satureyes photography | RAW Photo import and editing on the iPad - it CAN be done!

RAW Photo import and editing on the iPad - it CAN be done!

April 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment


In my latest update to iPad Pro and RAW files, I’ve actually found a type of solution. 

For me, the missing piece of the jigsaw with the iPad Pro is how to get actual RAW files into the iPad - work on them, and then send them wherever you like and also keeping your main desktop library in sync. 
As I’ve previously mentioned, it’s not really possible natively because iOS won't support RAW, and sure there are various decoders that are available as apps around but I wanted to keep my ecosystem and workflow as easy as possible, and keep everything RAW.  
For the purposes of this I am basing all this on what my workflow (on a Mac) is:

    •    Shoot some photos in RAW (not RAW+JPEG)
    •    Import to iPad (or other iOS device) using lighting adapter. 
    •    Edit photos on iPad 
    •    Edited photos and RAW files are synced back to my desktop
    •    LR mobile can now work as a 2 way process with the edit/selection of images. 

Seems simple enough, but the only way to do this at the moment is with the native photos apps on iOS and OSX and that's a basic app. My workflow uses Adobe Lightroom CC, so Ideally I want everything to be within this. 

Lightroom users will know that (at the moment) Adobe can’t send your RAW files from the iPad TO Lightroom Mobile, you have to import them to your desktop FIRST, set the files you want as a collection, and THEN sync that collection back to your iPad where you can carry on the edit process or whatever you like to to with your photos. Then all the data is a 2 way sync, but the bottleneck is the desktop.

I decided to look at how easy it would be to have this whole process done remotely. 

First: Getting the images from your camera into the iPad - EASY!

The good news for the larger iPad Pro users is that Apple now have the USB 3 to lightning adapter. USB3 speeds are ONLY on the larger iPad Pro NOT the newer 9.7” version. However this means that you can plug your camera into the reader and import to the iPad - assuming your camera has a USB connection. If it doesn’t and shoots SD cards, there’s a new SD card reader out too, but if you have the older one apparently the speed increase is only marginal. 
The advantage of the USB3 adapter is that is also can be powered using a lighting cable to a power supply so you wont get ‘this device doesn’t have enough power’ message. it means you don't need a card reader (I’m not sure if a card reader would even work) because I don't have the new adapter to try but there is a chance it would, so you can get a small USB3 SD/CF card reader too.
Once they are in the iPad this is where the fun begins. 

iCloud is a key part of the process. iCloud WILL sync the RAW files back to the OSX photos app.  Once they are IN the iPad (however you chose to get them there) then they automatically go to the ‘camera roll’. These are then uploaded to iCloud, and downloaded to your photos app.
Make sure you have enabled ‘download originals to mac’ in PHOTOS>PREFERENCES (this may not be necessary but seems to work with my system)
Once you’ve done this - you’ll see that the RAW images you have on your iPad start populating on your machines that are on the same iCloud account. 
So they are now in the cloud- but you need to get them into Lightroom. 

A while back I found a great plugin when iCloud was MobileMe and Aperture didn’t support it. It hooked into your library with no intervention and scanned photostream for new images which you could then set a folder for them to reside in. 

This app is called PHOTOSTREAM2FOLDER by Laurent Crivello and and has still been updated fairly regularly. This will pull the images very nicely into a folder of your choice without having to open the photos app - make sure you leave a donation for the author as a thank you for this app. 

What I did now was to create a folder in the same directory as my LR folders (could be anywhere though) and called it ‘Photostream’
In the PHOTOSTREAM2FOLDER I set that as the destination, then left the ‘format field’ blank (to keep the filenames intact and to remove the folder tree that it would create. 

    •    Make sure it’s pointing to your ACTIVE photo library
    •    I then set the ‘Lightroom pictures folder’  to the ‘Photostream’ folder I created. 
    •    Unticked ‘convert PNG to JPG’

Let’s recap.

Photos - into iPad using adapter into camera roll- iCloud syncs files and PHOTOSTREAM2FOLDER app pulls the photos down to a local folder on the desktop. 
We are half way there.

Of course what we need to do now - is to get those photos INTO Lightroom, and once they are there - somehow - get these images added to a collection that has been set to sync with LR mobile. 

Lightroom has the ability to ‘watch’ a folder - but it can’t contain any subfolders. So at this point you ‘could’ point the watch folder to the PHOTOSTREAM2FOLDER and the images would appear. Easy - but then how do you get those images into the synced collection?
I considered using a remote control app like Teamviewer to put the images into the synced collection, but this would be a pain. After a little digging I found.. A PLUGIN!

It’s called FOLDER WATCH and it’s by Jeffrey Friedl who has a swathe of plugins on his site. It’s also been updated recently so I had hopes this would be the missing link. 

This plugin will enable you to set a whole load of parameters that can work alongside the ‘auto import’ or as a standalone within LR. I decided to let it work alone. The bonus to this is that it can ‘see’ subfolders on the auto import. 

It also does one MAJOR thing - and that is the ability to move these new imports into a collection.



    •    Install the plugin (you get a 14 day trial with no limits) 
    •    Don’t tick ‘enable scan’ yet - the other options will be greyed out if you do
    •    Setting it up is actually quite easy and you can customise it how you like but i have it set to watch the same ‘Photostream’ folder that I created earlier 
    •    Set the plugin to run when LR is started (if you like)
    •    I ticked ‘new images only’
    •    Then you can chose what metadata you’d like to add etc
    •    I build a smart preview
    •    Then I select the collection in ‘add to standard collection’ box - this would be the one you have already set to sync with LR mobile
    •    I selected log errors in a separate dialogue - assuming I wont be ‘there’ to clear any error messages


So now, for the moment - in a rather convoluted way  - things seem to be working fine. 

Obviously you need to leave your desktop machine switched on (and LR open) but other than that it works - I can get my raw files into my iPad, back to my desktop, into Lightroom, and then synced BACK to my iPad again for editing and I don't need to do anything for this to happen. 

Of course you are getting ALL the images that come through your photo stream via iCloud but iI don't really shoot loads of stuff on my phone, and it’s no big deal. You can of course tell the LR plugin to ONLY look for a specific file type but I think it’s best to get it all in - you can always delete them later. 
Once they are onto your iPad, you can of course move them to another collection and begin the editing process. 

I think this is a pretty decent workaround for now. It doesn’t involve any knowledge of automator or any terminal commands. It’s pretty straight forward. 
So.. Now I can Shoot, import and edit RAW files in the field. 

























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