What Do You Want In An iPad Photo Management App?

With Lightroom 3 out the door and now that I'm back from HOW Design Conference, I can start to look forward at upcoming technology, gadgets and projects. While I was at HOW I had the ear of Adobe's Tablet Application Project Manager, John Nack. On Friday, John asked via his blog what people might want in an Lightroom type app for the iPad? Since I reach a ton of iPad users here, I thought I would solicit your feedback and pass it on to John and team.


Two Camps

When I talk to iPad users about this, I get lots of different ideas on what they want and I've summarized them here with two options.

OPTION ONE: There are currently two lines of thought on what photographers really want in an iPad app. If we start with Lightroom's current five modules, we have Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. One school of thought (the one that I'm in) is that you bring in your photos via the iPad Camera Connection Kit (I reviewed it here) and then you're able to do Library Module type things to them. ie. add keywords, titles, descriptions, picks, flags, stars and possibly even put them in collections. You could also do Develop module type things like Exposure, Noise Reduction, Cropping, etc. Once you get back to your computer, you would connect your iPad via the USB cable (don't scream WiFi because again we can only do what we're allowed to do) and sync everything to your computer right into the desktop version. 

OPTION TWO: The other school of thought is to go the other way. Start in Lightroom on the desktop, and sync your catalogs/collections to the iPad for client review and showing your mobile portfolio. Perhaps you'd still have access to Library like functions while your client reviews with you, that sync back to the desktop version.

Personally I think that no matter what, we should have a slideshow feature with music too. However, we also have to keep in mind that Apple doesn't take to kindly to "duplicating" built-in functionality. So again, our hands may be tied in many things we want to do.


So what do you want?

Sound off in the comments below.  Also what's the right price for such an App? Um, duh, yeah free is great, but what if it's not? How much is the right price?


By the way, there are no promises here. There are lots of technical limitations to overcome and even then if such an App were to be built, it would still have to be approved by Apple. So keep that in mind. For those of you thinking, "how hard can it be?" You might want to take a look at this post.

60 Replies to “What Do You Want In An iPad Photo Management App?”

    1. Yes Option #1, and tethering! Oh tethering, but it would be nice to be able to sync your iPad/Lightroom Collections via WiFi back to your home PC via a VNC connection. Yes I know I’m asking for the world. Actually that’s sorta what I am doing. Okay actually I’m FTPing my photos to a site. Using my VNC connection to my home computer, log in to my FTP site and then down load them all to my home computer. Its a round about way but I wish I had a better way to do.

  1. Dear Terry and Adobe,

    I would be very excited to see a Lightroom app for the iPad developed. I would want to see an app that would allow me to at least export a collection to my iPad from the desktop for my clients to review/proof the images with flagging, star ratings, and color labels. Also, another neat feature for both versions would be the ability to “flag” what size prints the client wants and how many right from the library module since I use a lab for all of my prints.

    The features described in option 1 would also be nice, but I would definitely want to see the above features first.

    As for pricing, if all the features were included, It would be worth about $10 to me. If only the proofing was included, about $2.

    Thanks for your time,
    Matt Leitholt from Idaho

  2. I’d personally like a combination of the two. I’d like to be able to sync stuff from Mac Lightroom to the iPad to show off, but by the same token, I’d like Option 1 so when I travel I can just take my iPad. Depending on the features, $20 would be a good price point, a tad more for more features (but it’d have to be amazing)

  3. I am with Michelle, sort of. I think I would want option 1 the most. Reason is that right now I use Lightroom to sync to the hard drive, and iTunes to sync to the iPad (thanks for the idea by the way sometime ago) Then the images are right there in the photo app. You can do a slideshow with music if you want. You would have to provide an easier or more feature rich method to make that more of a selling point. I don’t really need keywords on the iPad, and the ability to continue edits from Lightroom on the iPad.

    Option 1 workflow would be nice. The ability to keyword, make pics/stars/colors/whatever and start edits with all that transferring over to Lightroom would be pretty amazing. Right now photogene, or what ever editor you use does not allow to re-edit and pick up where you left off. The non destructive editing of Lightroom (I can live without brushes on the iPad, while cool, likely processor prohibitive) on the iPad would be great. The ability to transfer those settings to Lightroom, would be awesome. However, is that possible? Can you even edit a raw file on the iPad due to memory issues. Don’t the editors right now just edit the jpeg preview?

