Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Italy and, like most tourists, I planned to take photographs of the places we visited. But I decided to go beyond that and create my own personal project where I would attempt to capture a sense of place (as I saw it) through street photography, then blog about it regularly throughout the trip. During the trip I planned to develop a blogging workflow using only an iPad and its built-in applications and share my experience with you in the magazine.
Following is a summary of my experience with the details of my workflows and some short videos to demonstrate.
As an avid street photographer I wanted to photograph throughout my trip, which I always do, focusing on the things that interest me most. My plan was to blog about these experiences regularly, every day if possible, then post while everything was fresh in my mind.
However, I wanted to travel light with only one camera body and lens and use only an iPad for editing, backup and blogging. Bottom line: I wanted to keep it simple.
After much angst and with some inspiration from Valerie Jardin and Marco Larousse in an episode of the We Shoot Fuji Podcast (highly recommended), I settled on taking only my trusty Fuji X100s with its fixed 23 mm (35 mm equivalent). I’ve been using this camera and its predecessor the X100 for several years. It is my only travel camera so I was very comfortable with that. I know the camera so well I don’t even think about it when I shoot. Had I taken my Fuji X-T1 with a few lenses , I knew I would spend more time fiddling with equipment than actually taking photographs. It proved to be an excellent choice.
If you’re interested in seeing the posts I created for this project here’s a page that lists all of them. Click here to open.
- Fuji X100s
- iPad Air 64 MB
- Pack Safe theft proof strap
- Four batteries and two chargers (the X100s is a battery hog)
- Four SD cards
- Logitech Ultra Thin Keyboard Folio
- Apple Camera Kit with Lightning Adapter
Total weight: 3lb 14oz ( 1.36kg)
- IOS 8 (IOS 9 was announced the day we left)
- Apple Photos
- 20GB additional iCloud storage
- WordPress iOS app
- Blogpress iOS app
- Byword text editing app
Many people would say that the X100s was a bad choice because I only had one lens. After all, I would miss many shots by not having a wider or longer focal length options. But it’s been my experience that working within limitations removes much of the thinking. If a shot requires a wider lens I can step back; if longer I can step forward or crop. If I can’t get the shot with the equipment I, then it’s not my shot. I can only think of two instances where I wished I had a wider or longer lens. This trade-off was well worth it.
As a longtime Lightroom user, I have a standard workflow for importing, tagging and processing large numbers of photos. However I decided to use the native Photos app on the iPad because I wanted to 1) keep it simple, 2) determine if it’s a good fit for me and 3) take advantage of automatic uploads to the iCloud. I chose to shoot only jpegs to keep the size down (I wouldn’t do this on a paid assignment) and besides, Fuji’s jpegs are so clean RAW is almost unnecessary.
Photo Management Workflow
My objective was to create a process to import, backup, process and resize images to be used in blog posts. Although I’m a big fan of Snapseed, I decided at the beginning to stick with the built-in Apple Photos app. I also didn’t want to get to geeky by using the very cool Workflows app to automate the steps. We’ll get into that one another time.
I knew that there would be many limitations to this process but that’s what this project was all about. Working with a limited set of lightweight tools.
It took a few days but I worked out a pretty good workflow based upon the tools I had.
One of the biggest challenges was the fact that Apple photos does not have a tagging system. Lightroom gives you the ability to select favorites, apply color tags, and star ratings. Using this combination you can quickly identify photos for future processing.
Apple Photos has none of this. I learned very quickly that once a photo is resized a copy is created (which is a good thing) and I would have to go back to the All Photos album to select the edited versions for upload. If it waited until then next day, which happened more often than I planned, I’d have to search back through the newest photos to find the ones I wanted to publish. That became a major time suck.
After much trial and error I created an album titled “To Publish” that made my life much easier.
When editing images for online it’s important to resize them before you upload. Limited hotel and public Wi-Fi speeds can make it very difficult to upload full-size images. Plus, as good as retina and other high pixel density screens are, you don’t need to publish large image files online. The largest image you will need is 1024px wide at 72dpi, and that can be overkill for most blogs. For this project I resized all images to 800px.
