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How-To

Use a tablet to edit photos on the go

A good tablet can be an effective tool for getting work done. When it comes to photography, either for work or just as a hobby, getting the right shot means being active and being ready. With the right apps and the right equipment, a powerful, portable tablet is a great addition to your camera bag and a great way to maximize your photo-taking potential.

Why would you need it?

Think of a tablet as a portable photo editor. It has a large, bright, high-quality screen that can be zoomed in and out. This makes reviewing the details of a photo very easy. It can also be used to store photos. Since most tablets start out at 16GB and can go up to 128GB of storage space, they can hold many full-sized photos. Once on the tablet, photos can be uploaded and shared very easily. As an article in the New York Times said, think of a tablet as your "digital darkroom."

The concept of a darkroom may be lost on younger generations but until the era of Instagram, photography had traditionally been at least a two-step process. The darkroom was the review portion of your work, a place where the reality of the picture you took became clear. It could be as simple as dropping film off at a drug store or as involved as setting up chemicals in an actual darkroom and processing the photo yourself.

Useful tools


A tablet by itself has a limited ability to process photos right out of the box. Getting photos from your camera to your tablet should be your first priority. If you have a newer camera, this can be pretty easy. For example, a camera like the Olympus E-P5 has built-in WiFi, allowing users to connect their tablet directly to the camera. This means that even without an internet connection you can quickly import your photos without ever needing to remove the memory card.

If your camera is a few years old or doesn't have a similar feature, there are still other workarounds. A company called Eye-Fi makes memory cards that have built in WiFi to send photos to your tablet, functioning just like the built-in WiFi of newer cameras. However, Eye-Fi cards are more expensive than traditional memory cards, so they might not be the ideal solution for everyone.

Another way to transfer your photos is to buy a camera kits for the tablet, which connects to the main port of your tablet the same way a USB SD card reader connects to a desktop computer. For iPads, Apple sells the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader for $29. Depending on the Android tablet you have, finding cables that work with your device may take some searching, but they do exist. Most Android tablets have a micro-USB port so it may be as easy as finding a regular memory card reader that plugs into a micro-USB port.

Editing Apps


Once the photos are imported to your tablet, you'll probably find the built-in camera editors lacking. Luckily both the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android have big selection of photo-editing apps, ranging from basic editors to some with more professional features.

A great choice on iOS and Android is the Snapseed app. You can adjust contrast, brightness, saturation, color, and a multitude of other levels with intuitive touch controls. It also includes Instagram-like filters and the ability to edit RAW files. Best of all, the app is free.

Apple makes an iPhoto app for iPad which works similarly to the familiar desktop program on Apple's desktops and laptops. If you use iCloud, iPhoto is compatible for sharing between other Apple products (a useful feature if you'd also like to touch up photos at home).

For $9.99 Adobe makes an app for both iOS and Android called the Photoshop Touch app. This app brings many of the intricate tools Photoshop users are accustomed to, but is designed to work with a touch interface.

Sharing your work

Once you've done the hard work of shooting and editing your photos, chances are you won't want to keep them to yourself. Luckily, a tablet is still a computer, so getting those files to desktops, social networks, or simply finding a place to store them is basically a matter of preference. Google+ and Flickr are great services for storing and sharing photos online, and each have good tablet apps. For a more thorough look, both services were covered a while back in our Google+ and Flickr comparison.

Dropbox is also a great way to export and store your photos, and it has great integration with many other apps. Of course, if you don't care about storing photos and would rather share them with friends, you can upload them to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram the same way you would any other photo on your smartphone or tablet.

Ultimately, your tablet is only as useful as you want it to be. If you still prefer to use a laptop or desktop for more thorough editing, a tablet may fall short. If you don't care about editing your photos at all, a tablet won't be much more than a fancy storage device. But if you like going out for a day, shooting photos, reviewing them, and maybe touching them up, a good tablet will prove to be an invaluable addition to your kit.

Photo: John Benson