Tablet apps for photo pros
Professional and serious photographers need tools that can help them take photos quicker and more efficiently. We’ve picked the 10 best tablet apps that help pros and serious shooters get things done, including the top image apps for cataloging, calibrating, remote control, calculating, metering, and watermarking apps for both Apple and Android tablets.
Datacolor Spyder Gallery
Accurate color is vital for subjects such as fashion and architecture, which is why pro photographers use color calibration systems to get accurate colors across their workflow of monitors and printers. The iPad wasn’t built with these in mind, unfortunately, so there is no way to calibrate an iPad screen. Spyder Gallery (free, iOS, Android version coming) takes a different approach: Instead of calibrating the screen, it measures the iPad screen, and then tweaks the colors in your photos so that they are correctly displayed.
You can then use the program to display any photo stored on the iPad, and it will be well calibrated—assuming that the camera you shot it with, and the monitor you edited it on was calibrated as well, of course. You can also flick between the calibrated and uncalibrated versions.The program is free, but you need a Spyder 3 or 4 colorimeter to create the calibration from the iPad.
DSLR Remote and DSLRBot
Remote controls make your cameras more flexible, allowing you to do things like take very long exposures, time lapses, covert photos, or shoot from multiple angles at the same time. DSLR Remote (free, Android) and DSLRBot (free, iOS) turn your iPad or Android tablet into a powerful remote control for your camera. This connection between tablet and camera can be achieved in several ways, including an IR remote, wired remote, or a Bluetooth link. It does involve either buying or building your own IR transmitter or cable, and both programs offer comprehensive instructions or links to buy premade cables. The functions that can be remotely controlled vary from camera to camera (and the connection method), but most cameras allow you to control the shutter, zoom, aperture and shutter speed, and a tablet is a lot easier to carry to a remote location than a laptop. Plus, IR transmitters and cables can be made to work in locations that the more common USB remote control systems would never dare to venture. For even greater control, you’ll need to use a USB connection and an app that works with your brand of SLR, such as DSLR Remote controller on Android for Canon cameras.
Shuttersnitch ($15.99, iOS) turns your iPad into a quick preview screen for your camera. Put an EyeFi card or a wireless controller into your camera, and it shows you images captured on your camera a couple of seconds after shooting. That means you can use the big, bright Retina screen of your iPad to take a closer look at a captured image to see if it is good enough to use. You can pinch to zoom in to see fine details, or even look at the preview on a projector or big screen. If you like the image, you can then flag it, save it, or zap it straight to another location via FTP or email. If you are working with a picky client, you could then get instant approval right there in the field.
ShutterSnitch can also keep an eye on your settings: if you set your camera to auto, and it moves out of a designated range for shutter speed, ISO, aperture, focal length, or light level, the app can warn you visually or with a beep; this is a useful trick for when you are shooting in the heat of the moment, but need a reminder to keep the shutter speed up.
Many serious photographers use Adobe Lightroom to organize and catalog their photos. But there is no iOS version, so it is hard to take your collection on the road, or add images on the fly. Photosmith ($14.99, iOS) fills this gap, offering the ability to import, tag, sort, and group images, ready to be moved into Lightroom running on Mac OS or Windows later on. The program can import the images from a memory card connected to the iPad with the Apple camera connection kit; or from the camera roll if you want to import photos taken with the iPad. It can also work with an Eye-Fi card, so you can import images straight from the camera to Photosmith. It can also send your digital negatives (including RAW files) to Dropbox so you have a backup if your equipment gets stolen or eaten by the dinosaur you are taking pictures of.
When you get back to your home base, you can sync Photosmith and Lightroom over a Wi-Fi connection, and all of the changes made in Photosmith (such as new imported images, tags, etc.) are updated into Lightroom. The opposite is true as well: If you make changes in Lightroom, they can be published to Photosmith so you can take along parts of your catalog to show to a client. Overall, it is an excellent way to extend Lightroom out of the studio for the serious shooter.
PhotoCalc and CamCalc
Photography is all about numbers, so it pays to be able to do your math. PhotoCalc ($2.99, iOS ) and CamCalc ($1.99, Android) are calculators for photographers, which calculate things like depth of field, reciprocity, and flash exposure that you might need when shooting. They can also do slightly more esoteric stuff such as color temperature conversions, letting you know which filter is the right one to convert tungsten into daylight, for instance. The paid versions of both apps also include sunrise and sunset calculators, which can find the golden and blue hours, either from the location of the device, or from a set of co-ordinates. This can also calculate the sunrise and sunset time for any day, which is useful when planning a shoot.
