iPad workflow for Photographers : Import & Backups

Since my MacBook retired last year, I've been experimenting with a Surface Pro 7 and iPad Pro as replacements. This led to the conclusion that the 10.5/11-inch iPad is the better device for me at the moment. Using it for a full workflow though meant a full re-think, along with some testing and experimentation, but I think I’ve settled on a setup that should not only work effectively at home or on the road, but also be more enjoyable to work with.

My backup system changed last year from individual external hard-drives to a 4-bay Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) system. That gives me 2 advantages. Firstly it’s wireless, over WiFi at home but also can be remotely accessed. Which is nice from a laptop but ideal for an iPad. Secondly, it enables redundancy. Having multiple drives in the one unit, the Synology software automatically creates a second copy of all data so there is no data lost if one of the drive fails.

Synology have a good reputation as being both reliable and easy to use. The hardware has been excellent and it’s very easy to install a new drive. The software I’d say is pretty good, but quirky in places. I had a few problems installing a new 4Tb drive alongside my existing 4Tb and 6Tb drives but it’s all working fine now and all the data is then automatically backed up into Amazon Drive too.

Having said that though, maybe using local external storage will gradually become redundant as wireless transfer speeds increase.

Importing to (or via) the iPad is so much better than it used to be. When I travelled to Guatemala a few years ago I took an iPad instead of a laptop. I can’t remember which one but it was pre-lightning-port so one of the very early generations. Importing or even viewing images on the SD-card was painfully slow. Now it’s quick, or at least quick enough on my 10.5 inch iPad Pro. I have a two step import process, varying a little depending on which camera I’m importing from.

Firstly, all RAW files go onto the NAS drives. Initially I had the Synology iOS app installed but that just seemed to be eating up storage so I removed it. The NAS still appears as a location in the Files app, so I can simply copy all files from the SD-card directly to it. The only frustration here is that there's no progress display, no 'time remaining'.

Secondly, I copy either the RAW files again (from my Ricoh) or Jpeg versions (from the second card in my Fuji) into Apple Photos (with the SD card reader attached, an 'import' option appears in the Photos app). This is my working copy, for selections and editing on the iPad, and I'll simply delete from there any rejects. I have the Google Photos app installed and that automatically grabs any new images too. So that’s yet another copy, and actually I intend to use Google Photos as my main working library so I can have access from any device.

So that's it, the originals are safely stored on the NAS drives and backed up into Amazon Drive, and I have copies to work from on the iPad.

(I’ll talk more soon about editing on the iPad, the apps I use most and some of the limitations.)


Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City


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