Photojournalism and the Apple iPad

As anyone who reads my blog should probably know, last week Apple introduced the iPad, the next step in their multitouch computing strategy.  For those who don’t know, the iPad is like a larger iPhone and works in much the same way, uses the same kinds of applications and the same touchscreen gestures.  The iPad comes with WiFi to connect to the internet, but also has an option for built-in 3G like modern smartphones.  This means the device can connect to the internet from anywhere there is cellular service.

While many feel the iPad is too underpowered to replace a laptop, (and for some tasks they might be right) it only took a few seconds of imagination for me to think of ways this might change the way photographers work in the field.  I’ve envisioned a photojournalism workflow around the 3G model. Not sure how it will all work out, since I don’t know what apps might come out between now and the iPad’s release, but this is how I see it happening-

1. Shoot stuff with Real Camera (in my case, a Canon XTi or G10)

2. Take notes on iPad, record voice memos or interviews with voice recorder. Mark key locations with Map application. Add contacts to Address Book.

3. Download images to iPad for review. This would replace the need for a laptop or a digital wallet in the field, and would have significant advantages over both – Multitouch, which is the world’s best way to interact with images, and the ability to fit easily into my camera bag. The disadvantage compared to a laptop would be the lack of a high-level Camera Raw image editor, but more on that later…

4. Write – While still in the field, use notes, recordings, and images to begin writing. In my case, I’d start a WordPress draft document, which I could do anywhere, regardless of WiFi availability.

5. At the end of the day, sync iPad with desktop computer, and import images to a real editor (Lightroom) and 2 big screens for more complex editing.
Now this is the part that has the most potential. I don’t see an App Store application that has anything like the power of Lightroom. Yet. Ideally, I would love Adobe to create a mobile version of Lightroom so I can organize images, add metadata and keywords, star ratings, labels, etc, and have it all sync to my main system when I get home. Until then, just being able to review my images on a bigger screen with excellent navigation will be a huge advantage over looking at them on my camera’s LCD. I think a lot of tasks will still need to be done on the desktop machine, like complex layers-based editing in Photoshop, assembling large panoramas in PTGui, and maybe some web layout in Dreamweaver.  Future iPad applications will surely change this, however.  Ideally all your editing could be done in the field with one small appliance, but we might not quite be there yet.

6. Publish – Once imaging tasks are done and the images are on the web server, it’s just a matter of finalizing the WordPress draft. Again, with a 3G enabled iPad, I can do this from anywhere. Maybe I need to do a follow-up interview in the field – no problem, I have the document right there with me. As soon as I’m happy, hit the publish button.

Now obviously, I haven’t even touched an iPad yet, and between now and the time the device is released, many new applications could change this workflow.  But as of right now, this could work very well, and it could revolutionize the way we create and deliver content.  Time will only make the iPad and its successors a more powerful tool.

I seriously can’t wait.


(UPDATE: One thing I didn’t touch on was the iPad’s ability to view RAW files.  It’s not clear if this will work out of the box, but obviously shooting RAW+JPG is a workaround until it does.  A lite version of Lightroom would naturally have a Camera Raw plugin, but time will tell what file formats the iPad supports without this.)


~ by ChrissyOne on January 30, 2010.

5 Responses to “Photojournalism and the Apple iPad”

  1. The iPad certainly has considerable potential as a serious aid to the field photojournalist. I suspect that the breakthrough will come with the use of more on-line applications. The iPad seems very much destined as a “always on internet in your bag” kind of device, which means that web-hosted applications may see a new surge in popularity and importance. Upload those RAW images to an Adobe Acrobat site, edit them, caption them, and then ftp them to the photo desk of your agency, paper, or whatever. It certainly takes me a long way from the days of connecting my phone to a laptop and sending two or three images at a time…

  2. Why not Aperture in cut down form?

  3. I’m sure there will be Aperture, but I use Lightroom. If Aperture gets better I’ll consider it, but it’s going to have to get a lot better.

  4. […] doubtful” would be my response, in contrast to this blogger who believes iPad and photojournalism are synonymous. Now we all know the iPad isn’t out yet, but by looking at the specs, and by drawing some of […]

  5. Just the ability to have both a larger format viewer and also make extensive notes, makes this a very cool additional tool for photographers like me!

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