The iPad can do most of the things the average consumer wants in a computer. It is great at email, calendar, contacts, and web browsing for sites like Facebook and Flickr. The iPad excels at watching videos and playing games. It makes a great photo display device, but it has no built in management tools. Most people now have a camera phone or point-n-shoot and they want to manage those photos. It is common to have thousands of photos these days and the iPad needs more tools to help organize them.
With the release of 4.2, the iPad gained the ability to transfer photos with their meta-data between applications. This data was not transferred in 3.2, which was a major draw back. Meta-data consists of Title, Caption, Geo Location, Date, Time, and many more. It is essential when organizing pictures in iPhoto or Aperture. Now, developers are able to add meta-data editing tools to their apps. Most of the developers for the iPad have still not updated their apps to take advantage of the new OS, but hopefully they will soon. Given Apple's track record with software like iPhoto and Aperture, a photo manager should be coming from Apple soon. Until then, we have to look at other developers to fill in the gap.
Some of the top photo editing apps for the iPad include ArtStudio, Photo fx Ultra, Photogene, Filterstorm, and Photo Manager Pro. Each of the applications have distinct advantages and disadvantages, but none have all that is needed.
ArtStudio is akin to Photoshop for the iPad. ArtStudio is more of a drawing app, but if you want to really manipulate a photo like in Photoshop, this is the one to get. The interface could use some work, but it has a huge amount of editing and painting tools. The downside is that it is not a photo manager. The developer continues to add more features like selection tools and gradient fills.
Tiffen took their expertise in making optical filters and developed Photo fx Ultra. This app has 77 filters to apply to your photos like Vignette, Fog, and Night Vision. It gives you the ability to adjust the strength of the filter and allows filters to be stacked like layers.
Photogene was updated this week and has taken a big step in the right direction by adding a new interface and a photo browser. The new interface is the best of the three, with clean, easy to read icons. It still has the same adjustment tools as before, but with a better look. Photogene's photo browser gives access to all the photos in the Photo App. It can now save/read IPTC type meta-data to the photos in the Photos app as well. The problem is that only Photogene can read it. The edited meta-data will not be transferred when iTunes is used. The developers have said that they will include Dropbox support in their next version, which could bring dramatic improvements to photo syncing. Photogene is not universal and is available in the app store for $3.99. Photogene allows you to share your pictures through Facebook, Twitter, ftp and via email. Photogene and Filterstorm are more like Aperture with photo adjustments tools like temperature, sharpen, exposure, and contrast.
Filterstorm lacks some of the sharing features since you can only email and ftp photos, but the adjustment tools are much more advanced. It allows you to selectively adjust your photo by painting on your adjustments. This feature creates a dramatic set of possibilities you just can't do with the other apps. With Filterstorm, you can sharpen only the eyes, or blur and darken the background. It also has more adjustment tools like Tone Map, Reduce Noise, Vignette or De-Vignette. Both Photogene and Filterstorm can open RAW files that were imported from the camera connection kit. Filterstorm also has some EXIF and IPTC meta-data editing capabilities that can be emailed, but not save like Photogene does. It is the best adjustment app and gets closest to Aperture when you want to edit your photos on the iPad. Filterstorm is a universal app and is available in the app store for $3.99
Apple's Photo app is the place where all photos are saved or imported when used with the camera connection kit. There is no way to organize them or add meta-data like keywords inside Photo. There are a few apps that try to assist with the shortcoming of the Photo app. The most popular is Photo Manager Pro, which has folders and captions. Meta-data editing is limited to just captions and favorites. Photos can be transferred wirelessly between iPads, iPhones, computers and shared with Flicker or via email. Photo Manager Pro is a universal app and is $3.99 in the App Store. Still, it can't replace Photo since you can't save or import photos to this app. Like Photo Manager Pro, most of these apps create another set of photos separate from Apple's Photo app, which is the wrong approach. This method creates duplicate files, which increase precious storage space. It also adds confusion to know which photo is synced or updated. Keeping all the files in Photo and augmenting Photo's viewing capabilities is a better approach, which is what Photogene is doing. It will be hard to replace Photo (until Apple takes the lead) by anyone except Apple, but developers are working to improve the situation.
If Apple wants to make the iPad a real desktop replacement, it needs to add photo management tools or a file structure app. Until they do, we have to look at other developers. There are several apps that provide good editing capabilities, but none of them come close to iPhoto in terms of photo management. The Filterstorm developers are showing a video of an Alpha build of Filterstorm Pro on Vimeo. This new app looks like Filterstorm with a better interface and some really nice gallery tools. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate their meta-data tools with the gallery. This could be the first app to provide real photo management tools to the iPad, at least until Apple releases their own.
UPDATE: Our latest iPad photo management article is available here.