Chasing My White Whale

Someone at Apple has strong opinions about how a photo workflow should go.

They are wrong.

For many years now I’ve been on a quest to use my iPad as my main travel computer and while for most uses the iPad is very capable, and perhaps superior to a laptop, it falls short for my photography workflow. Apple’s view of photography is very Photos App centric, everything photo related begins and ends in the Photos App, and while I use the app to share images with my family and across all my devices I prefer it to be one of the final destinations for finished images rather than the hub of my workflow.

Here’s what I want my iPad to be able to do, and to be fair it can do all these things already, just not in the way I want it to.

Backup my images

One of the they things my iPad should do is provide me a place to back up my images. I have a 256GB iPad Pro, so I have plenty of room to store my images. I’m not a pro photographer who fills several 128GB SD cards a day and I don’t shoot a lot of video so my iPad is perfectly adequate to store all the images I’ll shoot on a one or two week vacation. If I plug in a SD card to the iPad everything gets sucked into Photos. I don’t want this for a couple reasons. First, this is not where I want them to end up. I keep all my raw images in Lightroom and only a few make their way to Photos. Second, I don’t want to sync all these photos to iCloud, primarily because I often don’t have access to an unlimited, inexpensive internet connection when traveling.

Process my images

I want to process my images in Lightroom. I use a few other apps as the need arises but it’s mostly Lightroom. Since this workflow is travel focused and I don’t spend my travel time processing huge numbers of images I’ll wait until I get home to do any heavy duty photo editing in Photoshop, Luminar or Aurora. Pano’s can wait. Also, I’m not working on every image just one or two from a day’s shooting to share with family and friends and perhaps post to Flickr or my website

Stop the pain

So what would I like to happen? The iPad should allow SD cards or USB drives to mount and be accessible through the Files App so I could do what I want with them. I would like to be able to copy all my photos to a local, non-iCloud folder on my iPad as a backup. From there I can open selected images in Lightroom to process or share while traveling and when I get home copy my images to my Mac and from there process according to my usual Lightroom centric workflow.

Is this really a problem?

No. But it is a bit of a pain. I can manage my images the way I want; I just have to screw around exporting my images from photos, delete them from Photos and screw around to get the images into a non-iCloud syncing folder. I have Workflow (now Shortcut) workflows that do some of this. But it is a bit of a pain. And you have to do it every time. Come on Apple.

Chasing the whale

So I’m trying to fix this with new hardware. This feeds my tech nerd habit and offers me hope that I can beat Apple in this silly game. I’m headed to Alaska for ten days and photography will be at the center of the trip. I just purchased a 500GB Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD with the hope that it can be the photo hub for this trip. The My Passport will read SD cards and offers plenty of space for storage. I can wirelessly access the images on my iPad and copy the images I want to process to Lightroom. When I get home I can copy all the photos from the disk to my Mac Pro into Lightroom. In my testing at home it looks like this will work but I’m not unreasonably optimistic. I have multiple other gizmos each costing hundreds of dollars that let me down in the past and this could happen again. What really needs to happen is for Apple to release it’s iPad–Photos grip on my workflow.

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