Apple iOS for wedding photographers

I’m a full time wedding photographer based Newcastle in North East England (where it started raining in 1973 and it hasn’t stopped). I photograph a maximum of 24 weddings per year and all of the engagement / pre-wedding shoots that go along with that, plus random kids, families, parties, etc. I click my shutter button 75,000+ times per year. As such, this post deals with workflow and file management as much as wringing as much quality as possible from each individual photograph.

Lightroom Classic CC running on my 15” MacBook Pro

This post is only likely to be of interest to other wedding photographers, and photographers in general. Wedding clients can safely move on, unless you are a tech nerd and would like a peak behind the scenes.

First, a bit of history.

I started in the wedding photography world with a 27” iMac but had to sell that when we had kids and I lost my office. I bought a 15” MacBook Pro and it has been my main computer ever since. It’s the mid 2012 1680x1050 non-retina antiglare screen, which was top of the line for photo editing at the time.

2012 MacBook Pro

My philosophy since then was to buy a top of the range MacBook Pro so that I had a lot of processing power in one computer. I could hook it up to a desktop monitor when I wanted the larger screen or sling it in a backpack to edit on the road without having to sync between two different computers. At the time iCloud was not reliable or feature rich enough to run two main computers side by side. Since then iCloud is far more reliable and the MacBook Pros have become thinner and lighter. I have found that my MacBook Pro is not as portable as I’d like - it’s relatively heavy and big. While it is still a powerful and capable computer, it is no longer top of the line and the trade off between power and bulk is unbalanced now.

I was all set to invest in a new MacBook Pro when Brexit hit in 2016, the exchange rate crashed and Apple’s prices went through the roof. Apple brought out their new MacBook Pros with different keyboards, and the Touch Bar, neither of which I was convinced about, so I held off buying one. Instead I upgraded my RAM to 16gb and installed an SSD on my current MacBook Pro. I reckoned I’d run this configuration for another year until the landscape settled.

The latest MacBook Pros don’t have the light up Apple logo on the lid. Sniff…

Since then Apple’s strategy hasn’t been clear enough for me to make an easy decision. I still don’t like the MacBook Pro keyboards and they are still very expensive. Plus a complete redesign is rumoured. The iMac has had recent spec bumps but a redesign has also been rumoured for ages. The current iMac design is around 10 years old. I’m also not sure I want to be chained to my office anyway (I got one back when we built an extension). I still have a residual ‘one computer to rule them all’ philosophy lurking at the back of my monkey brain.

My general philosophy is based around minimalism, essentialism and frugalism. Over the years I have relentlessly pared down my photography gear to the bare essentials. I shoot on the Fujifilm X-Pro2, and I only own four lenses, for example.

I have a love / hate relationship with Adobe and Lightroom. Their desktop software has seemed bloated and slow for years, and who can forget that time that a Creative Cloud update deleted Backblaze files from the root directory? But…their Lightroom CC (Lightroom mobile) app is brilliant on iOS. It seems streamlined, Adobe are adding functionality all the time and (a bit like the adage that the best camera is the one you have with you) I always have an iOS device with me.

The Lightroom CC app on my iPhone XR

I want to bring my minimalist philosophy into my photography workflows and my gear choices and that’s why I started toying with the idea of using the iPad as my primary (only?) computer. The new iPad Pros seem to have the hardware power and by adding a keyboard and pencil they have a lot of functionality. They are also ultra portable and can be used for a multitude of other tasks. Pricewise they are expensive but not compared to an iMac or decent MacBook Pro.

The only thing holding them back is that the iOS software hasn’t kept pace with the hardware and there are major gaps in the process. The import, export and general handling of files is not great. Having to import all photos into Lightroom via Apple photos for example is a pain. Getting the iPad to play nice with external storage is tricky too. If Apple solves these problems over the summer I’ll likely pull the trigger on an iPad Pro.

The Lightroom CC app on iOS is surprisingly streamlined and feature rich

However, will I be able to go 100% iOS? If not, and I suspect this will be the case, what do I use alongside the iPad as a ‘proper’ computer? Do I keep my current MacBook Pro? Could I buy a lower spec new MacBook Pro / MacBook / MacBook Air to keep the cost down? Incidentally, Sam Hurd uses the 12” MacBook adorable for 99% of his edits. If I did this then why not just use that as my primary machine and not buy the iPad at all?

Would I need an iMac for brute processing power and the larger screen? That would be great for importing / exporting and file management, but the cost would be at least £3k for the iMac and the iPad. For that sort of money I could get a high spec MacBook Pro that is powerful and portable. I could then buy an up to date monitor and I’d be back to my original idea of a powerful portable with a large screen at home.

Decisions, decisions…

If there are any other photographers reading this I’d love to hear your experiences and what you use.