The Photographer's Ephemeris
The first key to a successful shoot is knowing your location. The Photographer's Ephemeris ($8.99, iOS, Android) is a tool that can help with this without ever leaving the studio. Using Google Maps, it helps you to scout a location by mapping out where the sun and moon will be during the day, so you can judge the best time to shoot for a particular look, or to capture a feature with the sun at a particular angle. The app can work from the current location, or from a location that you find in Google Maps, then show how the sun and moon are going to move over the day. If you are looking to shoot a moon rising over Hernandez, New Mexico, for instance, it can show you precisely when the sun will set and the moon will be just above the horizon. It cannot, however, prevent Ansel Adams rising from the grave to yell at you for failing to meter the scene correctly.
Impression and Add Watermark
One of the first lessons that the rookie photographer learns is to mark their work. Adding a simple watermark to a photo prevents an unscrupulous client from using it before they pay, or at least makes it look more obvious when they do it. Impression ($1.99, iOS) and Add Watermark ($1.99, Android) make adding a watermark to photos taken or edited on the go simple. Both apps can load a photo, add a discrete (or not so discrete) watermark to the image, and save it, ready to send to a client as a preview or to upload to the Internet.
Impression allows you to use any text (including a copyright symbol) while Add Watermark allows you to use text or a logo. Both apps allow you to then save the image back to the gallery or email it, while Add Watermark can share the image directly to Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter. Add Watermark is the more flexible of the two programs, but either would be very suitable for the photographer who needs to add a reminder that emailing someone a rough image does not give them a perpetual license to use it wherever they want.
SoftBox Pro and SoftBox
Photographers deal with light, but there is sometimes not enough: You often need just a touch to fill a shadow, or a spot of color to highlight the side of the subject. Rather than lug a full lighting kit with you, why not use the big, bright screen of your tablet? SoftBox Pro ($1.99, iOS) and SoftBox & Light Table ($1.99, Android) do just that, turning your tablet screen into a customizable light source. Both apps allow you to control the intensity of the light and the color, as well as add a shape to the illumination. This can be very useful when shooting small glass objects: Illumination from beneath the device can highlight the texture of the glass. Textures are also available, so you create an interesting backdrop for a photo of a small object without having to print it out. These apps can also be useful when you are looking through old slides or negatives, creating an impromptu lightbox.
You shouldn't expect either program to work miracles, though; the light output of even the brightest setting on an iPad or Android tablet is nowhere near as bright as a proper light. But it could be useful for when you just need that extra pinch of light, or when you have to get a shot and you (or your assistant) forgot to order extra bulbs for the soft box.
When taking photos of people, getting a signed model release is vital, as it protects the photographer from claims when the photo is sold, and makes sure that the model understands what is expected of them. iD Release (free, iOS) handles this well, allowing you to configure the terms of the release, get a signature, take a sample photo of the model, and include stuff such as ID photos and a GPS location of where the release was signed. All of this protects both sides of the agreement (currently available in English and Spanish; more languages are coming soon), and keeps everything in the open.
The app is very easy to use: the photographer sets up the agreement, then hands the device to the model. They click through a number of screens that detail the terms of the contract, then sign it on the screen. The photographer then takes a photo of the model and their ID, and the finalized release is then emailed to both party and stored online. The only problem encountered was that this is an iPhone app, so it looks kind of bad on an iPad. But it is still very easy to use, and makes the whole process a lot easier and more transparent.
Measuring light is a tricky business, and it never hurts to have a spare light meter around to help. Fotometer Pro ($0.99, iOS) turns your tablet into a light meter that can be used to measure both reflected light (light bouncing off the subject) and incidental light (light falling on your subject). It does this using both iPad cameras, so you can easily switch from one to the other. It looks like a classic light meter from the 1950s, so film shooters will feel at home here. To use it, you dial in the ISO and aperture using the rings at the top, and the meter gives you the shutter speed at the bottom. You can also dial in an exposure correction in Ev if you want, in half steps up to +/- 2EV.
A timer allows you to time exposures from 1 second up to 16 hours, complete with an old-school tick-tock sound and school bell alarm. This works from the metered shutter speed, but it would have been nice if you could manually configure this, so you could do bracketed long exposures, or time the boiling of an egg for a snack on those long, late night shoots. Although the timer keeps the iPad awake while counting down, it seems to go to sleep when the countdown finishes; that's because the program brings up an alert notification, so the iPad realizes it has been idle for too long and goes to sleep.