I’ve used Photosmith extensively since the beta was released and it’s now one of the most important apps on my ipad. The basic workflow is to use the ipad camera connection kit to copy the files to your ipad, use the ipad photo app to cull out images you really don’t want. Then you import the rest into Photosmith and sort, keyword, rate and rename those images. The concept is simple, but the code to actually get it to work is complex. The guys at Photosmith have worked with Adobe to develop the plug-in that you need to make the app work with Lightroom. And the end result is pretty seamless and it even works wirelessly, with a couple of important points to note.

    Firstly, a couple of things that Photosmith isn’t.
    It’s not a photo editing program.
    It doesn’t convert RAW files.
    It doesn’t replace Lightroom.
    It doesn’t do slide shows, galleries or web templates.

    Photosmith is a companion to the Library module of Lightroom and you can directly sync metadata between Photosmith and your iPad. This is possible because Photosmith also requires a plug-in to be installed on your PC or Mac. Then the iPad app and Lightroom can communicate directly with each other.

    I'm testing Photosmith on a first generation iPad. I have a brand new 2011 17" MacBook Pro 2.3ghz with 8 GB of ram as well as a 3 year old Sony Vaio that also has 8GB of ram.


    The first thing to do is get the files on to your iPad. As many of you will already know, you can copy raw and jpeg files from your camera or memory cards to the iPad using Apple's camera connection kit. So that’s what you do. Import the raw or jpeg files as you normally would. Unfortunately the iPad import isn’t the fastest in the world. It’s around 4 mins per GB which will frustrate some who have huge volumes of files to import. I couldn’t use the iPad at a wedding, where I often shoot up to 40Gb in a single day. But for many commercial jobs and all my personal work, it’s been plenty fast enough. I’ve actually copied cards to the iPad while driving back from a shoot and culled, keyworded and rated files having a coffee at a local cafe or over lunch. It’s a pretty nice way to get some work done. The iPad also allows incremental backups of cards, so only new files are copied. So you can copy regularly and still leave the files on your memory card as a second copy.

    Once the photos are on the iPad, then open the photos app and delete the real trash. Photosmith can’t delete files so this is done using the Apple app. And at this stage it can’t flag files as rejected, which is more of a pain. For now I’m using a colour tag for rejected images, but i hope that the photosmith team gets picks and rejects into a future version. While you can tag the files with a colour tag in Photosmith and delete those later in Lightroom, but it’s more efficient to delete files using the Apple Photos app. It speed the whole process up in Photosmith if you have less images to import.

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    grid view

    Then you boot up Photosmith. Now it gets interesting. Photosmith will import all the files on your ipad, or all the new ones in subsequent imports. This takes about a second an image. You’ll see the thumbnails loading in the grid view. You can start working straight away, but the iPad does get slow trying to do so much at once. I’m sure the iPad2 would be better here.

    On the left side of the preview pane is the catalogue settings. If you’ve synched with Lightroom previously then the catalogues in LR will display as well. You create a new catalogue for the images you want to work on and then select them and drag them to the catalogue of choice. Images not in a catalogue are not synched, so you can transfer only the images you want to.

    A nice touch for m4/3 cameras like the EPL1 and EPL2 is that Photosmith will rotate images for you, even though your (and my) cameras wont.

    Once the files are imported you switch to the Loupe view. On this screen you can see the file and a metadata pane. Here you can keyword, rate, rename and assign colour codes to files. Exif data is displayed as long as it is in the current Apple codec, which my EP-1 is but EP-2 is not. You can add keywords, copyright information, as well as rate and keyword files.The app can work as fast as you can tapping the desired colour or rating and flicking through files. You can double tap or use pinch controls to zoom to 100% views. It takes a second or so to redraw at full resolution. However it’s very cool being able to check critical sharpness from a 100% view.

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    loupe view

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    keyword screen

    There’s also a full screen view that (believe it or not) shows the image in full screen mode. You still have buttons for rating and colour tags, but you’ll need to go back to the Loupe view to do renaming and keywords. Pinch and zoom work here as well.
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    full screen view

    Once you’ve finished rating your files you then need to transfer them to Lightroom on your PC or Mac. The Photosmith team have done a sweet job of making this easy. Once the Photosmith plug-in is installed in Lightroom you activate it and run Photosmith on your iPad. The plug-in will find the app and ask you what you want to sync. The whole thing works wirelessly. Hit sync and it’s all done automatically. Images are copied with all their ratings, keywords etc, already done. However if you copy the image files wirelessly it’s ridiculously slow. Again this is the iPad at work, not the app. The faster way is to hook up your ipad and copy the files via the sync cable and then wirelessly sync the metadata. It’s actually easier to do this on Windows as the iPad shows up as a connected camera. Just drag and drop the files and import to Lightroom and sync with Photosmith. On a Mac Lightroom will see the iPad as a device and you can import there. but if you like to drag and drop your images you’ll need to open the Disk Utility to be able to “see” the iPad.

