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Feature: An iPad In New York

By Bob Zimmerlich, CPP

A few days after picking up the new iPad with 3G service at a local Apple store here in Phoenix, I was on my way to New York unexpectedly for a funeral of a close family friend. Since I was packing light, I thought this would be a good test to see if the iPad could replace my heavier MacBook Pro on a short trip since I wasn't planning on any photography related work.

Just after I arrived at JFK my sister asked if I could do a headshot of her for her new startup business. My judgment must have been thrown off by the red-eye flight, because I said, “Sure, absolutely,” without a second thought. Problem was, I didn't have any of my gear, not even a camera. That's OK she said, she had a Canon Elph point-and-shoot. Now I'm thinking, oh, golly, gee whiz, sis—that will be swell (thinking in 1950s terms being the more civil alternative to cussing).

Since I wanted to use natural light, I downloaded an app called PhotoCalc onto the iPad to see when sunset on Long Island would be, then checked the local radar with the WeatherBug app's visible satellite radar loop. Seeing that clouds would be rolling in from the west by 5 p.m., and knowing the limitations of her camera, I knew we would want to finish the shoot inside with window light before then. With some proper positioning, a sheet of white foam board as a reflector and a rigged tripod, the shoot went well considering the situation.

Now for a little post processing, but without my trusty MacBook Pro what could I do? I thought, let's put this iPad to a real test.

My sister copied the images from her camera to her laptop and e-mailed a few of the best to me. (Had I had the iPad camera kit, I could have imported, viewed and e-mailed the photos directly from the iPad.) With my MacBook Pro still turned on back home, it received the e-mail with the files attached.  My MacBook had a remote hosting application called LogMeIn already, so I downloaded the iPad version and logged directly into my MacBook remotely, from 2,500 miles away, using my sister's wi-fi connection. After opening up the e-mail and saving it, I proceeded to launch Adobe Photoshop.

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Though I feared it would be faster to fly back across the country than to work remotely with Photoshop on an iPad, I was pleasantly surprised. It truly was amazing to see how fast and responsive working in Photoshop was, just using finger touch on the iPad to move the cursor, zoom in and out, select brushes and actions, perform a little bit of cloning and work with layer masks. In fact, virtually anything I could do locally in Photoshop, I was able to do remotely on the iPad with very little difference, and with quick responsiveness. Only a few commands requiring apple specific keys needed menu selections instead. 

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Once I finished retouching, I e-mailed the image back to my sister's laptop in New York and she was all set (I could have also used an app such as FTP On the Go to upload the files to an online server if the files were too large to e-mail). Although I couldn't get the same quality I could have if I'd had my own equipment with me, my sister was very pleased with the results and posted it online for her home-staging business. On my flight back home, with the movie "Avatar" on my iPad keeping me entertained, along with a few chapters of "Tribes," a downloaded book by Seth Goodin, I realized the powerful versatility of this sleek device.

After seeing how I was able to successfully implement the iPad for photography in New York, I started thinking of additional business-related uses for the iPad.  We loaded it with a gallery of our work and a few Animoto and ProShow Producer slide shows, and my wife took it to a networking group. After first showing it to just one person, a crowd gathered, and within minutes Connie received a booking for a headshot. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but displayed on a gorgeous 9-inch screen, it can be worth thousands of dollars in potential revenue as well.

Since then, we have started taking the iPad with us during some of our on-location shoots. A GPS program such as TomTom provides me directions and ETA based on real-time traffic conditions, and the Starbucks locator app shows where the nearest cup of java is located (or in my case, a tall frappuccino) before the shoot. An app called LightTrac shows the direction of the sun overlaying a satellite image of the location at any time of day, along with the direction of shadow cast so we know positioning before we even get to the location. The WeatherBug weather app can tell us if any inclement weather is approaching and provide radar imagery.

Once there, if we need any creative inspiration we can bring up past sessions in our gallery. Since we already use iCal on our Macs to keep track of scheduling, it automatically syncs with our iPad calendar wirelessly using Apple's MobileMe service, so we know all the family member names and then we can schedule a preview session right after the shoot, and it syncs back to our Macs in the studio.

In the future I'm considering using Square to process credit cards on location for the session. Just plug the small card reader into the iPad's headphone jack, have the customer sign onscreen, swipe the card to process and enter the client's e-mail address for the receipt to be sent to them.

After these experiences over the last few weeks, I have become an iPad evangelist, and I'm sure I have only scratched the surface of its true potential. Although some of the applications I've mentioned can also be used on the iPhone, the larger screen size of the iPad makes a huge difference and it's a pleasure to use. I doubt I will ever have to travel with my heavy 17-inch MacBook Pro again, except to workshops and special jobs. The ability to use the diminutive iPad to remotely access programs on any of my Mac or PC computers, along with all of the useful programs already designed for the iPad, is an evolutionary step in mobility.

Bob Zimmerlich, CPP, and his wife, Connie, own ClickChick Photography in Arizona. He has been a professional photographer for 4 years, receiving his CPP designation in 2009. Prior to that, Zimmerlich was the founder and president of a software company for nearly 30 years, specializing in software development for service-related businesses.