Photo Editing on the Go with the Apple iPad Pro


It’s not up to ten, or eleven—the iPad Pro (Late 2018) kicks things up to twelve in every way possible. Photographers, myself included, have long dreamed of an iPad or tablet that can serve as their portable edit station, and the new Pro is the best example of one yet—especially with a full-fledged version of Adobe Photoshop CC slated to come out later this year. Even today, there are many tools and apps available that make the iPad Pro a serious tool for professional photographers.

Apple turned it up to twelve mainly through the implementation of its most powerful mobile processor yet: the A12X Bionic. Backed by the Neural Engine and machine learning capabilities, this chipset is blazing fast—even faster than many laptops—making it possible to work with raw files easily in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for iPad.

The only thing I need to say is that it works. Editing on the iPad Pro is fast and responsive—even more so than my laptop, in some instances. You must appreciate the optimizations Apple has made with iOS and the iPad Pro’s hardware that give you exceptional performance. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a great example because it can load 50-megapixel raw images from a medium-format camera and edit them with no delay. And this is in a device that is smaller than your laptop and has a direct line to all your favorite social media platforms.

All screen, all the way. Don’t lament the loss of the home button in favor of Face ID. Working with the 12.9" iPad Pro is an incredible experience. Photographers love images (at least in theory) and the Liquid Retina display gives you your photographs in all their glory. It makes editing easier, too. The biggest advantage is that somehow, the latest 12.9" iPad has gotten physically smaller and that the 11" version gives us more screen without increasing the device’s footprint.

What good is a big, bright screen if it doesn’t have good color? No good at all. Apple has taken screen concerns seriously and provided an outstanding screen for color-critical applications. The wide-color display supports the P3 space, which is a standard that supports more colors than more conventional sRGB monitors. ProMotion technology makes an appearance, as well, for fast refresh times that make edits and motion appear ultra-smooth as you work. Another benefit is an anti-reflective coating that keeps reflectivity down to just 1.8%. Combine this with a brightness of 600 cd/m² and you should have no problem operating outside on bright days.

Retouchers will appreciate an upgraded Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) that has a flat side to prevent it from rolling away, a touch side that makes changing settings faster, and a magnetic attachment that both charges and pairs it to your device. It’s very responsive, making your selections and edits fast and reliable. Lag is essentially non-existent, validating Apple’s claim that the new iPad Pro is more powerful than some computers.

Numerous apps are available, too. I stuck to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and was impressed. Basic adjustments to exposure and contrast were a breeze. Even making selections was enjoyable because I did it right on the large screen—in much the same way that I have a Wacom tablet for my iMac at home. If I did more retouching, I would likely go to another app or wait for the promised full version of Photoshop, slated for 2019. Once edits were made I then brought them right into Facebook for sharing or AirDropped them to my phone for posting to Instagram and other places.

Shocking to most was a move from Lightning to USB Type-C. This is one of the best decisions Apple could possibly have made. Gone, mostly, are the proprietary adapters or devices; now all your USB Type-C accessories can work across all your computing devices. Key for photographers is that now, you can take your card readers and plug them directly into the iPad Pro, making ingesting your photos after a shoot a much more streamlined experience. USB Type-C is also a very fast connection.

Since I already have a MacBook Pro with four USB Type-C connections, it was a dream come true that I could instantly use my existing cables and cut some clutter from my life. My card reader works. My dock, for some extra USB ports and an HDMI port, works. The HDMI port is an interesting tool because you can show off a portfolio of images more easily by connecting to a larger screen and presenting them even larger than the iPad Pro’s 12.9" display can provide.

If I did have a complaint as a photographer, it would be with file management. Apple has still not completely opened its file structure to everyone. iCloud and a relatively new Files app do help a ton here. You can import photos directly to Photos or drop them into a folder in your Files app. You may want to opt for the massive 1TB versions if you do this, however, since it can become bloated quickly. For those who want to be able to go between a desktop or laptop and their iPad Pro, iCloud is the best option. You can bring files in, upload them, and it’ll sync to all your iCloud devices. A wireless hard drive is a possibility to help photographers relying on just an iPad as they travel.

Assuming most photographers are going to have real cameras on them, a small note is that the cameras on the iPad Pro are very good. A 12MP rear sensor and a five-element lens with an f/1.8 aperture record sharp, vivid imagery. A Quad-LED True Tone flash will help in low light, and Focus Pixels make focusing faster and more responsive to your taps. Behind it all is brilliant processing designed by Apple to create your final images. And, the built-in editing controls are useful for fast edits and sharing.

Battery life is quite good and effectively all day if you aren’t going to work on images for hours straight. Apple rates it for 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching videos, or listening to music. Photo editing is a little more involved and will drop that figure, but even six or seven hours should be sufficient. The 18W USB Type-C charger that is included is faster than previous options, so that should make things a bit easier.

One thing not to forget is that when you aren’t editing images on your iPad Pro, it is a perfect productivity tool for professional photographers. Load up Word or Pages and type up your latest plans or ideas. Blog using the WordPress app. Use Excel or Numbers to draft invoices. Then use Mail to converse with clients and check Facebook to stay on top of your friends’ comings and goings. The Apple Smart Keyboard Folio is a great tool for this type of work. It supports standard shortcuts in your favorite apps for even faster use.

Multi-tasking is possible with the iPad Pro for those who want to stretch its capabilities. So, you can keep notes on the side while reviewing photos and making notes on which are your favorites and what types of edits you want to apply later.

When it was announced, I realized this is the iPad Pro I have always wanted and likely the iPad Pro that Apple has always wanted to make. Pick up the 4G LTE version and you can stay connected wherever you go. Any photographers out there already jump on this new iPad Pro? Any still trying to decide? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the Comments section, below!


Within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for iPad, one can create albums that contain captioned and custom sorted images.  It makes for compelling story telling.  Is it now possible to export this album to the iPad Pro's Camera Roll while retaining the images' captions and the album's custom sort order?  (If it can, then the final step is a quick upload to a Facebook album without having to re-caption and re-sort.)

MS Surface line has been and continues to be a better solution. Full file system, faster processors, full creative suite. You can even post to Instagram. But hey, it's got 4 squares instead of fruit on the back...