Exploring Photoshop for iPadOS

I’ve tried photo editing on the iPad a few times over the years, but never with great success. I have a well established workflow of ingesting RAW images in CaptureOne (which replaced Apple’s Aperture) followed by conversion to TIFF. Then post-processing general gets done in Photoshop, with assists from Nik programs. I generally just save the finished image back to CaptureOne plus export a jpeg for use on Instagram and Flickr.

For critical images I follow Vincent Versace’s guidance to use the camera manufacturer’s RAW conversion utility. This advice has only become more important as computational photography has become a ubiquitous part of digital imaging, not only in smartphones, but in cameras as well.

For the iPhone, my most used camera, RAW conversion is done on the phone itself. At this point, the latest digital cameras have conversion computers built in as well, so their jpeg output is pretty close to the conversion by the PC software. As sensor dynamic range has improved and exposure is being calculated right off the sensor, it’s occurred to me that the preview on the back of the camera is pretty close to an optimal conversion anyway.

I’ve long wanted a way to combine the iPhone and camera workflow to avoid the problem of an “Art” database on my Mac and a “Life” database in Photos. I’ve got travel and family images made with a camera that don’t get into the Photos database for digital sharing. Sometimes I remember to export JPEGs and import into Photos, but it’s not a regular part of the workflow.

I’ve added the Leica Q2 to my collection of cameras. More on the Q2 in a subsequent post. For now, I wanted to introduce my JPEG plus RAW workflow with the camera. I need to save RAW files to maintain flexibility in conversion when I need it. Storage is cheap, even when we’re talking about a 47 megapixel camera. It’s easy enough to import the JPEGs quickly onto the iPhone or iPad with a dongle. So right into the Photos database.

So now we have Photoshop on the iPad. Ignore the media reports. I haven’t seen a real discussion about its use, just media reports about the bad App store reviews. I’m enthusiastic about it and it may be a factor in making this portable workflow feasible.

It’s clearly just a first step to bring Photoshop over to the iPad, but it’s a very promising first step. It’s really Photoshop and it’s fast and familiar. It took a little time to figure out how to create layers and masks, but once I understood how basic photo editing on the Mac mapped onto the iPad, I was able to get good basic edits like the one at the top of this post. Lots of things are missing as you may have heard. There are interface elements that when activated let you know that the feature is not yet available. I’d guess that those are coming soon, so the interface elements have been left in place for now in the public release.

The one interface aspect that’s missing for me is the ability to fade masks or change their opacity. So all masking is painting directly on the mask, changing gray intensity to modulate effect over the image. There’s also no curve tool yet, probably the biggest omission for photographers who want to get a more film like drop into shadows and highlights.

The original out of camera JPEG is below. It’s the camera’s own high contrast monochrome conversion. That ring of bright reflection around the rim of pot and the pattern of brick, grass and shadow are all there, just waiting to be pulled out with some level controls and a bit of burning and dodging. Exactly what we’d do in the darkroom with a flat negative that showed some potential.

Original out of camera JPEG

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