I helped a friend setup a WordPress.com blog before he and his family took an extended trip to Europe. For several weeks they blogged every day about their trip and included several photos in each post. I had forgotten to advise him to resize his images and they spent hours uploading full-size images right out of the camera. Oops.
My iPad resize app of choice is the free version of SimpleResize. Just like the name says, it’s simple..with very limited features. And the ads can be pretty annoying. But it gets the job done very quickly. A simple slider sets the width and you can even do a simple crop (although I prefer to do that in the photo editor). The only other setting is file type: jpeg or png. Just set it and save.
SimpleResize has one tradeoff. It saves all resized images to the “All Photos” album. Which means you need to open the album to move your completed photos one more time. If you don’t do it right away your new resized images will be buried under future imports which makes them hard to find.
Here’s my workflow after a day of shooting:
- Review photos in camera and delete the clinkers.
- Import the remaining images into the iPad
- Optional: Store the memory card for two days as a backup to allow for enough time for the images to be uploaded to iCloud. After two days double check that all photos were uploaded to iCloud and reformat card to be used on another day
- Open the Last Import album. Open any photo with potential to view it at full-size. If it makes the cut tap the Heart (favorite) button to include it in the Favorite album. Resist doing editing at this time. Save that for later.
- Open the Favorites album. It’s best to do this at the same time. If you let it sit for a few days your unprocessed favorites will build up.
- Review favorites and edit any that need it.
- Resize photos with SimpleResize (it saves images to “All Photos”)
- Immediately after resizing go to “All Photos” in the Photos app. Tap the Select button in the upper right hand corner of the album. Then tap all photos you plan to publish. Be very selective at this point.
- After you make your selections tap “Add To” on the left side of the Album menu, then tap the To Publish album. Your photos will be added to it.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the workflow:
Having a simple standardized workflow like this will make it easier to find your processed photos in the future and will make adding photos to your blog posts much faster.
A detailed discussion of the Apple Photos editor is beyond the scope of this article, but I’d like to point out that it’s a pretty capable tool for basic editing. Also I really enjoy using the touch interface of the iPad to edit. It just feels so intuitive.
At first glance Photos looks pretty limited but below each of the adjustment tools (light, color and B&W) are little hamburger menus that give you additional controls. It’s fine for basic adjustments on the road. But if you’re into some heavy duty post processing you can export your photos into Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed, Pixelmator, Photogene or any number of specialized photo apps. For more information about IOS photo editing tools here’s a link to a post on iMore about their favorite apps.
Update: While preparing this article I thought I’d give Photogene a try. It came highly recommended by several bloggers because it has a pretty capable editor and includes a resize option when you export your finished photo. After playing with it a bit I’m really liking it. But that’s a subject for another article. At $2.99 it’s well worth a look.
Live and learn. I have the Adobe photo creative cloud which includes mobile Lightroom and cloud storage. I knew this in advance but opted to stick with the Apple platform for this project. Since my return I’ve been playing with mobile Lightroom and have really enjoy it.
Create Your Post
I work in WordPress all day long in my main business. I’ve tried many times to work in the WordPress back end from a iPad and know how difficult it is to use on a small screen with no keyboard or mouse. I also know that most photographers don’t want to mess around with the complexity of the WordPress dashboard after a long day of shooting.
Because I was working in hotel rooms with limited Wi-Fi, I wanted to use an app that allowed me to write and lay out the photos off-line. I had a choice of the dedicated WordPress iOS app or something else. I wanted to use an app that works on multiple black blogging platforms and not just WordPress so I settled on an app called Blogpress (at least initially).
I used Blogpress on my first two posts and found it to be very time-consuming. Rather than uploading the photos directly to the blog (which is not a problem) it uploads them to either the Picasa or Flickr. I setup my app to use Picasa.
I planned to publish all photos at 800 pixels wide which was where the problems occurred with Blogpress. It has a default image setting which I set to 800 pixels wide. However every time I saved a post the photos were automatically resized to 280 pixels wide, which is way too small. I tried resetting the default back to 800 several times but the app continued to change all images to 280.