    Tethering? That would be nice, but dependent on changes by apple. Also, you probably don’t want to duplicate OnOne’s effort when there are other things to do.

  4. The Library and slideshow modules would be the most appropriate for the iPad app. To go even further with simple develop would also be great. There needs to be an easy way to sync back to the desktop though.
    Also, the compatibility with the RAW files would be great.
    Another idea would also to have a print option to print contact sheets to leave with clients, bluetooth printing would therefore help (e.g. with the canon pixma iP100)
    I would spend up to $50 if these features were there, the develop and print would be worth the extra $30 from the $20 mentioned above.

  5. Option 1 would be great!
    I am holding off on an ipad until I can justify the purchase.
    A lightroom App would definately be the deciding factor.
    $50.00 sounds reasonable.

  6. All I want is the Develop module. Just think how awesome it would be on your travels if you had just one device to edit your photos in Lightroom, play tons of games, listen to music, watch movies, and surf the net. I have an iMac now but would like a portable computer for all the traveling I do but I just can’t decide if I want a Macbook Pro or an iPad. The only thing stopping me from getting an iPad is that at the moment I wouldn’t be able to edit my photos on it. The only thing stopping me from getting a Macbook Pro is the lack of games and 3G internet.

    1. Being able to develop on the go sounds good, but Adobe still hasn’t addressed the color space issue on the desktop versions and I’m not positive what color space the iPad uses so you could develop on the iPad and your color tweaks could fall apart on your desktop & web. I’m guessing the iPad uses sRGB being that it’s a mobile/web device but like I said Lightroom still has so support or soft proofing / color space option for sRGB, it only uses a ProPhoto RGB so it’s kind of a waste to develop on a device where you can’t see an approx. end result in my opinion.

  7. i would prefer as much functionality as apple and tech itself allow. why be tied to your desktop for anything you don’t have to be? what’s the point of portability if you lack access to important functions…(and its great, btw, to see feedback solicited before dev work begins. makes sense!)

    1. I agree getting a basic idea of saleable functionality before development begins is awesome and a trend that I hope takes foothold. Then companies can compete on who can bring all the functions together the best. What would be even better is if it was all opensource so that it could come together faster.

      I would like to be able to have a native sync function Where the file names sync over. Now this is a very important function. The Ipad allows you to leave your 10lbs laptop at home but for sheer workflow bliss the ability to rate or identify which photos your customer pick out and then just be able to export/ sync that order back into lightroom for further processing.

  8. For me would be option 1. It would be pretty nice to edit and arrange your photos in the ipad and with the pens that are out there if the develop module was available it would be a magical device.

  9. I like option 1 but would emphasis some Library Module functionality. Pieces of the Dev Module (exposure & tone would be welcome too. The iPad seems like the perfect tool to host a “Lightroom Lite”. I would be willing to pay up to $20 for the App. Also since I am a heavy user of Lightroom, I would love to be a Beta Tester.

  10. I would love an app for Lightroom, but exactly how it should work am I unsure of. But this is what I would like:
    – Import photos from my camera
    – Tagging and rating photos/videos
    – Searching/filtering photos/videos
    – View slideshow (with option for including metadata, and of course TV/VGA output)

    I do not need to edit photos, at least not in the first version.

    I can add photos offline on the iPad, and when syncing with my home computer it adds the photos to my Lightroom catalog. I would also need that some photos was available on iPad offline (in reduced quality?), maybe all that are rated of flagged a chosen way.

    That was just my wishes, and for an application like this I would gladly pay at lest $50 🙂

    1. Frode matches my thoughts exactly: I’d like the Library module on the iPad, and do the editing on my laptop, whose display is at least somewhat calibrated. The iPad is a mobile device, so use its mobile strengths: import and organize photos that can incorporated in my main catalog later. Also, use the iPad as a display device both for pictures imported from the camera, and for pictures in my main catalog.

