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Photo editing with the iPad mini

Photo editing with the iPad mini

Certainly I didn’t need an iPad mini. With that said, it was No. 1 on my want list. Sure, it’s probably overpriced compared with the Amazon Kindle Fire and it’s just $170 dollars cheaper than the iPad 3 with its retina screen. It just seems like the perfect size for photography and video.

I had a hard time trying out some of the creative photo apps with my iPhone 4S. The screen is just too small to use with most of the advanced editing software available. The least expensive iPad mini at $329 seemed a little short on memory at 16 GB, so I went with the higher-priced 32 GB model priced at $100 more. No doubt, this will be a hot seller during the holidays.

I was starting from scratch, so I needed to decide on the best photo-editing software. I checked the following out:

Adobe Photoshop Touch — Priced at $9.99, this is one of the more expensive photo-editing apps. The app opens slowly. I feel like I am using Photoshop on my computer; I’m right at home. The first screen opens and asks if I want to check out the tutorials. This is a great option although I was a little disappointed; I was hoping for video tutorials, because I tend to learn the best from that format. I picked the layers tutorial, but I made it only halfway through. It asked me to click on buttons with no labels. At this point confusion started to set in, along with my short attention span. I found a lot of similarities with Photoshop on my computer but not enough to make me want to use it.

I found it tough to figure out how to save items; this took about five minutes. I certainly wouldn’t call this app intuitive. Also, while trying to get a little help from Google, I noticed that the app worked only on photos 1600 x 1600 pixels wide, but thankfully the newest version will now handle larger files up to 12 megabytes.

One noticeable missing feature is the ability to edit and add IPTC (text-formatted captioning information). This is a must for adding a caption before transmitting photos. I’m not sure I will use this app very much; the others on my list seem to have a much better workflow.

PhotoForge2 by GhostBird Software ($3.99) — This is the smartest photo-editing software I have used, with great features and a low price. Nothing too fancy here, just click the adjust button and all the controls stream across the bottom to give you several choices, including: curves, levels, clarify, brightness/contrast, exposure, vibrancy, sharpen, white balance and color balance.

Your next choice is FX, which includes the in-app purchase from Pop! Cam for $1.99. I am the all-time easy touch for paying for in-app add-ons. It’s the low price point that always gets me, but in this case it’s really worth it. I thought the paper effects with Pop! Cam were great. It added just enough grunge to my photograph. Next I tried the layers panel, where I overlaid trees over a barbecue restaurant to add a creative twist to the photograph. My favorite PhotoForge2 feature is the visual snapshot history, which gives you easy-to-look-at thumbnails of your edits.

This will be my go-to app when I don’t need to include caption information in the metadata. Trying to negotiate the tiny window of the IPTC feature was my only disappointment with the app; but for quick-and-easy, when you don’t want to read the manual or look at any tutorials, PhotoForge2 is highly recommended.

Best in Class for Full Features:

Filterstorm Pro and Photogene for iPad are great examples of a developer putting in the work and making an app for the professional photographer. The two best features of both are adjustable-size thumbnails and easy-add IPTC information. I rank these a tie at the top of the list. OK, if you’re going to make me choose, I would probably give Photogene from Omer Shoor the nod. I have used the iPhone app for years as my go-to mobile photo editing, and I think its layout makes it a little easier to use. I didn’t need any help from the tutorials.

Filterstorm Pro by Tai Shimizu ($14.99) It’s the most expensive in the category, but you’re not pressed for any additional in-app purchases. This app has the best IPTC captioning of the bunch, giving you the option of picking which field you want to turn on and off, depending on what you need to use, including: headline, IPTC title, caption, keywords, source and credit. It’s very customizable, allowing you to set up multiple personalized sets, which will speed up captioning on deadline.

Filterstorm Pro lets you pick the size of your thumbnails with a slider along with all the basic photo-editing options including: curves, levels, tone mapping, sharpening, noise reduction and vignette. The app also features control with layers, cropping, and borders. I did find myself checking out a few of the tutorials to take advantage of all the features.

Photogene for iPad by Omer Shoor ($2.99) — Of course there are a few additional in-app add-ons I purchased: Collage templates – $1.99; Frames Bundle 1 – $0.99; and GO-PRO $7.99. This is usable from amateur to professional, while keeping the options simple and very easy to understand. I doubt you will need to spend too much time checking out the tutorials. It’s easy to pick photographs from your iPad library and  import them from your camera or card reader if you buy the available Apple camera connection cord. I bought the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter cord, giving me the option of connecting the camera or a USB card reader.

Looking through your photographs is a snap because you can choose between three thumbnail sizes. The adjustments are easily clickable along the bottom, giving you presets, crop, rotate, adjustments, retouches, text and enhancements, keeping it all very simple. Once you’re in the edit mode, you can easily click through your full-size photos with the arrows at the top of the window.  Additional buttons along the top let you: undo, revert back to the original, export to a variety of locations and add the IPTC metadata.

The app is a bargain at $2.99, but to unlock some of the more advanced features making it more professional will run the total up to $13.96. It’s still a great deal when you compare it with any photo-editing program for your desktop computer.

I did take a look at iPhoto, Apple’s offering in this category. I think it should be a free app. It’s priced at $4.99 but doesn’t compare well to the photo apps I have already mentioned. If you’re looking for a simple, well-thought-out app, try Snapseed from Nik Software ($4.99); this is one of the nicer photography-editing apps, which features a very detailed design.

If you find the need for super-grunge or old-school-looking camera effects apps, check out my recent post: iPhone apps: Adding scratches, light leaks and grunge.


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  1. December 4, 2012, 1:57 pm

    iPad 4 is $170 cheaper. iPad 3 is no longer for sale.

  2. December 12, 2012, 8:29 pm

    This is practically related to our architectural field, in fact, this is what I consider best photo editing apps that have many features.

    Joey of Keka Industry

    By: Joey Hanson
  3. December 22, 2012, 5:33 am

    Nice article. 🙂

    I use the same tools, plus "Reduce" to resize and sharpen the images before uploading.

  4. February 5, 2013, 10:45 pm

    This is practically related to our architectural field

  5. July 1, 2015, 11:32 pm

    at $9.99, Adobe Photoshop Touch is a bargain

    By: Joolo
  6. July 28, 2016, 8:24 am

    This is a very nice attempt of designing the next generation of iPad. The iPad 4 concept is based on Apple’s product line and built to top versatile new products. For this concept, the new iPad 4 features a built-in keyboard that slides at the bottom of the iPad.

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