Mobile photography doesn't have to mean a compromise in image quality. You can shoot Raw files with your DSLR, and use your handy iPad to quickly, easily publish web-friendly JPEGs to social networks while on the go. And you don't need the super-expensive 128GB iPad to do this. In fact, I use a humble 16GB iPad mini for this workflow. Impossible you say? Pshaw, not at all.
This series of steps is what I use for pro-photography assignments, covering events. I deliver raw files to the client after an assignment, but they want JPEGs published to their social network sites during the event itself. There are a few ways you can do this. Keep in mind that while I'm outlining a business case for this technique, an event can mean anything that's important to you: birthdays, weddings, whatever.
Here's a common setup that I use.
- Canon EOS 60D with an assortment of lenses
- iPad mini (16GB)
- Lightning SD Card Reader
- iPhoto for iOS
- Photo Stream
- Aperture or iPhoto for the Mac
I use the Canon 60D because it accommodates SD cards, which makes this workflow easier. In the menu on the 60D, I configure the camera to shoot RAW+JPEG. The Raw files are 5184 by 3456 pixels. They are used for final delivery of content to clients, editors, or anyone else who seeks high-resolution output. For the JPEGs, I use the fine-quality S1 setting. Those files are 2594 by 1728 pixels. That's plenty of resolution for publishing online.
When I take a picture, the 60D records both a Raw and JPEG version of the image: I need both of these. The Raws will ultimately be processed in Aperture using its high-end image editing tools. The JPEGs will be used on my iPad for posting online right away.
Uploading to the iPad
When it's time to share a few images online, I make sure my iPad is connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. My Photo Stream is turned on (Settings > iCloud > Photo Stream > My Photo Stream), which means that any new images I put on my iPad will be uploaded to iCloud.
Now it's time to transfer a few images from the camera to the iPad. I remove the SD card from the Canon and connect it to the iPad mini using the Lightning SD Card Reader. The iPad will see both the Raw and the JPEG files and label them RAW+JPEG. There's no way to separate these formats at this point. But stay tuned.
I choose the shots I want by tapping on them, and then tap the blue Import button. The iPad will ask if I want to import all of the photos or just the ones I've selected. Make sure you instruct it to import only the selected shots. Both versions of the image are copied to the iPad. But I also get a message that reads: "Multiple formats imported - Photo Stream will upload only one version of each of these items." Yes! That's exactly what I want, because that version will be the JPEG, which is the perfect size for sharing online.
Once the upload is complete, the iPad will ask me if I want to keep or delete the files on the memory card. It's very important to keep them. I'll revisit those images once back home and working on my Mac.
I wait a minute or so, then tap the Photo Stream tab at the top of the interface. I'm looking for the images that I've just copied from my camera. If they're there--and they should be--I'm in business.
By having those pictures in my Photo Stream, I can safely remove the big Raw files and JPEGs from the Camera Roll on the iPad. I tap on the Photos tab, then tap on Edit in the upper-right corner, tap on the images I want to remove, and then tap the red Delete button in the upper-left corner. Both the Raw and JPEG versions of the shots are removed from my Camera Roll, freeing up that space on the iPad. (If you don't have a Wi-Fi connection at the moment, don't worry. Just wait until you do, then you can delete the pictures from your Camera Roll.)
Once you've completed this step, you successfully moved your pictures from your hardware device to the cloud. In other words, Apple is storing your pictures for you.
Editing and sharing the images on the iPad
It's time to move over to iPhoto for iOS, which can communicate with your pictures in iCloud. The JPEGs I just uploaded are available in the blue Photo Stream album in my iPhoto for iOS library. I tap on the Photo Stream album to open it, then scroll down to access the shots I need.
After some quick image editing, I tap the Share button and upload the photos to Flickr, Twitter, or Facebook. Or I can use the Open In command to send the photos to Dropbox or another location. OK. Break time is over. It's time to go back and take some more pictures.
After the shoot
The event is over, and I still have all of those RAW+JPEGs on my SD cards. Now it's time to move the Raw files into my Aperture library for some high-quality post production. I open Aperture and connect my SD card to the Mac. In the Import dialog box, I make sure that the RAW+JPEG Pairs option is enabled. If not, I need to click the Import Settings menu and select it.
I select "Raw files only" from the Import popup menu. I then bring in all the images from however many SD cards I have. For example, if I've been on vacation for a week, I might have half a dozen or so.
When Aperture asks me if I want to keep or delete the files on the memory card, I choose Keep. For the moment, they are my backups. Once I've run the Vault in Aperture, or archived the library via Time Machine, I can delete the images off the memory card.
The numbers game
You might be wondering why I don't like keeping Raw files on my iPad. Primarily, it's a numbers game. Here's how the megabytes stack up.
For my Canon 60D, each Raw file occupies approximately 21MB of space. So as little as five images would consume over 100MB of precious iPad memory. Those JPEGs, on the other hand, are configured in the camera as Fine/Small, so they each take up about 1.3MB of memory. So if I were to leave the JPEGs on my iPad, I could get over 75 images for the same 100MB of storage. That's a big difference.
Archiving the Photo Stream
If you use iCloud, as I do, for this workflow, plenty of images will be flowing through your Photo Stream. The capacity is 1,000 of your latest images. I recommend that you set up Aperture or iPhoto to archive your Photo Stream so as older images are pushed off, you still have access to them.
If you use Aperture, go to Preferences > Photo Stream, and check the boxes next to My Photo Stream and Automatic Import. Since I use Aperture for my everyday work, I prefer to have iPhoto serve as my iCloud archive. The setup is the same in iPhoto as in Aperture.
Variations on the workflow
You could shoot just JPEG or Raw and everything will work fine. This all depends on your personal style of working. For example, if you're a JPEG-only shooter, then the process is simplified. Take your pictures, copy the ones you want to the iPad, have fun with the selected few, and when you get home, transfer everything on the memory cards to your Mac for safekeeping.
Raw shooters who don't capture that many frames can bypass the RAW+JPEG workflow and just go with Raw. The iPad will see your files and let you play with them just fine. And in fact, the Raw files will even be uploaded to your Photo Stream. Just keep an eye on the free memory on your iPad--it will shrink quickly.
I've also found that wireless transfer using the Toshiba FlashAir SD card fits in well with this workflow. I shoot RAW+JPEG, as discussed before, then use the free Olympus Image Share iOS app to select the images that will be copied to my iPad. The cool thing about Image Share is that it only copies the JPEGs and leaves the Raw files alone. This simplifies the entire workflow. Then later, when I return home, I copy the Raw files to Aperture on my Mac.
Hopefully, one of these scenarios will be a good starting point for your mobile photography workflow. Once you figure out the combination of tools and settings that are right for you, practice a few dry runs to work out the kinks. Then you should be ready to hit the road with your camera and iPad...and a few pounds lighter since you ditched your MacBook.