  11. LR app with library, development and slide show would be amazing. It would me finally make buying an iPad. Coming home from an assignment, sitting in the train, downloading the photographs, rating, keywording that would be amazing. Okay you can also do it with your laptop – but the pad would be much lighter…
    I hope adobe and apple get this one on board (would pay for it – no worries)


  12. Of course Apple won’t be the only game in town. I’m looking forward to see Android tablets that will be much more open and hopefully cheaper.

  13. iOS4 will give us folders. LRiApp can give me Library (and maybe Slideshow). Forums are full of comments regarding instances where LR3 is slow. How do you think Develop will be on iPad? Just give me the chance to get the photos in and out of iPad and for now I’d be more than happy!

  14. My desires for an iPad photo app are a bit different than most I think.

    I want:
    to be able to organize photos on the iPad itself (some apps do this already).
    to be able to rate/select photos.
    to be able to see the file names on the iPad when reviewing photos.
    to be able to have clients place orders for prints right from my iPad.

    I’ve done a couple events with iPads as viewing stations and they worked out great. Now if they would just go one step further and let clients actually select and order photos right on the device!

    1. I am a sports photographer. I bought ipads to show and sell with them. The lack of file numbers are making them too time consuming.

      This is what I would like to do:

      1. Wireless transmit to ipads. We have Canon transmitters.
      2. View photos with the camera image numbers
      3. Print these photos wireless back to my trailers printers
      4. Process the order and charge there cc.

  15. Option 1. It would make having to travel with a laptop a little easier. It would also make deleting rejections easier. If I don’t have that much space on my iPad, I’d have to be very reserved about what I leave on it. Only the picks. I don’t know how much I would actually edit unless there was some way to color calibrate it.

    Until they come up with a CF reader option though, I don’t think I would be using it for that. Connecting it directly to the camera could be slow (I don’t have one, so I don’t know).

    $10-$15 price range

  16. I like option one. I also think you should be upload to any of the popular photosharing sites, your blog or website.

  17. Tethering and the library module and I’m in. I can always wait to upload my files to the desktop for the remaining modules.

    I agree, Apple needs to add a CF card reader. Come on Steve!

  18. The first option would fit my workflow better. I wouldn’t even need much of the Develop module since I would still do any serious processing using the desktop Mac. So Library, (minimal) Develop and Slideshow module functionality with a means of synching when I return from a shoot, would likely push me over the edge to buy an iPad.

  19. I would personally like something for organisation of my images, keyword, flag, rate, colour label, maybe even set up collections.

    I’m not after importing the images from my cards onto the iPad, as I think there wouldn’t be much space left if I was using it for my entertainment as well. Just something that would read the card images and show them to me. I could then set up generic keywords, set up filenames etc. as I would on LR import. If I wanted to set up specific image keywords I would be able to do that too.

    This data could then be read in along with the card during import to my main LR catalog, syncing the iPad ‘catalog’ and the images together.

    I don’t think the iPad could handle too much serious develop processing.

    I’m not bothered about anything else, but maybe a separate app to allow the import and playing of a slideshow, with music.

    How much? $10 – $20 for a Library type app, $5 – $10 for the Slideshow app or $20 for both.

    As an aside +1 for a CF card reader accessory.

  20. I don’t think the iPad hardware is quite ready for mainstream editing. I think more than basic editing would be pointless, especially considering there is no monitor calibration.
    That being said, I love showing off images on the iPad. Slideshow, and gallery viewing is so fun for people. Also camera tethering would be fantastic as well, that would save space on location shoots, and easy viewing afterwards.
    I would like to see, let’s call it, Light table. Lightroom sans intensive editing tools, which can still allow metadata editing, collections, syncing with Lightroom, tethering, and a new portable slideshow module.
    I think the app should be free but require logon for Lightroom registered users. Make it an incentive to Lightroom customers.

  21. Hi Terry,

    i think i am more at the first option. I would like to do the following:
    1) Import RAW files with normal previews, no 1:1
    2) Tag, Sort, Put into Collections
    3) Import all this new info into LR3 together with the RAWs
    (I think this is possible since after connecting the iPad with iTunes, LR will
    still see the iPad as a camera and is able to import the RAWs)

    Wouldn’t it be an option to generate sidecar files with the RAWs to exchange
    all information with LR3?

