Why are there so few GOOD Portfolio Apps for iPad?

The iPad is a wonderful device for showing off content. Photos look great on the iPad display. While the native Photos App is good in a pinch it's lacking several features that photographers want and need. The biggest problem with it is that everything has to be done on your computer in terms of sorting images and putting them in albums (Apple why is this a limit?) Jason reviewed Portfolio for iPad a while back and while I have looked at SEVERAL apps in this category since then, it remains the closest App by a mile to what we want and need. The rest of the Apps are horribly bad! Most get the presentation aspect right, but fail miserably at the simplest of tasks such as getting images into the darn thing to begin with. Most rely on the images being in your camera roll and even then it's a painstaking one-by-one import. There was one App that I never could figure out how to get the images in. I can't believe that it's that hard to make a decent Portfolio App for iPad. I figure it's mainly because the developers are engineers, not photographers or end users. To make it easier I decided to put together a list:

What we want

If you're an app developer reading this and you're thinking about creating a portfolio app or fixing yours, don't bother releasing one or an update unless you've nailed these requirements:

  • Ease of getting images in and more importantly updating them
  • Ability to reorder images in the galleries in the app
  • Multiple Galleries – A MUST!
  • Slideshows with nice transitions, perhaps Ken Burns Effect, pan, zoom
  • Slideshows with music – A MUST!
  • Slideshows with text – basic text features in the app
  • Slideshows that can include video
  • Ability to overlay the video over stills in the background
  • Slideshows that start off with a logo or other default image
  • Slideshows that sync to the length of the song
  • Slideshow that you can sync to the beat
  • Ability to put two images side-by-side during the slideshow
  • Ability to pinch and zoom when not running a slideshow
  • Hiding/Locking
  • Client Review Features


The Bottom Line

While Portfolio for iPad does have many of these features, it doesn't have them all and like I said it's the closest one to being what we need today. Their latest update offers Password protection of galleries, Image rotation (manual/automatic), PDF Navigation Links that are active and the ability to change the background of exported PDFs. There is so much potential in this category! I hope to see more contenders. 

You can get Portfolio for IPad for $14.99 here from the iTunes


Photosmith Gives You an iPad to Lightroom Workflow


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.

You can get Photosmith for $17.99 here from the iTunes


Take and Share Pictures with Instagram

There are literally thousands of photo Apps available in the App store. To be honest, I've probably tried most of them :) so it takes something different to catch my eye. I'd heard about Instagram before, but it wasn't until my buddy R.C. sung it's praises on The Grid that I tried it. Actually to be fair R.C. was saying that he was was seeing a ton of "Instagram" pics on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr; almost enough to consider it over-saturated. To me that translates into popular, so I wanted to check it out. I have to tell you that out of all of the photo Apps that add filters and effects, Instagram is the easiest to use for me. The way the UI (user interface) is setup allows the process from image capture, all of the way through the filter process, and finally uploading to be a very short time.


What's it All About

Instagram describes itself as an amazingly fun and simple life-sharing App for your iPhone. The entire App is designed with this statement in mind. It all starts with an Instagram account (which is free). This allows you to follow your friends who are also using the App. To that end, you can also setup Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, and Posterous to share your images as well.  Like any good photo social media community you can follow your friends, post and comment on images, and view popular images from around the world.  The sharing mechanism built into Instagram is what sets it apart.


A Great Photo App

Beyond the social aspect, Instagram is a great stand alone photo App as well. With over a dozen built in filters and a tilt shift option, there is something for everyone's taste. The camera is quick, and has easy control of the flash with on, off, and automatic settings. There is optional geotagging for every image as well as the ability to add a description when uploading. 



If you want a fun, easy to use camera App with some great filters, Instamatic is perfect for you. I'm seeing more and more people every day posting Instamatic images everywhere. I figure there's a reason it's popular, and why not try it out.

You can get Instamatic from the iTunes store for $Free here:iTunes


QuikCam is Faster!

