The Great Journey in Photography

Why the iPad is Not a Great Photo Editor

I think it is safe to say that I have more experience editing photos than the average person and well, I have logged more hours on the iPad than almost everyone I am quite sure, so when I say I think it is not a good photo editor, it is with a heavy heart. The iPad is a remarkable device and Apple hit a grand slam when it was introduced, creating a whole new class of computing. For me, the Retina display gives the absolute best experience for looking at photographs, the iOS interface can be shaped into the most elegant wrappers anywhere, but when it comes to processing photos to their best, it falls short. It is not from a lack of trying though, as the iPad is actually a very stable and powerful platform for manipulating images and video.

Just to lend more credibility to my arguments, I am going to open the kimono a tad and tell everyone that I have spent most of the year exploring iOS5 and 6, specifically the Core Image Framework located in it. I have designed my own editor for iOS so I am up to speed on what the iPad can and can’t do. Introduced in iOS5 and continued through 6 Apple has made available a remarkable array of filters and functions to use, bringing over many if not most of the things available on the Mac Operating System. Processing power is also very stout with the A5 (and presumably better on A6) processor handling distortion, pixel bending transformations on larger full resolution images without any real lag. With the tools provided natively you can build a very credible Photoshop style editor with gradients, perspective, distortions, color correction, layers, and blending modes a lot like the big Kahuna Photoshop. That all begs the question, why is the iPad not a good photo editor?

There are actually several answers. I would say money is one of the big ones. Everyone knows a $100 plus app is not going to fly for the big market and the bottom line is that it takes a lot of time, effort,and cash to develop software, it is kind of a risk because it might not sell and if you are seriously limited in the price you can charge you will be seriously limited in the features you can provide. Say it ain’t so, but that is a harsh reality of business. We all have to put food on the table. Lets take the Adobe Photoshop App as an example. It is reasonably priced and packed with a lot of features I admit, but one serious limitation is you can’t import or export the native file format PSD. Well yeah you can if you subscribe to another service and pay for it. That is a serious limitation for me. So serious to me that I have never been able to use the application to my satisfaction and I have not opened it in months.

There is also that thing known as the human condition. About a generation and a half, by my math, have only known a keyboard and mouse. Graphics tablets are kind of anomaly as far as I am concerned and are not anything like a touch interface. The touch interface has only been widely distributed for about two years. It is going to take some time for people to get used to it and for developers to design touch styles that deliver the precision photo editing needs. Once again using the Photoshop example, the App has a lot of stuff but most of it is hard to find and clumsy to use which leads many users to the Instagram like preset selection and “dumbs” down the software to sophisticated users. The much maligned skeuomorphic design helps bridge the gap between touch and mouse and within the context a good touch interface has to be “in your face” but also out of the way. That translates to simplicity.

I think the only real solution for the two above problems is specialization The very definition of failure to some, the only way to be successful is to make a niche, create features that are cheap and simple and apply very well to a select group of discriminating users.

One other thing holding back the iPad for editing is a lack of histogram. Creating a histogram is not yet available natively in iOS and it needs to be. It is essential in my opinion. You need it to know that an image is balanced for all media, all computer screens, not just an iPad display. It will come soon enough, I believe.

So what does all this have to do with bird photography? Well, the world is moving towards tablets and sooner or later you will need to edit media on one of them. You are going to need to have an editor that works for what you need. You need find apps that sharpen eyes and blur backgrounds, bring out feather detail, produce snow-white whites and color corrects. In short you need to find the app that works, not the one that is the best or most comprehensive.


Thanks for stopping by and a big thanks to everyone who came by last Friday, it was the busiest day ever for the blog.




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