I’m not going to get into the debate between using a more traditional print portfolio or using a device like the iPad as your portfolio. Frankly, I believe the handwriting is on the wall and after a week with my new iPad, I can’t imagine going back a printed portfolio. However, getting your images to look their very best on the iPad is not as simple as it first seems.
Like many photographers, I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to manage my raw files and prepare them to be output fas JPEGs. Over the past few years I’ve developed several different “Export Presets” that I use depending upon how the final image will to be used, whether in print or on the web. After exporting several images using my presets and importing them into the iPad using iTunes, I found that not all my images looked as “crisp” on the iPad as they had in Lightroom on my MacBook.
Part of the problem is physical. The iPad is not a MacBook and the iPad’s 9.7″ (diagonal) screen is considerably smaller than the smallest MacBook Pro at 13.3″ (diagonal). The resolution of the iPad is a fixed 1024 x 768 at 132 pixels per inch which is considerably less than the MacBook Pro’s at 1280 x 800 at 101 pixels per inch. Given this physical limitation, your images will always look better on your MacBook than your iPad. However, there are a few things that you can do in Lightroom to even the playing field a bit.
Collection Sets & Virtual Copies
The first thing is to create a separate Lightroom “Collection Set” to hold your iPad images as shown below. I generally create a “Virtual Copy” of each image to go into my iPad portfolio and move these into a “Landscape” or “Portrait” (horizontal or vertical orientation) collection. I separate my images this way so that clients looking at my portfolios are not constantly rotating the iPad from horizontal to vertical and back when swiping though the images. Using virtual copies is also very important since you’ll need to process these images a bit differently than you would a print or web image.
Cropping for the iPad
The next thing you’ll want to do is crop each image using the iPad’s native 4:3 (1024 x 768) aspect ratio as shown below. If you’ve ever created images to be used in a “projected” PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, you’ll understand why this is so important. For presentations, you generally want your images displayed as large as possible on the projected screen. The iPad is no different, except you carry the screen with you.
Once your image is cropped correctly there are two Lightroom settings that I’ve found to make a huge difference in how sharp and vivid your image looks when displayed on the iPad.
Noise Reduction & Sharpness
To obtain the sharpest image possible I use Lightroom 3’s “Sharpening – Narrow Edges (Scenic)” preset and set the Luminance slider in the “Noise Reduction” panel to zero (0). Since I’ll never display this image larger than 1024 x 768 I really don’t care if there is a little noise in the shadows. At this resolution it’s almost impossible to see the noise on screen.
I rarely touch the Saturation slider in Lightroom’s “Basic” panel and much prefer the affect that the “Vibrance” slider provides. For images meant to be displayed on the iPad however, I’ve found that setting the Saturation slider to 10% seems to work best. I have no quantitative data to back this up but adding 10% saturation seems to make the images on my iPad more closely match those on my MacBook.
Exporting for the iPad
The final key I’ve found after hours of experimentation is to export your images sized to exactly fit the iPad’s native resolution as shown below. This prevents the iPad’s “Photos” application from resizing (and resampling) the images on the fly.
The difference in image sharpness as displayed on the iPad is significant and to confirm this I exported several “full-size” JPEGs taken with my 21 MP Canon 5D Mark II. Those 15 MB files looked softer and less vibrant than the 780KB files did exported using the settings below.
The Apple iPad is an incredible device and may change the way we think about personal computing. For a photographer that still meets with clients face-to-face (and if you think face-to-face is passe, you couldn’t be more wrong) it’s a very cost effective tool for presenting your ever changing portfolio, whether still or video. It’s also a whole lot of fun to play with (but don’t tell the kids).