My New Photography Workflow with iPad Pro and Lightroom 6

Posted on Mon Jan 8, 2018

Update: Here is my current workflow.

Now that I have 10.5” iPad Pro, I am trying real hard to use it as a productive machine, possibly as a main machine. Unfortunately, it has been challenge. I almost want to return it but I really love the form factor of iPad. I am hoping that in next few updates, it will be almost usable as a main machine.

For programming, I am in love with mosh shell. Yes this is cheating by doing real work on VPS but it is actually an enjoyable experience.

Old Workflow with Lightroom and Smugmug

So my next big activity on computers is photography. I use Lightroom 6 and Smugmug (discount code & affiliate link) for almost all my photography needs. My workflow looks like this:

  1. Open Lightroom
  2. Connect camera and use Lightroom to import photos and videos. I keep everything organized by YEAR/DATE folder structure.
  3. Cull photos immediately by marking them as rejected and then delete.
  4. Create new gallery under Smugmug plugin and set it as a Target Collection.
  5. Review remaining photos once again and send some photos to the new gallery by hitting “B” key.
  6. Create additional galleries and repeat above step, if needed.
  7. Now under Smugmug galleries, review each photo, tweak exposure and other settings.
  8. Finally, hit publish and share url.

All my photos are organized as Smugmug galleries. I don’t use Lightroom’s Collections.

My Dream Workflow with iPad in the mix

  1. Import photos using MacBook or iPad. Photos sync between two devices.
  2. Cull photos on either iPad or Mac.
  3. Edit photos on either iPad or Mac. Edits sync between two devices.
  4. Publish to Smugmug using either iPad or Mac.

Issues with iPad

All of this might be possible if I am willing to shell out monthly subscription fee for Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud subscription will let you sync photos and edits using Collections. However, you cannot sync Smugmug plugin Galleries. And there are no plugins for Lightroom Mobile. So this means I will have to create Collection in Lightroom and then copy that into Smugmug. It seems too much work. And I really don’t want another monthly fee.

Next option is that I can sync photos between Mac and iPad using iTunes. But this seems to be one way sync from Mac to iPad. There is no way to sync back deletions and edit on iPad to Mac.

Another option is to use Dropbox or Google Drive. You can use this method to cull but syncing edits will be tricky. One of the best feature of Lightroom is non-destructive editing. What this means is that Lightroom never modifies original files, instead it simply record your edits and apply those when viewing or exporting photos.

So current Workflow with iPad

  1. Import photos using Lightroom on the laptop.
  2. Cull photos.
  3. Edit photos.
  4. Upload photos to Smugmug in a new or an existing gallery.

Well these steps are pretty much same as above. But iPad comes into play now:

  1. Connect iPad to sync photos using iTunes.
  2. On iPad, now I can access photos in two ways, if I want to start with original photo without modification, open it using Photos app. If I want to start with Lightroom edits, use Smugmug app to download that photo.
  3. Edit photos using Snapseed, Affinity, or other apps. I am using Affinity to learn some advance editing. It is supposed to be as powerful as Photoshop. I never got into Photoshop on a laptop, but hoping I will enjoy advanced photo editing on a tablet.
  4. Share photo on Instagram, Smugmug, Flickr etc
  5. Sync back edit to laptop using Dropbox. This of course, doesn’t have history of edits and it is tedious. I do this only if I really want to backup the modified photo. All photos on my laptop backup to local and cloud backup.

I am figuring out how various apps work, I think soon I might be able to import photos on iPad directly. Edit on iPad and send finished photos to Lightroom via Dropbox. I won’t be able to undo any edits but maybe I won’t need to.