If only I had a nickel for every camera App I've downloaded and installed on my iPhone. You might ask "why do you need a 3rd party camera App on the iPhone if there is one built-in?" Well technically you don't unless of course you want more features. The built-in iPhone 4 camera app lets you take still pictures and video. It can zoom, use the flash/video light and even do a little HDR. After you take the shot you can tap to review it. That's about it. You don't really get much control over anything else and while the above bult-in features are probably enough for the average user, I tend to want more. Therefore I have lots of camera Apps that are great (yes I know Camera+ is awesome as well as (insert your cool favorite camera app choice here) ____________. The one thing that led me to check out QuikCam was a simple feature. SPEED! The native camera App seems to take more than a few seconds to launch and open the view finder before it can capture a shot. Sometimes I've missed shots in the time it has taken the native Camera app to open and get ready to shoot. Therefore I moved the Camera app off my first homescreen page and put QuikCam in its place. Not only does QuikCam launch faster, but it offers a few more features for taking better pictures. If you've followed my blog posts in the past you know that I've complained about the iPhone 4's white balance being way to yellow! While I did finally get a working replacement iPhone 4 that was night and day better than my 1st two, I do notice sometimes that depends on where I aim the camera indoors it will still lean towards the yellow side. Simply changing my angle sometimes will cause it to lock on to proper white balance. QuikCam has a setting that you can not only Tap to Focus, but you can also Tap to LOCK in White Balance. This means I can get great white balance, tap to lock it in and then recompose the shot. That's worth the price of admission to me alone. You can also set tap to lock in Exposure. 

Rule of 3rds and more

The latest version has a rule of 3rds display up on screen to help you better compose your shot. You can also now review your pictures after you take them right in the app. Another cool feature is Shooting Speed! Not only does the App launch faster, but it has a rapid fire feature that allows you to take shots about as quickly as you can tap the onscreen button. You can even take still pics while shooting video. If you really want to shoot from the hip there is even a QuickPic mode that will Auto shoot when you launch the app. This way you can take a picture as fast as possible. 


The Bottom Line

While there are many great Camera Apps on the App Store, QuikCam has found it's niche in allowing you to simply capture the moment before it slips away. The only thing that I find lacking from it over the native App is the HDR feature and that may be something that Apple doesn't allow 3rd Parties to include in their Apps. Otherwise, QuikCam is my default camera app for those times when I just want to take a picture!

You can get QuikCam for $0.99 here from the iTunes


Hypstimatic Adds Toy Camera to iPhone


I love the look and feel of analog “plastic” cameras. The unpredictability and quirkiness have always drawn me in and allowed for really fun photographs. When I saw the Hipstamatic App for the iPhone/iPod Touch I was really intrigued. With “swappable” lenses, film, and flashes I can have that fun plastic camera, analog feel that I always loved, on my iPhone.

That analog feel

Analog is what this App is all about. Back when I started in photography I would use plastic cameras that would leak light, had unpredictable exposures, and generally surprised you every time you developed a roll of film. Now with Hipstamatic I can have that same unpredictability, and fun with my iPhone.

Hipstamatic comes preloaded with multiple lens, film, and flash combinations, and offers many more of each via in App purchases. I have bought extra lenses, as well as the BlacKeys B+W film to try out. I really enjoy the monotone grainy feel of this film and recommend it to anyone. If you’re looking for a really cool color film, I prefer the Kodot ZGrizzled. It makes some really funky colors along with a really cool torn looking border.


There really aren’t a whole lot of settings to adjust inside of the App. You can change your lenses, your flash type, and film type like previously noted. You can also choose the image quality from standard, medium, and fine. Beyond that, there isn’t much else to change. The object of this App is fun. You never know exactly what you’re going to get out of it, and that’s why I love it so much.


From what I’ve found, this App works best without flash. It seems like any time I use the flash (no matter which virtual flash I have chosen) the center of the image becomes washed out and has a weird flare. This effect may work great for you, but personally I prefer the natural light look best.


This is an App for anyone that loves the analog look. With the multiple choices of lenses, film, and flashes the image combinations are seemingly endless. Even if you don’t have a specific love with analog, this App is just fun to use.

You can get Hipstamatic for $1.99 here from the  iTunes

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