    For the price range i would go into the USD30s since it is no fully fledged

    I wouldn’t need the full blown LR3 development module since this i would
    anyway do at home. But the preparation would be great to do on the road!

    Just my ideas,

  22. I think if I were to have a LR app for an iPad, then my primary purpose would be to use the app in the field. I want to take my iPad as a replacement for a bulkier laptop. I would want to either shoot tethered to it, or I would want to be able to import RAW images and make basic edits and keywords/rating stars/collections from a remote location that I could export finished jpegs to upload to my blog or flickr or other social media while on location and simply sync the iPad LR to my LR on my desktop computer when I got home. I would want to be able to use the iPad as file storage device in the field as well as the basic edits/social media listed above.

    I don’t know how others feel, but if the app was a full function version of LR just like the desktop version now, then I think brand new LR users could pay the price of a regular LR upgrade $99 and existing LR users could upgrade to the App verion for maybe half the cost of the a LR upgrade. I’d probably be willing to pay $49 for an App version along with my existing LR desktop.

    If a simple or more basic version of LR like the “Light Table” described above was an option instead, then the price should be less. Maybe half the cost mentioned above? I’d still be willing to pay $25 for a simple/easy to use in the field Library Module and very basic edit app that I could easily sync back to my desktop LR. I think price all depends on the feature load available.

    I’m willing to settle for a reduced feature load to still be able to upload and edit RAW files on an iPad in the field though and I’m willing to pay for any features made available.

    Top Features would be:
    Library Moldule with ability to Sync to desktop LR
    Tethered Shooting
    Basic Develop Module Editing
    Ability to export .jpegs out of App

    I personally wouldn’t care about plugins or the slideshow or print module. I could make it work with Apple’s slideshow feature and I wouldn’t foresee printing in the field. If I needed to print, the suggestion of using a bluetooth printer or connecting a pogo printer would be nice, but for me, not a must have.

  23. I would like to organize my images, flag, rate, and add color labels. Exporting to flickr and facebook would be great!

    I mainly use my ipad for presenting my work. I would rather have a customizable photo gallery app than being able to edit my images on my ipad. The only editing I see that would be useful IMO is cropping and rotating. Maybe give us the ability to adjust exposure, fill light, blacks, and recovery. I feel more comfortable making major color corrections on a cpu.

    I would like to see lightroom’s custom print package feature integrated with a “create your own customized sideshow” or have an option to create an “HTML5/ipad-like experience” (i.e. swipe/tap to show the next image(s) with transitions and photo galleries similar to apple’s html5 examples ) when showcasing photos.

    This maybe more on the lines of a keynote like app but right now keynote is very limiting on the ipad!

    I most definitely would like to see an export to HTML5 photo gallery or an “iPad-experience” photo gallery option in lightroom 3!

  24. 1. tether
    2. library module : tag, sort, etc
    3. basic develop module (think Photogenie)
    4. sync library

    full develop is asking quite a bit but
    ability to tether and tag photos seems very very doable.

  25. Terry, after reading the link at the end of your post it is obvious that this is NEVER going to happen.. or at least not for a long, long, long time.

    Perhaps with a jailbroke iPad there are possibilities, but with the default iPad OS it just ain’t in the cards at this time.

    Especially not an Adobe product either. LOL..

  26. We have to have pose numbers showing for all the images. iPad does not have it now. Anything to get that is a help or maybe I just don’t know how to make the numbers show.

  27. I’ve seen a local (Philadelphia area) photography studio that is now using iPad as a way to display or showcase photos after a shoot — such as a way to show, via a musically enhanced slide show, a collection of photos.

    However, if Apple produces an “Aperture” light, would that mean that a Lightroom like application be DOA? Or since iMovie has been announced, if Apple decides to introduce iPhoto for iPad / iPhone, will that also help to limit the number of offerings providing light library / keywording / editing options?

    With the relatively limited storage available on iPads, even with 64GB, as well as processing limitations, leave the iPad for content consumption and use other devices for content creation and manipulation.

    I’ve read most of John Nack’s recent blogs, and on Terry’s blogs, as well as the many responses concerning the relationships between Apple and Adobe.