    Photosmith is going to have a somewhat limited user base. You’ll need a Lightroom loving iPad owner who doesn’t copy vast quantities of images in a session. Having said that, if you fit into that category then Photosmith is a compelling solution to metadata management on the road. It seems nearly perfect for traveling photographers. I’m sure some commercial clients are going to love being able to rate images on an iPad and wedding photographers could use Photosmith to have clients pick and rate images for their albums.

    I’m absolutely loving Photosmith. I may actually get an iPad2 to take advantage of any speed that importing and synching may be able to utilise. I’ve found that more and more I’m preferring to do my sorting and ratings on the iPad, rather than being stuck at a desk. It’s just a nicer way to work, sometimes. It’s certainly very cool being able to do these tasks at places like coffee shops and when waiting to pick up the kids. It’s going to be absolutely brilliant on my upcoming holiday to Europe. I’ll have five weeks of images, rated, sorted and keyworded before I get home. It’s going to save me hours. Days maybe.

    If you utilise the full power of the Lightroom library module then Photosmith s going to be a great app to have. If you have Lightroom but don’t use its DAM functions, then you probably should and Photosmith may be a more enjoyable way to do so.

    Photosmith will be US$17.99 (AUD21.99) from the app store and should be available any day now. The LR plug-in is free. For more details go to Photosmith

    Works as advertised. Does what it does really really well.
    Simple touch to rate and colour tag.
    Works with Raw and Jpeg files.
    True integration with Lightroom. No dodgy workarounds.
    Create collections within the app or use one from Lightroom.
    Fast, once the images are on the ipad and imported.
    100% view of raw files.
    Perfect for m 4/3 users because the smaller files load and sync quicker than larger files.

    Slow file transfer to and from iPad, although this is Apples fault, not the programs.
    Can’t set picks or rejects.
    Can’t read metadata unless camera is supported by Apple. Again an Apple issue.
    More expensive in Oz even with our better than parity exchange rate.

    If you’ve got any questions, let me know.


    (disclaimer: as a beta tester I will be getting a free copy of Photosmith. This has not influenced my enthusiasm for this program or the review written above. I’ve been waiting for a program like this as long as I’ve had my iPad.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
    • Like Like x 14
  2. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Great review, and great app. Personally, I've not found any compelling reason to manage photos on an iPad, but this starts to get there!

    Also, kudos to m43 for landing this content! (or perhaps more like thank you to Gordon for choosing to put this on mu-43 -- which is my main go-to site now!).

    Excellent information, and I'll look for that app. I hope they release a "lite" version (maybe that only handles 50 images at a time or something) so I can try it first before buying, but this is certainly the first truly interesting photo app for the iPad. Bravo!
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Flash,

    Great review! Thanks much....

    Perhaps even a review coup for Mu-43!

    Cheers, Alan
  4. k4t

    k4t Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for the hot tip. Looks like a really exciting program. Now I'm just wishing I'd ordered a bigger capacity iPad 2!
    • Like Like x 1
  5. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    LOL! That was my though exactly. 16GB -- good enough for e-mail and web surfing. Didn't know I'd find a real photo management app!
  6. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest


    Hi there,

    Is possible to have following workflow?

    camera -> macbook (lightroom) -> export somehow to ipad -> make tagging -> sync back to macbook (lightroom)??

    Or it is only following way?
    camera -> ipad -> lightroom?

  7. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    The biggest issue I have is the 16GB storage on the iPad. Well, at least when working with my 5D.

    But say that issue gets resolved... you say to manually import your photos since it's slow via wireless.

    What if I sort and organize on photosmith, say 3 different categories. Then when I import manually, I'd have to manually create those same 3 categories, right? Or does this app know which photo is which via XML/EXIF data regardless of where it gets imported on my home system?

    Overall, I'd love to have a 64GB tablet to do this. Not only would it double as redundancy on the field, but it makes it so much easier to tag/sort anywhere. Or, if I can't get redundancy, it'd be cool if it could import med res jpegs, and match them to raw files later.. save space.
  8. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Sounds nifty, but a bit rich for my taste.
  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Great review, Gordon. Looks like a very useful app!
  10. moffo

    moffo Mu-43 Rookie

    Feb 25, 2011
    Central Texas
    Seems to be available right now!

    (just bought it...)
  11. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Yes and no. iTunes can't send raw files to the iPad. So files get "jpeged". Then they're really diffent files and things won't sync.

    You'd need to copy to the iPad using the camera connection kit and import to Lightroom. Then when you sync only the metadata is transferred as the files are already in your Lightroom library.

  12. dragnsi

    dragnsi New to Mu-43

    May 2, 2011
    Request for Video Review / Tutorial

    Could you possibly post a Video Review of the App and maybe a Tutorial of the sync process. Thanks
    • Like Like x 1
  13. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Version 2 is out by the way (free upgrade for version 1 owners).

