Photosmith is an iPad app that claims to be the ‘bridge’ between Lightroom and the photographer allowing them to sort, keyword and organise photographs ‘in the field or when traveling’ and even when ‘hiding from the rain under an awning in Bogota’ when ‘even a slim notebook is unwieldy’. The app works with JPEG and RAW files and integrates wirelessly with Lightroom.
The app is heavily marketed as an aid to the Lightroom user and, if you already use Lightroom, you will recognise much of what the app does from the Library section in that program.
How Does It Work?
So how does the app work? The first thing you have to do is get your photographs onto your iPad. Photosmith works with images already on your iPad or you can import images from iCloud, iTunes, Lightroom or from your camera using the iPad camera connector kit.
As the app is aimed at Lightroom users their is a plugin for syncing between the app and Lightroom (the plugin is free and is available from the Photosmith website). The instructions for setting up the app and installing the Lightroom plugin are very clear and helpful.
Once you have your images into the app you can add your metadata; metadata can be added ad-hoc or you can set up a metadata preset with all of your details.
To access the keywording section you need to tap on the keywords section of the tagging window (not something that is immediately clear). If the app has synced with Lightroom it will have imported your keyword data, listing it as a hierarchy (an alphabetical list), a most recently used list and a list of the most popular keywords. If the keyword you want is in your list you can add by tapping it, it can also be removed in the same way. Adding new keywords is done via the search function (again not an obvious option) which brings up the iPad keyboard to type in your new word, once typed in the keyword is only added if the word is selected by tapping it.
As well as keywording you can add colour tags star ratings and organise your photographs into catalogs. Color tags and star ratings can be added in any view. Photosmith offers three views: grid, loupe and fullscreen; zooming is achieved by double tapping the screen or by pinching, but these views are in horizontal as Photosmith does not utilise the iPad’s rotational viewing feature. Cataloging is, rather obviously, done in the catalog section and is pretty straightforward and easy to do.
If you have added any keywords, tags, ratings in Lightroom before import they will be retained. Flags (pick, reject) do not sync and this is a major limitation for the app if you edit at the same time as keyword.
Once you have achieved all you wish to do (any processing has to be done in another app or back in Lightroom) your photographs can be exported to Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, email or an iPad album by the services section. It is also in that section where you can sync with Lightroom. Job done.
Photosmith is a well engineered app that integrates with Lightroom and does what it sets out to do. However there are several problems with the app.
First up is space. Now I’ve got a 64gb iPad and I’ve got lots of stuff on my iPad (music videos, games etc.). At an average wedding shoot I’ll get through a good 16gb of memory (if I shoot a wedding with an assistant I’ll have a lot more) more than I have room for on my iPad, others may have plenty of space on their tablet and this may not be an issue. IPads weren’t really designed for backing up large amounts of images and if you are a “serious” photographer you are more than likely going to back up images more easily onto a laptop and probably onto an external drive too. If you are shooting only a few images putting them onto the iPad isn’t an issue.
The next issue is time. Most photographers try to keep their workflow down to a minimum, uploading is one part of the workflow that is time consuming. If I’m uploading into Lightroom I can add metadata and some bulk keywording as I import cutting down on some time. To use Photosmith I have to either upload to the app directly or import into Lightroom and then sync with the app, either way it is adding extra time consuming steps to my workflow.
My last personal gripe with the app is the biggest. To sync with Lightroom I have to be on the same network as a computer with Lightroom running on it. Once synced I can then keyword at my pleasure. But, really, why on earth would I? I’ve got a computer, with a proper keyboard, and a large screen sitting in another room doing nothing and I don’t have to go through the hassle of importing twice and then syncing back again. Lightroom has been designed to make the process of keywording, ranking and flagging as easy as possible why add extra steps into the process?
At £13.99 Photosmith isn’t cheap for an app but a lot of time has been spent developing it and it does what it sets out to do really well; the syncing worked correctly, the instructions and help are very good, the app didn’t crash while I used it but its a shame that pick and reject doesn’t work. The unfortunate thing is that to achieve what the app does involves extra hassle and on a tool that isn’t suited for bulk processing. If you have Lightroom already, I don’t see a great need for the app and if you haven’t got Lightroom your not the target audience.
Have you used Photosmith 2? We’d love to know your views. Maybe you don’t agree with Rich?
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