How the iPad and other tablets are helping photographers find work

by Doug Drinkwater

July 30 2012

Tablets are great for viewing images, but photographers generally use desktop or notebook computer to edit them.
Tablets are great for viewing images, but photographers generally use desktop or notebook computer to edit them.

The tablet has been heralded as a great tool for business and education, but as TabTimes reveals, the form factor is also helping photographers to sell, edit and monetize their work.

On paper at least, tablets represent a great opportunity for photographers. The iPad’s slick interface and Retina Display lends itself well to hi-res imagery while nascent tablet magazine market is another avenue to which photographers can sell work.

With this in mind, TabTimes explores how photographers are using tablets, and what kind of impact devices like the iPad are having on their everyday lives.

Photographs 'look better' on the iPad

You might think that a group called The Royal Photographic Society that was formed in 1853 is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to technology. But far from being the case, the U.K.-based organization and its photographer members are embracing the latest technology products and tablets in particular.

“The tablet– particularly the iPad - has had a significant impact on photography and photographers within a very short space of time”, said the group’s director general, Dr Michael Pritchard.

“Over the past eighteen months the tablet has suddenly come of age in terms of acting as the preferred tool for many photographers to present their work to editors and art directors, who in turn are more interested in seeing work on an iPad than looking through a box of prints.”

Pritchard reckons that high-resolution images even look better on the iPad too.

“There’s no question that images seen on a screen have a real brightness, depth and vibrancy to them which shows all types of photography extremely well. The ability to scroll through tens or hundreds of images across a desk or in a café makes it far more convenient”.

Ray Dauphinais, who owns of all three iPad versions and works as a photographer in Texas, agrees that the tablet is the best way for presenting work.

“[The iPad] is easier to organize and discuss images with clients," he says. "I’ve used my iPads to show images to potential clients and to show a client what I’ve been working on.”

Photographers can tap into the tablet publishing boom

Having seen tablets also come to museums and art galleries for exhibiting art, The Royal Photographic Society thinks tablets can be much more than just a digital portfolio, but remains unsure if photographers will be able to monetize their work via tablet newspapers and magazines.

“The iPad probably hasn’t been around long enough for people to monetize their work, but inevitably someone will work out a business model to get revenue directly at some point”, said Pritchard.

Not everyone agrees however. Getty Images in particular believes a business model is already emerging for photographers to showcase their talents on tablet-based media.

“For many, tablet publications have become a legitimate business, supported by commerce around the app store, which has allowed publishers to invest in their digital editions and unleash creativity within their digital and design teams”, said Josh Rucci, senior director for media and broadcast at Getty Images UK.

Despite this, Rucci is in agreement with Pritchard that further progress is needed.

“We’ve generally received a predictable mix of excitement and nerves. For while photographers love to see their work in such a beautiful context, some have expressed concern with publishers’ ability to properly invest in this new platform.

Image editing on tablets is not in the picture

For all the acclaim of using tablets to showcase photography though, tablet editing seems some way off.

“The feedback I am getting is that it [the tablet] is not being used for editing currently”, said Pritchard.

“Few are using it for basic editing, as most want a bigger screen and some kind of keyboard/mouse to get better control of the editing suite. Most of these guys are doing very detailed retouching down to the individual pixel, so they want real control there. They want to see enough of the image on the screen to see the effect of their editing and get the overall context.”

Ray Dauphinais is one of these photographers and while he uses his iPad for basic editing, he doubts the form factor is good enough for detailed editing.

“I have seen photographers shooting tethered to a tablet, with images coming up on it. That looked pretty cool, but it rendered the pictures very slowly," he says. "Another photographer wirelessly transmitted his images to a tablet over WiFi. He seemed to make it work, but for me it was too slow. Give me a keyboard and a mouse, that’s fine for editing”.

Photography apps are all the rage, but few actually earn money

Do a quick search of ‘photography’ in Apple’s App Store and you’ll get almost 1,800 responses, admittedly with varying relevancy. Photography apps are a dime a dozen, but are they another way for photographers to publish and exhibit their work?

Mag+ told us that this is certainly the case for some of its clients, including Aeron Nersoya (Aeron Photography), who published his first app 12 months ago for pushing his own photos, and Amsterdam-based Martijn Berk, who has just submitted an iPad app to the App Store for showcasing his own photos and videos.

Berk suggests that once again this is more of an opportunity to show off a portfolio, rather than make money outright from the apps.

“At this point in time I'm not making money with films/photography specific for tablets. It cost me a great deal of time to shoot the material and to build the app itself, but I consider that as an investment”.

However, there are those that are seeing real monetary and readership gains from the tablet, most notably The British Journal of Photography (BJP).

A veteran of the print space having pushed out print editions since 1854, the publication launched an iPad app last September and has since seen its readership grow by 300%. The app itself has been downloaded 150,000.

Some new image formats are emerging for the tablet

TabTimes asked a host of photographers about tablet image formats. Getty Images’ Rucci is one who believes a slight shift is emerging.

“Most tablet images are primarily jpegs, although there are some emerging formats, including gigapixel/panoramics (.swf) and 3D (.mpo). The gigapixel looks especially stunning on the tablet.”

For now, it would seem that the tablet exists primarily as a ‘show-and-tell’ device, but the signs are there that tablets will be a friend of the photographer for many years to come.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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