There have been too many new products this month to be able to decide which to write about. The list includes Lightroom 4, Photoshop Touch, the Nikon D800, the Canon 5D Mark III, and the new iPad 3, to name only a few. But in terms of impact on the photo community, iPhoto for iOS will certainly be at the top of the list. Image editing on the iPhone and iPad has been developing over time, with applications like NIK’s SnapSeed, and more recently Adobe’s Photoshop Touch. But the default photo app for iOS has long been the free Photos app that ships on every iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. The $4.99 price of iPhoto for iOS will change that; now it won’t just be advanced photographers, but a wide swath of iOS users who will have an advanced imaging app on their iOS device. For many, this will change the balance of where photo editing really happens.
Serious photographers have never been iPhoto users; Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and other pro apps have been their preferred applications for photo processing. But those apps don’t run on iOS, so they have been forced to use various less powerful tools there. The real question now is: will iPhoto be the most powerful, and most convenient app for advanced photographers under iOS? And the follow-up to that will be: will serious photographers be forced to start addressing iPhoto on the Mac to coordinate with iPhoto for iOS; or will they be able to piece together a workflow that will use iPhoto under iOS, but export directly to Lightroom or Aperture libraries on their desktop imaging workstations? The ability to run images through iPhoto on the iPad, and then move them directly to Lightroom or Aperture, still in their RAW format, would allow the iPad to move effortlessly into the advanced photographer’s digital workflow.
But there are some serious bumps in that workflow. The first is an apparent limit of for RAW files of 19MP in iPhoto for iOS. Given that the more advanced cameras today are producing files at 22MP to 36MP, that reduces the number of high-end photographers who could utilize a “camera to iPad to desktop” workflow considerably. And while there is some slight chance that the sidecar adjustment files for the RAW images (assuming that iPhoto even uses sidecar files to keep track of your edits) might be compatible with Apple’s iPhoto for the Mac, and possibly even Apple’s Aperture for the Mac, the chances of them being compatible with Adobe’s apps such as Photoshop ACR and Lightroom are slim indeed.
That would mean that a “camera to iPad to desktop” workflow would probably have to be rendered out, either in iPhoto on the iOS device, or in iPhoto on the Mac, before those files could be imported elsewhere. But those rendered versions would not be the RAW files… and pros demand the RAW files, not reduced bit depth TIFF or JPG versions. Alternately, the RAWs could be moved to your library on a desktop machine, but that would lose all the edits you had lovingly applied in iPhoto for iOS. No win-win option here that I can see.
So, while the ability to use your finger to brush an area of an image lighter, or darker, or more or less saturated, and other great iPhoto for iOS functions, will be tempting, they will really only fit into the workflows of point and shoot users, or that group who own DSRLs and use them like point and shoot cameras. Those who shoot RAW, and need a library of those RAW files, will gain little from iPhoto for iOS that they don’t immediately lose when the file moves to their desktop image library. This would leave iPhoto for iOS as a way to process images quickly on site, to show to the Art Director or the Client, or to down-sample and upload to the web, but this would be a side trip in the digital workflow, not a link directly between RAW capture and RAW library steps, and any quick-edits applied in iPhoto for iOS would not be part of the final editing process.