The iPad Photography Recipe…

People have asked me what I use to do all my photography work on the iPad.

Well, here’s a quick inventory of the stuff I cobbled together…. and some wishful thinking of where I’d like to go from here.

First item is the iPad Air 2, three generations old and well, it still holds up nicely for what I do. The iPad is protected by an Apple smart case that allows me to work with it at a shallow angle or standing upright like a notebook screen.

Then, for stationary use I have the older Apple bluetooth keyboard that works really well. It offers any keyboard shortcuts etc. On the road i use the onscreen keyboard… not as good but it works. This one comes from my Mac Mini.

An Apple SD card dongle (29€) transfers my ‘scans’ from the camera to the iPad. Alternately I use a USB hub with an SD card reader and a USB dongle at my desk.

The last ‘computer’ item is a Bamboo stylus that allows me to brush in some adjustments on photos and navigate the iPad screen without leaving unsightly greasy fingerprints – my only real gripe with the iPad. But that’s my fault… (12€)

On the photography side, here’s my ‘scanning’ setup.

An ageing but still great Fujifilm X-E1 that outputs 16 megapixel files. Plenty for film scanning! (190€)

An M42 to Fuji X mount adapter from K&F (18€)

A Pentax Takumar 50mm f:4 macro lens (65€). A standard lens with close up rings might work but a real macro lens really makes a difference!

A Huion LED lightpad from Amazon (45€) – nice uniform lighting, very bright!

A beautiful piece of cardboard with a 35mm negative sized hole cut into it and a negative holder from my scanner (not pictured). And a rough cardboard tube to shield the lens/negative from light. I also darken the room to do my magic.

And finally my cheap chinese tripod (29€)

Now you might already own a digital camera so this will not go into the total count. Just as well as you certainly have a tripod and perhaps a macro lens. So this might even be less expensive!

In total this gear cost me about 198 Euros (not counting the camera). This setup works fine but is not very glamorous. And it was the price of my Plustek scanner…

Now what would I change or improve?

Obviously, the gorgeous cardboard will have to go. I’ll replace it with a custom made setup I’ll have to engineer somehow…. I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Then there’s the tripod. It’s a bit of a hassle to set it up, adjust camera height and focus to get a format filling image of the negatives. And it’s not that solid. A nice repro-stand or repurposed enlarger would be nice.

As for the iPad Air 2 it still works fine but let’s be honest, the new 2018 iPad is great, faster and it has Apple Pencil support… that’s going to be unavoidable. In fact the Apple Pencil is more than a gadget and it beats the large, clumsy Bamboo stylus any time.

Let me just state that in my opinion an iPad Pro is NOT necessary! Unless you are a real professional and want to pay twice as much for an iPad.

Honestly, I could not be happier with my new setup. The results are really good and the time involved is much shorter than with my scanner. And will get shorter still with some experience!

Thanks for reading!

14 thoughts on “The iPad Photography Recipe…

Add yours

  1. Here we go! Thanx, Frank! A visual of the set-up helps a lot to understand how things are working. I wouldn’t think of a cardboard tube shield straight away.


  2. This is certainly a better way of presenting what you are doing from the reader’s POV. Perhaps in-picture ‘bubble type labels’ with their description and prices might aid the visuals and with appropriate metadata on the image might attract others interested in trying this out if it gets to be searchable on Google images, I dunno, just a thought.

    I refurbished my Soviet enlarger with parts from an incomplete one, and the remains of the incomplete one I use as a camera stand for photographing my zines / books etc. And of course, it packs away neatly if required.

    If you sell your Plustek though you’ll need new film holders, one for neg strips and one for slides, so you’ll have to cost that in, as well.

    It’s an interesting experiment and I know you like messing about. But as as far as saving time goes, wouldn’t it have been simpler to rationalise scanning workflow instead. Not sure how you went about your scanning with the Plustek, but let’s say why not make quick low-res scans for reviewing and / or for creating a record for later review, then out of those concentrating just on the images you specifically want to post or print. This avoids the temptation of digitising everything, cuts down on scanning time and on storage, which is pointless really when one has the original negatives.

    What I do is make PDF digital “contact sheets” of 2400 dpi scans- and I print and store those with the appropriate roll number. When I want something I can find it easily. I also sometimes use an Epson Perfection 2400 flatbed which is quick and does a strip and roll in no time. I use it exclusively for 120 film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My problem is that I often don’t judge negatives correctly. So I prefer to scan the whole lot, lose some time and see what I can do with them.

      And when I want one of the low res scans later I’ll have to be sure I sanned it low res… or already high res. Yet another classification for the photos.

      No, I prefer my new way. And I can still one day decide to dititize only the good ones….


      1. Well, judging negs and what’s on them with a loupe and lightbox is just practise, but generally I know which ones have turned out good when the film comes off the reel and I hold it up to the light.

        On the other hand, let’s say in the “spirit of minimalism” then, if you set the Plustek scanner preview resolution to 2400dpi rather than leaving it on default auto (I’m talking Vuescan), that’s as high as you need to view the results accurately on-screen and to decide if a picture is usable or not and worth a full file scan. It takes what, maybe 1 – 2 seconds to do each frame? You don’t need to scan each file, I only file scan to make the “contact sheets”, which being in PDF you can zoom in on anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice of you to want to make me keep the Plustek 😉 But I listed it on eBay today. I made up my mind about all this.

        Interrested? 😉


  3. Frank, delighted to hear you’re enjoying your scanning workflow. I used to hate it when I tried it (with a CanoScan scanner) and if I still did it it would definitely be a DSLR on a tripod type of approach like yours. Still not sure about just an iPad though. ; ) Oh and I can see why you like that keyboard, when I searched for them it was only smaller third party ones I found. An Apple one was so obvious I overlooked it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Keyboard is really great. Typing is fast and even I don’t miss too many keys…. and it connects flawlessly unlike an equally expensive Logitech keyboard cover for the iPad


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