    At this point, I think it would be a waste of time to put the marketing and development efforts into project to move the functions of Lightroom onto an iPad platform. Is there a code base that could be shared with other Windows or Android tablets and enhanced smartphones? If not, then what is the future of having a one off product, especially when it doesn’t support Flash as a way to deliver a slide show?

    1. You are spot on with this comment IMHO. As an owner of a Mac Desktop and MacBook Pro I have no need for my iPad as an editing tool. But what a great little device to carry around as a portable portfolio/Slide show/Sales device! I just want a killer presentation app that lets me do fades, transitions and maybe a bit of Ken Burns effect.

  28. Yes, yes and what Bryan said.

    I want the iPad to show what the viewfinder sees and to control camera settings from the iPad. I’m 67 and have a harder time seeing a scene, especially in dim light, well enough to be sure of focus and framing. It would be easier to shoot a portrait when you can look at the subject directly, instead of through a viewfinder, and both see the image together. Ideally the iPad and camera would communicate wirelessly. Even more ideally the iPad should be able to display the menus to change settings so they don’t have to be limited to cryptic little lists on the camera LCD.

  29. I’m afraid that the iPad would really only be of use to me to show off photos and even then it may be a little limited.

    When I travel I do it for months at a time and will shoot more in a couple of days, depending on where I am, than the iPad is capable of storing. Until it is able to hold my collection there is little point in discussing what it could do with my collection. I’ll stick with a netbook and an external drive as a backup.

    I am tempted to get an iPad as a movie viewer an ebook reader though.

  30. All I need for my iPAD is a Lightroom 3 app

    Terry–> Please review Tiffens new Photo fx Ultra and decide if I need it 😉

  31. I think option 1 is more what i want to see. Tethering would be a huge feature, but I would find the application useful even without it. Here’s what I’d like to see:

    Import of images including Raw
    Standard Library module functions: sorting, rating, keywording
    Limited Develop functions (along the lines of the “Quick Develop” in the Library module)
    Auto sync to desktop
    Export from desktop to iPad LR app
    Save from iPad LR app to the photo library on the iPad

    Anything else would be a bonus!


  32. I think first option sounds food, I would like to take my ipad to a shoot and so simple keywords, some editing and maybe posting on flickr or facebook.

  33. Option one sounds good to me. I’d normally take a netbook or laptop with me when travelling to save/tag/caption and make minor adjustments to photos. Would be great to use the ipad for all of that.

  34. Ok.. here’s something..

    dropbox. its free
    install on iPad
    install on tethering laptop

    set your tether to drop files to a dropbox share on your computer.

    shoot your stuff, review as you go..

    and your files will be available on your iPad as well (wifi, 3g needed of course!)
    you can view jpgs, not raw files. but if you shoot with just small jpgs you can save B/W and view files on your iPad almost immediately.

    plus you can STAR the files on your iPad..

    its not perfect, but an option for reviewing files w/ your iPad.

    you can also tether to another folder and do a quick cull of images and then export small jpgs to your dropbox folder so you can review those on your iPad. lots of options!

    you are welcome. lol..

  35. I’m for option 2 with a library type module. I tend to tag and import photos to my PC – and just have them on my ipad to view/rate. I’m not convinced that the iPad is the right place to do photo editing, screen too small, not enough memory etc.

    But what I really want, is a way to browse photos and read any meta data – the tags, file names, keywords etc etc. Also a slideshow of a folder or set of images (but unlike the apple one, with better controls – eg not to change pictures so quick, and to stop eg after a time or number of cycles).

    I did buy sortshots – the current version won’t work at all for me, and the old version also was a little buggy. And I appreciate its not a fault of the app – but it would be so nice to not retag, and use the built in tags. The basic idea is nice. But between crashing my ipad, crashing the app and deleting photos, I’m kind of waiting to see if I get one which works, before spend too long on the laborious ipad tagging process.

  36. The one feature I want from the iPad version is a killer implementation of meta-data editing. I’m certain the multi-touch interface is perfect for organizing information, and I have a collection of 96500 images in my primary Lightroom catalog that can always use more organization. The current keywording interface in LR is just inadequate for organizing larger collections…

  37. Hi Terry.

    I gave photo fx ultra a try today. Very nice app. After playing with it for a couple of hours I came up with a list of things I would like to have in a lr app.

