iPad Photography Workflows

Marius Masalar wrote up a very comprehensive overview on using an iPad for the entire photography workflow, from planning a shoot to importing, organizing, processing, and publishing photos. It’s well worth a read — Marius mentioned a number of apps that I hadn’t yet tried (like Priime RAW), and his observations about the different import strategies mirror my experiences.

My personal workflow falls into two broad scenarios:

Camera-to-iPad

  1. Use the in-camera RAW converter on my Fuji X100S to generate JPGs, then import those into the Photos app on my iPad Pro using the Lightning/SD card adapter.
  2. Import those into VSCO.
  3. Delete the unprocessed JPGs from Photos.
  4. Process the photos in VSCO, export back to Photos.
  5. Post to Instagram/Flickr/Google Drive/etc.

Very infrequently I will import a RAW photo instead of a JPG. VSCO can process RAW files, but I prefer using Lightroom because the edits are more controlled1. In this scenario the Lightroom step happens before importing into VSCO. That’s…a lot of bouncing in and out of Photos: Photos to Lightroom to Photos to VSCO to Photos.

Computer to iPad

  1. Import Photos to Lightroom on my laptop.
  2. Make rough edits to exposure, then export JPGs.
  3. Use VSCO’s web uploader feature to upload JPGs to my VSCO account.
  4. Process the photos in VSCO, export to Photos.
  5. Post to Instagram/Flickr/Google Drive/etc.

I tend to use this method when I’m working through a much bigger set of photos (say, a family vacation). I like that it doesn’t involve much back and forth between Photos and the other apps on my iPad.

Sometimes I will use Lightroom’s sync functionality to shuttle RAW files from desktop to Lightroom Mobile, but this is pretty rare — if I’m even opening my laptop then I might as well just quickly process a batch as described above.

Looking forward

I do wish that apps could import files directly, instead of requiring a stop in Photos. (Apps that are able to work directly with Photos instead of importing into their own library mitigate this somewhat, but it’s still a pain.)

I’ve got a 9.7″ iPad Pro, which is the one Pro model that doesn’t support USB-C transfer speeds via the Lightning port. This is one of the reasons I mostly use the in-camera RAW converter on my Fuji — it makes the import step a bit faster (I just count how many JPGs there are to import, and I tick them off before the thumbnail previews even show up). I imagine that faster transfer speeds might make me use RAW files more frequently.

Why bother?

All these steps inevitably bring up the question: why not ditch the dedicated camera and just use a dual-camera iPhone? That would unify shooting, editing, and output into one single device.

The quick answer is that I don’t think the shooting experience is quite there yet in terms of controls. I like my dials and a viewfinder. But I will say that the output I see from the latest phones is getting pretty close to meeting my needs, and I have the nagging feeling that the next dedicated camera I buy could very well be the last one.


  1. In VSCO I find that extreme adjustments to highlights or shadows will affect the overall exposure too much. Compare the sun and sky in this edit (VSCO for both exposure and filters) with this one (Lightroom for exposure, VSCO for filters). In the first edit I tried to bring up just the shadows in VSCO, but it ended up affecting the highlights as well.