To compensate I had to open the WordPress dashboard in Safari and manually upload the photos directly to the website. This is particularly difficult at 1 o’clock in the morning. Maybe it would have behaved differently if I had switched the image storage to Flickr. But after dealing with this frustration two nights in a row I switched to the IOS WordPress app. Live and learn.
I’ve used the WordPress app several times before and like it. However selecting images from the media library is pretty slow when you have a large library. And ours is quite big. It’s not a deal killer but it slows things down a bit, especially with limited bandwidth.
The WordPress app is perfectly fine for composing the text of a post. However I prefer to have a little more control over my writing so I normally write my rough draft and make my revisions in a text editor. My current my text editor of choice is Byword. I like its clean writing environment, good editing tools and ability to write in the markdown syntax and convert it to HTML. But I’m a geek and won’t go into that here.
My IOS blog post publishing workflow
- Write rough draft of post in Byword (or any text editor)
- Proofread and revise draft in text editor
- Copy and paste the finished article into the WordPress IOS blogging app.
- Add photos to your post by:
1. Place the cursor in the section of the article where you want your photo appear
2. Tap the image icon in the WordPress editor
2. Select the To Publish album from the album list
3. Select the photo(s) you want placed in that position then tap Done
- Optional: Edit your photos within the post if you want to add a title, caption, alt text, display them in different sizes and positioned to the left, right and center on the screen.
1. Tap the photo in the body of the post then tap the Edit button.
2. Make your changes in the Edit Image box
- Preview your post if you like (click the eye icon on the top of the screen). Note that as of this writing the preview doesn’t show any changes you made to images sizes or position if you made changes in the Edit Image box.
- Select options icon and set your categories published date and status (published or draft) and set featured image if needed.
- Tap Save to upload the post. Note, if you selected “Publish Immediately” that’s what will happen. Needless to say I recommend you save your post as a draft.
- Preview the post by tapping Preview below the post. This time it will display properly.
- When you’re ready, tap Publish to make it live.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the process:
Don’t expect to do serious work on a family vacation.
I knew this going in but it’s worth mentioning here. When you’re with your family or significant other it’s very difficult to focus on street shooting and being with them at the same time. Choose one or the other. It takes me a long time to get into the street shooting groove. When I’m with someone else I can’t do it at all…at least not very well. You may notice that this is a recurring theme in many of my interviews with other photographers.
Apple Photos is good for light editing and cloud storage but lacks serious photo management tools.
My objective for this project was to work within the Apple ecosystem as much as possible. But if I had to do the trip over again I would use Photogene for editing and resizing. I’ve had time to play with it since my return and it seems a good [partial] fit for my workflow. More on this in another article.
Upload, process and save photos to publish all in one session.
Because resized photos are saved to the All Photos folder it’s very easy for your ready-to-publish images to get buried if you don’t add them to your Ready to Publish folder right away. I learned this through experience after letting mine sit for two days. Then I had to look back through several hundred thumbnails and guess which are the finished (resized) versions.
Don’t trust hotel Wi-Fi.
Hotel (that includes Air BNB and other rental options) Wi-Fi is iffy at best and non-functional at worst. Many networks cap your bandwidth or will prevent you from uploading big blocks of data. Photos is very good at backing up your photos to the cloud but it can take time. And some networks, like the one I used at an Air BNB in Siena, force you to log in after iPad goes to sleep. In hindsight I should have disabled Auto-Lock in my Settings. To be safe look how much iCloud storage your device is using before you import your images. Then look again the next day to see if it increased. Do this in Settings/iCloud/Manage Storage.
Keep your blog posts from the road short and simple.
Personally, I found writing longer posts to be very difficult and clunky on an iPad even with a keyboard. But if you need to write longer posts, I suggest you write the text in a dedicated editor, make your revisions, paste it into the post then add photos.
I tried other solutions that didn’t make the cut for this article. All have their advantages and tradeoffs. Later I’ll write some geeky posts about automating the process using the IOS Workflows app and IFTT (If This Then That), which can be a good solution for many people.
Do you have a road blogging system that you like? If so please share it by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the details.