  14. JacqulynValles


    Jun 8, 2012
    I'm testing Photosmith on a first generation iPad. I have a brand new 2011 17" MacBook Pro 2.3ghz with 8 GB of ram as well as a 3 year old Sony Vaio that also has 8GB of ram.

    surf lessons maui
  15. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    Photosmith revisited

    Interesting finding this review here. I am a huge fan of this app. I was lucky though in that I only found it a couple of months ago. The initial buyers of the app were faced with a lot of bugs and effectively had to work with the developer to help build the product for prime time. It now works very well.

    This is how I use it.
    1) I shoot 'RAW + Jpeg' with an OMD
    2) The jpeg are downloaded by my 'eye-fi card' through 'photosmith' into my ipad.
    3) I then 'sort - reject, star, color, flag' and 'tag' my photos
    4) I upload my RAW to LR from my SD card in the normal way. And photosmith then syncs via wifi (at around 3 photos a second) the data from the jpegs to the RAW (the jpegs themselves are not uploaded.)

    The weak point in my set up is the eye-fi card. It is relatively slow for an SD card (12 mb/sec) and the OMD will sometimes switch to sleep while it is downloading. The GH3 will be great with inbuilt wifi.
  16. Touring1

    Touring1 New to Mu-43

    Dec 14, 2011
    Are there any plans for an Aperture friendly version?
  17. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    There have been various requests for one on their website and I have a feeling that it is in the 'things to do' file. However, I doubt that it is that high on their list of priorities. For instance, they havent brought out an Android version of the Lightroom software yet and I would certainly expect that to come first.
  18. straho99

    straho99 New to Mu-43

    Dec 8, 2011

    The app is not worth spending the money. It is still in beta version. And that is being generous. I would say and alpha version... It crashes o regularly you would think it is programmed like this intentionally. And syncing keywords is completely random. People rave about it, but I don't see why. It is not working. Full stop.
  19. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    Photosmith revisited

    I have used this App for nearly a year now. I was initially very excited about it but 'Straho' (see above) made a valid point. Although the App 'just' about worked it was incredibly prone to freezes and crashes. In fact you really couldnt use it for a whole shoot without at least one crash or freeze.

    The App has however, been virtually rewritten for Photosmith V3 which was released about a month ago. The key change is that the App removed its integration with the ipad own photo App and now all photos are downloaded to the App itself.

    This has added a dramatic effect on stability - I have now been using V3 for over a month (usually just about 100 shots at a time) and have only had the App freeze on one occasion. The other advantage of moving the photos within the App is that they can be deleted at the touch of a button. Deleting photos within the ipad photo app needs to essentially be done on a one by one basis. Finally they earlier this week added Mobi eye-fi support which makes the set up for eye-fi far simpler than before.

    There are a number of ways that you can use Photosmith but I will briefly explain how and why I use it.

    I shoot RAW + jpeg to an eye-fi SD card. The 'eye-fi cards' are push cards - in that they automatically push jpegs to your smart device when paired. Photosmith integrates with eye-fi. So when I have finished shooting I...

    1) Switch on the eye-fi card's wifi in camera
    2) Make sure that my ipad connects to the wifi
    3) Open the photosmith App

    ...and then all the jpeg versions of the latest shots I took are automatically downloaded to the App. I shoot mid sized jpegs (3mb) and it takes approximately 5 minutes to download 100 jpegs. This is pretty fast by wifi SD card standards (and their apps). Obviously if you choose larger jpegs it will take longer.

    Photosmith itself is in many respects like the library module in Lightroom. It has a grid view, a loupe view and a full screen view. I use it primarily to sort my photos. The full screen view is particularly useful for this. It allows you to zoom in on your photo - and with no Lightroom delay. It allows you to color, flag, mark for deletion or star your photos. And it has an auto-advance check box.

    The App also allows you to tag your photos (and even syncs your keywords) with Lightroom. I dont actually use this much.

    And now we come to the clever bit. Photosmith has a Lightroom plugin (which is free). When I get back to my desktop, I import all my RAWs in the usual manner. Photosmith can then sync the metadata from the jpegs to the RAWs in Lightroom. Therefore any jpeg that is marked for deletion on the ipad will mark the corresponding RAW for deletion in Lightroom. The same applies for colors stars flags etc as well as any tagging or IPTC data. This is done over wifi and is pretty quick - say 100 photos in a minute and a half.

    So normally all my RAWs are sorted within 5 minutes of being at my desktop. It really is a pretty efficient way to sort your RAWs - essentially using the jpegs to preview and sort. Where this App is particularly useful is if you go away for 3 or 4 days without your laptop - you can preview and sort as you go and all the sorting will be done by the time you return to your desktop.

    There is a lot of additional functionality in the App that I dont use - dropbox, flickr, facebook, email integration. To me its independence from the ipad photo album - introduced in V3 - is a huge advantage because deletion from the ipad photo album is a pain. But best of all, the App really works now (admittedly two years after it was introduced).

    I think it is worth looking at for anyone with Lightroom and an ipad. There may be others who have bought the App and gave up on it because of the inherent crashes and freezes - it is well worth updating the App (it is a free upgrade) and giving it another shot.
  20. brettmaxwell

    brettmaxwell Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 8, 2012
    sounds cool. do you know if it can import from the Apple SD reader?
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