Refresher – iPad Portfolio

Apple iPad as a PortfolioI’m not going to get into the debate between using a more traditional print portfolio or using a device like the iPad or iPad 2 as your portfolio. Frankly, I believe that ship has already sailed and after several months using my new iPad as a portfolio, I can’t imagine going back to 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 its 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 and 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.

iPad Collection Set
iPad Collection Set with Landscape and Portrait Collections

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.

Cropping for the iPad
Cropping for the iPad’s 4:3 Aspect Ratio

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.

iPad Export Preset

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 and the new iPad 2 are incredible devices that 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).

iPad Portfolio

11 thoughts on “Refresher – iPad Portfolio

  1. Jeff, handy insight here. I would love to get your feed back on the best portfolio app for the iPad. I am using Foliobook and not real impressed. Any ideas?

    • Hey Matt,

      Still coming to Texas for Christmas?

      I haven’t found a great portfolio app for the iPad yet so I’m still using the “native” photo app linked to folders on my MacBook. Now playing with the iCloud to sync everything up.


      • Yep. Tickets all bought and seats picked out. Going to my Mom’s place in KY first for Christmas then back to Texas on the 27th. Where will you be? Some folks are planning a meet up in Austin. Hoping Esther Havens might show up. Want to join us?

  2. As you mentioned, the nexy iPad is supposed to have a higher resolution than the current one. If you get one, I assume you’ll have to redo all your pictures to match its resolution. It’s a shame that we can’t have photos be device-independent.

    I don’t have an iPad (though I do have a first-generation iPhone), but I’ve thought about the iPad as a way of showing off groups of my photos. In the meantime I recently started a blog to let some more of my pictures make their way out into the world.

    Thanks for your photo tutorials. I have a Canon 7D, so some of what you talk about with regard to your 5D is similar. I’m always happy to see well-done landscapes.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • Steve,

      Thanks for reading. Using the iPad as a portfolio is a real time and money saver for a commercial photographer.


  3. Jeff, thanks a lot for the tutorial. I haven’t owned an iPad yet but I will keep this in my files.

  4. I always enjoy your instructional blogs and always learn something new, so thanks. The separate folders is a good (and logical) one, I’ve just been spinning the iPad around in circles as I went through the photos

    I too didn’t think I needed an iPad, already having an iPhone, MacBook, and a Kindle. Now that I have one I don’t know what I’d do without it. For starters, we canceled our newspaper print subscriptions and now read them on the iPad. I also use it in two ways to display my portfolio. I use as my primary website now, zenfolio has a great app for iPad that allows you to get a nice view of my web site galleries.

    I move the photos from the collection into a Publish folder tied to a iPad export preset in Lightroom. This export directs the photos to a specific folder on my Mac, and have iTunes configured to include that folder in Photos as part of the sync process. So I can take advantage of the advantages of the Publish service plus whenever I attach the iPad to the Mac, iTunes automatically launches, syncs up, and I have those photos ready to display on the iPad. I can’t take credit for any of this, the good old NAPP help desk gave me the directions.

    I’m sure the iPad 3 will have a higher resolution screen and even better photo features, guaranteed now that I’ve bought the iPad 2.

    • Hey Glenn,

      I felt the same way when I bought my iPad and iPhone. If the iPad 3 has a “retina” display with twice the resolution, I might just have to upgrade. For now, my iPad 3G works just fine.


  5. Jeff, very useful tips, even that I do not own an iPad, I always asked myself why I should have one. It’s nice, it’s fun, to read a book and look at images far better than an iPhone. Maybe somewhen. I will remember your post here for a guide to set this up by myself. Thank you!

    Oh, and BTW, nice little re-design of your blog!

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