Award-winning photographer Adam Hinton commissioned The Operators to develop his own dedicated iPad app, which can be downloaded from iTunes.
Apple’s iPad has become increasingly popular with photographers presenting their work at festivals, portfolio reviews or meetings with picture editors; with its high-resolution, backlit, 9.7-inch display, the iPad makes images look attractive and, at times, clearer than print. Now it’s got a lot better, because the iPad 3 offers 3.1 megapixels, one million more than a conventional HD television set. “The display is so dense that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels when held at a normal distance, making web pages, text, images and video look incredibly sharp and realistic,” says Apple.
When I put the new iPad to the test last month, it became quickly apparent that Apple's marketing speech wasn't an overstatement. Images and videos do look incredibly sharper than on the iPad 2 and conventional computer screens, especially when watching a HD video. Texts are also much easier to read, and it's always a pleasure to zoom in to see whether pixels will be noticeable - they're not.
The downside, though, to such an incredible screen is that apps have to be updated to take advantage of it - and when they aren't optimised, you see it right away and it can ruin the overall experience, especially if an app relies on rasterised text (i.e. images that contain text).
Intentionally or not, with this new iPad, Apple has made the device the perfect tool for photographers to showcase their images. But, it doesn't end here. Apple has also made it easier for photographers to work with their images - with the release of the iPhoto app.
Of course, iPhoto remains a basic photo management and editing software when you compare it Aperture or Lightroom, but since both of these applications are not yet available on the iPad (I wouldn't be surprised if they did appear on the device in the next year), iPhoto remains an excellent alternative for quick editing tasks.
The new app allows you to crop and straigthen your images using multi-touch gestures, and you can also adjust the exposure, highlights and colours of your images. The application uses a straight-forward line-up of brushes and saves your original images in case you go too far in your editing.
One important note, though, I would advice against using Photo Stream for important editing jobs. Photo Stream synchronises your images across multiple devices such as your iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. While it seems that you can access high resolution images that you have uploaded on your computer, that's not the case. Photo Stream only transmits compressed images - so the 14-megapixel image that you transfered on your computer will only appear as a three-megapixel image on your iPad.
One way to get around this is to transfer your images from your camera directly on the iPad using Apple's Camera Connector Kit. The transfer rate is not amazing, but in most cases, you'll be able to start working on your images in seconds.
The new iPad features a new five-megapixel camera with a fast five-element lens - similar to the one featured on the iPhone 4S. I imagine that not many photographers will use the iPad as a camera, but its full-HD capabilities could come in handy if needed.
Finally, there's the 4G (if you've opted for a cellular iPad over a WiFi-only model). Provided you live in the United States, where 4G is in place, you won't be able to benefit from the incredible speeds these frequencies offer. But, says Apple, the new iPad also supports the HSPA and HSPA+ networks, which provide faster speeds that conventional 3G.
The iPad as a portfolio
While photographers can easily upload images onto their iPad using iTunes or Apple’s camera connector kit, there are many iPad apps that have been specifically designed to showcase photography. They range from simple portfolio apps only installed on the photographer’s device to custom-built, downloadable apps. Even online gallery providers are now moving to the iPad, ditching Flash for HTML5, which can be rendered by mobile devices.
One of the most commonly used applications is Portfolio for iPad, which offers a self-contained presentation tool “for your business on your iPad”. This means picture editors won’t be able to download ‘your’ app, as it resides solely on your iPad, but on the plus side, the app allows photographers to instantly tailor their presentations. A photographer could customise an edit for a particular client or picture editor, and lock the interface with a PIN so that “it’s safe for any client meeting without the worry of exposing the management interface underneath”, according to the developers.
Portfolio for iPad is one of the most popular options for photographers, offering syncing options with Dropbox and the possibility of creating full-screen slideshows with cross-dissolve transitions, among many other features.
The app can be synchronised with online file-hosting service Dropbox, allowing for instant access to a photographer’s entire image library if there is an internet connection. The app, which costs £10.49, can also automatically create full-screen slideshows with cross-dissolve transitions.
