Photographers have been eyeing the iPad since day one trying to figure out ways to incorporate it into their existing workflows. One of the most popular photo organization and processing tools on the desktop is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. While Lightroom will bring in photos from just about any source, including your iPad, photographers have dreamed of a way to do image selection, metadata/keyword work, and other tasks while still out in the field and yes on an iPad. The form factor, touch screen, built-in wireless capabilities and long battery life make the iPad more attractive than a laptop for many situations. That brings us to today's review of a NEW App that promises to help bridge the gap between the iPad and Lightroom on the desktop.
Photosmith Lets You Organize in the Field
Lightroom does a lot of things and I want to make sure you don't walk away from this review thinking that Photosmith is Lightroom for the iPad. It's NOT! What it does do though is appealing to many. Think of Photosmith as most of the most commonly used features of the Lightroom Library Module, on your iPad. When you import your pictures into Lightroom you can use the Library module to organize them into collections, make picks and rejects, rate them, assign color labels, add keywords and other metadata. That's exactly what Photosmith allows you to do on your iPad. While that's great, what makes it even better is that the organizing that you do on the iPad is then sync'd to Lightroom on the desktop!
What's the workflow?
The first thing you'll need to do is get the images from your digital camera into your iPad. There are several ways to do that not the least being using Apple's own Camera Connection Kit that allows you to bring images in from an SD card OR directly from just about any camera using a USB cable. Yes this works with both JPG and RAW. If your camera shoots to Compact Flash Cards you can either use the USB option of the Camera Connection Kit or this new CF Reader for iPad, which is in route to me as we speak (I'll review it when I get it). I've also covered wireless options here and here. Once you get the images into the iPad's Camera Roll presumably while you're still out in the field, you would then be able to see them the minute you launch Photosmith. At that point you could then do all the things I mentioned above for organizing the shots into collections and making your selections. Once you get back to your computer you can then wirelessly (or via USB) sync everything you've done on the iPad to Lightroom (with their free Lightroom plug-in) on the desktop. What you would end up with are only the images you wanted and they would already be organized into collections, have ratings, titles, etc. and be ready to go with the rest of your workflow in Lightroom. There is a full-screen mode that shows just your image as well as mult-gesture support.
Yep, there's sharing too
The App let's you upload your images directly to the most popular sites as well as email.
Sounds great! What's missing?
Well you have to first remember that this is a 1.0 product and yes there are known limitations. The first limitation is that there are no image processing features in the App. Any image adjustments you want to do should either be done back on the desktop in Lightroom/Photoshop or in other Apps on the iPad. There is no support for bringing in the videos from your camera. Although you can reject a photo in Photosmith, neither Pick flags or Reject flags sync over! That's a biggie! I rarely use Pick Flags as it is, but if you use this App you're going to have to use either color labels (which I use) or star ratings to identify picks in Lightroom. If you reject a photo in Photosmith, that photo doesn't sync over to Lightroom to begin with. In this case my workflow is to reject in the field, put the images that are left in a Collection in the App and then mark my favorites with a Green Label (Blue for client picks). Lastly, while you can sync back to Photosmith when you make changes in Lightroom, it doesn't sync everything back. For example, once the Collection was in Lightroom I did some experiments where I made some picks, rejects, color label changes, star ratings and keywords. I also edited one shot in the Develop module. When I performed another sync the only things that seemed to go back to the iPad were the keywords and the updated image preview from the changes I made in Develop. Granted, I don't see this as a huge problem since most people will be using this going in one direction, but it would be nice to have an official list of what gets sync'd in either direction. Lastly one thing I found a bit odd was that i couldn't see any way to apply the same keyword to multiple photos at the same time. Hopefully, I just missed it?
What I'd like to see in the next update – While you can select multiple photos, the UI seems a bit clumsy. Perhaps some type of two finger tap to start selecting more than one photo would work better. Also I'd like to see the ability to size thumbnails. There needs to be additional ways of bringing in photos besides the Camera Rol. While you can export to Dropbox, there is no import (or better yet, sync) to Dropbox. I know that the App is designed to work with images off your camera, but since this is an organizational tool you might have images in other places (like your existing albums) that you want to incorporate in a collection. Also they give you several choices of image size for uploading to Dropbox & Flickr from small jpg all the way to RAW (for Dropbox), but for email you have no options. While I'm on the sharing topic, it would be nice to see some watermarking support. It would be nice to have the option for visible watermarks when sending photos to a client to review.
Ultimately I'd like to see either a direct tie to the Shuttersnitch and/or the Eye-Fi App or this App needs its own ability to do a wireless tethered workflow! As it stands right now I'm more interested in a wireless capture and review process than a wired/card reader one.
The Bottom Line
This is a good step in the right direction for making the iPad a "better" mobile tool for photographers. The workflow is still a little clunky and the App is still missing some needed features. However, for what it does and having to basically engineer this thing around Apple's limitations as well as not having direct access to the Lightroom code, these guys have done a great job. I look forward to watching this product evolve!
If you have an iPad and you're a Lightroom user with a desire to leave your computer behind, this is a good App to have in your ever evolving workflow.