    1. Autosave!
    2. Rotate / Straighten / crop
    3. Clone and healing / retouch tools. To get rid of large blemishes.
    3b. Skin smoothened slider.
    4. Flag / keywords / rate
    5. Watermark import and basic text. Maybe sync to light room 3.
    6. Integration of photo fx ultra or offer presets similar to the program.
    7. Interactive slideshow(manual and auto options) creation. Would like to be able to have gesture swiping. For ex. If I swipe at an angle the piture would come in at an angle. If i pinch in i would get a zoom transition. and maybe double tap to trigger a transition like dissolve or ripple. How about using two fingers swipes to bring in 2 pictures side by side!!
    7b. iPhone integration would be nice too. I would like to use my iPhone to control the presentation or can be used to edit in full screen. Maybe?

  38. Simply put, I would like to upload photos from my camera to my iPad, then from my iPad to a secondary backup storage device.
    I want to use the iPad as a backup for my photos while on a 5-day photo shoot traveling. It can do that. But I also want to upload these same photos daily (100’s /day) from my iPad to iDisk/MobileMe. It can do that but only 1 photo at a time. OR I want to upload these same photos from my iPad to another private secure online site for a secondary backup. It can’t do that. OR I would like to download these same photos from my iPad to a flash card. It can’t do that either.
    Oh yeah. iPad should also allow re-ordering photos in an album. Currently photos are sorted by date – no other option.

  39. Tethered shooting with just jpg download, leaving RAW on the camera. the ability to show clients a web gallery, movie, slideshow or the like from Lightroom would be great as well.

    Essentially I would like an iPad to replace my laptop for client presentations and on-location shoots.

  40. Option 2 along with the ability to flag photos would what I would use most in my business. Also the ability to group all vert & horiz photos to display together is a must. Rotating the ipad back and forth is very annoying to a client, grouping horiz & vert images in serperate folders also seems a bit unprofessional to a client.

    I can not see the need to process an image for any professional phtog as you are dealing with an uncalibrated display on the ipad.

  41. Currently use my iPad to cull images. Import raw to LR, export 1500px jpg to folder, Ftp images to JB iPad, pick through and delete trash shots in the photos app, pull the files back off the iPad, batch rename the extension to raw extension, move raw folder to culled folder making sure it does not overwite existing files. It leaves me with raw images that have been culled. You can zoom on the pics to check details on the iPad at this res. I’ll note that scrolling is stuttered with the number of images I cull ( approximate 2000 per event). But still very usable. A great solution until We see light room or aperture on the iPad….which might be a while.

  42. No need for photo editing initially as loads of apps do that fairly well already. Photo tagging and folder mgmt and deleting/hiding pix are features that are completely missing from the app store. Would pay $5-10 range.

  43. I just tried airdisplay for mac/ipad to use the ipad as 2nd screen, this is quite cool and ipad can be used to show the preview a shot in LR. I hoped that I could set the development module on my ipad and my main screen as preview window.

    What would be fantastic:

    Use the iPad as a fullscreen controller for the LR development module.
    ie. another kind of interface (touch-based) to make precise development adjustments only, which could work with eg. color wheels in stead of sliders.

  44. As per my experience Sortshot application for iPad is really amazing!!!! In this application we can add tags and tagging options also include personalized keywords, ratings, favorites, or type of media – photo or video. Tapping on a tag provides instant results so that we can further refine our search with additional tags and keywords.

  45. I would love to see a lightroom or apple aperture app for the ipad. The standard ipad photo viewing software is not at all functional.

    Can you imagine a ipad 3g with lightroom’s functionality + a built-in online photo boutique!!!!!

    A roaming photographer could shoot, download to the ipad, edit and display to clients via a slideshow. The clients could then select images that they would like to purchase, download the files, order prints, mugs, photo books, share with social media and pay with a credit card from anywhere with a 3g connection!!!

    Woow that would be incredible. A complete mobile photo business with only a camera and a ipad.

    Great stuff. Let me know if you will develop this. I would chip in.

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