Foliobook, created in the UK, offers similar functionalities – deep customisation, branding support, and full-screen slideshows, among others. But the developers also boast that they offer the most comprehensive list of features and options, some emulating the feel of an actual portfolio box and including full support for touch gestures such as pinch, swipe down and double taps, as well as support for raw files. The app, which was first released last year, continues to receive regular updates and retails at £6.99. Users can also buy a video plug-in for £1.49.
Xtrafolio, another popular choice among photographers, can import images from Dropbox, the iPad photo roll or via iTunes using the application’s own file system. Here, the emphasis is given to full-screen images, unencumbered with text, logos or fancy transitions. Users retain the controls to add any of these features, which, the designers say, can be customised to the user’s liking. Once the images have been organised, the settings area can be locked out using a four-number PIN, allowing photographers to leave their iPad with their clients, if need be. Photographers can also add their resumé and list their most recent assignments and exhibitions, with links to the relevant online pages.
The increase in the number of portfolio iPad apps has encouraged some online platforms, such as Photoshelter, to offer full compatibility for their services on Apple’s tablet. Viewbook has gone one step further. The website, which lets photographers display and sell their images online, has now released a dedicated iPad app that “allows you to sync, display and organise the work you already have in Viewbook into multiple portfolios on your iPad”, say the developers. “It allows you to show your work everywhere, even without an internet connection.” Users can select which albums are downloaded to the iPad, and organise these into portfolios.
The team behind Viewbook is already working on version 3 of their online platform, with the goal of integrating scalable scrolling galleries, and supporting videos hosted on Vimeo, for example; it has already released an iPhone version of its app, which mirrors the iPad app. Both are free but are linked to a paid-for online subscription starting at $4 per month.
Viewbook showcases a photographer's images in full-screen slideshows that are fully customisable.
Of course, photographers don’t have to choose a dedicated portfolio app or online service. When I was reviewing portfolios at Visa pour l’Image last year, some of the best iPad presentations used Keynote, Apple’s alternative to Powerpoint. The app offers most of the features a portfolio app would include, such as full-screen support and customisation of the look and feel of the pages, but requires photographers to add their images one by one, which can be cumbersome on the iPad. Of course, if they also use Keynote on a Mac, that process can be sped up using iCloud to sync files with the iPad.
The issue with most of these options is that they can only be viewed on the photographer’s own iPad, making it difficult for photo editors and advertising directors to look at work remotely. One firm has an answer – The Operators, based in London, has developed a platform to create standalone apps that can be downloaded from the App Store. “We actually created this platform for our own usage,” says Ben Le Tourneau of The Operators, a creative production studio. “It’s a digital portfolio app that was used to showcase the work we do. But we had a lot of photographers asking us to develop their own apps.”
Creating the platform wasn’t easy, Le Tourneau admits. “It requires quite a lot of back-end coding. But now that it exists, it doesn’t take a long time to release a dedicated app for a photographer.”
Profolio offers photographers “multiple ways of interacting with imagery and video,” Le Tourneau adds. “They can choose between a series of different home screens or landing pages and then, depending on how they want to display their images, we can add a lot of different functionalities and features, such as a sharing component that automatically adds a watermark on the shared images.”
The app can be branded with the photographer’s colours, fonts and logos. “It’s all very bespoke, with the app released independently from The Operators on the App Store.” So far, photographers such as Adam Hinton, Chris Floyd, Jillian Lochner and Diana Millers have chosen Profolio, and the firm is working with “many other photographers whose apps are at the very early stages of development”.
Of course, releasing a free, dedicated app has a cost. “Our standard package, which is the most commonly sold, is £1000, which lets you include 100 images and up to five videos, as well as a couple of additional features,” says Le Tourneau. “We also have a premium option, which includes everything. In most cases, individual photographers will go for the standard option, while an agency would want to use all the extra functionalities, such as the possibility of syncing several iPads to be used in a client meeting.”
Right now if photographers want to update their app’s content, they must do so via The Operators, which resubmits the app to Apple. “As a result, it can take a few weeks for the app to be updated,” says Le Tourneau. “But we’re working on a system that will allow our clients to update their images from an online site.” This platform will be released later this year; in the meantime, The Operators doesn’t charge clients for updating their apps.
Apple's new iPad is available now, retailing from £399 for the WiFi-only 16GB model to £659 for the WiFi + Cellular 64GB model. For more details, visit www.apple.com/uk.
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