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Lightroom 3 to iPad gallery workflow

(Or, an efficient way to use Lightroom to manage photos on your iPad)

I got myself an iPad a few weeks ago. Short review: It’s a big iPhone only in the sense that an iPhone is just a phone; that is, it’s hawt and I love it. (More ZOMG iPad articles to follow, I’m sure.)

The iPad really shows off photos, so I’ve been thinking about the best way to manage the photos that I want to put on it. With the non-beta release of Lightroom 3 this week, I think I’ve found a start at a workflow in the new publishing service that it offers.

First a note about syncing photos to the iPad. Like the iPod/iPhone, you have to select a single parent directory, and optionally subdirectories, of photos that you want to sync. The iPad stores photos in a series of albums simply named after the subdirectory where they live on your hard drive. In my case, I keep the photos that I publish out of Lightroom in one of a number of subfolders of a ~/Pictures/Exported Photos directory, but I don’t necessary want to sync all of them to the iPad. And, for the iPad, I wanted a little more control over the album naming for purposes of navigation — so I didn’t want to keep the directory names I’ve previously used for simple file management.

So: I have an “iPad” directory in my exports folder, and that’s what I sync to the iPad — along with all its subdirectories. I’ve copied a handful of existing albums into that directory, which isn’t a great solution but it does work for now. Apple has apparently decided that symbolic links cannot be synced [that would be a great capability, wouldn’t it?], so I can’t simply create links to the file locations of the existing, non-Lightroom albums that I want to sync.

iPad sync directory; Lightroom 3 publish service directories are subfolders of this

But the Lightroom albums are another story. Right now, I’ve simply created a couple of Hard Drive publish services, each of which publishes to a subdirectory of that “iPad” folder I described above. For example, the current flickr one simply sets up a set of export parameters for photos that will be published to a subdir.

Lightroom 3 Hard Drive publish service setup

But the slick part comes by making a smart collection that will publish everything I post to flickr in 2010. Simply build the smart collection within the publish service:

Creating a published smart folder in Lightroom 3

And then set it to include all photos that match some key criteria: Since I use Jeffery Friedl’s flickr plugin, I can call directly on the metadata it creates at export:

Published Smart folder settings to include a subset of Flickr-published photos

I now have a smart collection within a publish service, so the photos that I export that match that criteria will automatically be added. I’ll have to occasionally republish to the service itself; and each time I do so, the iPad will gather up those photos the next time I sync.

You can use the same methodology to set up hard drive publish services for any album you like; each service will appear on the iPad as an album, and if you create a smart collection (or a series of them) as part of the service, then they’ll be updated automatically as you perform you regular photo workflow.

One final note on why I think the publish service is an ideal tool for this workflow, rather than a solution such as simply exporting to a folder: The publish service will apply future changes to the service settings to all photos under its control. So, were I to decide to apply a watermark, a border (via, for example, LR/Mogrify 2), or adjust photo quality in order to save space on the iPad, those changes made to the publish service would result in the option to re-process the current photos:

Publish service allows for the updating of all published photos when changes are made to the service

In a sense, then, the photos produced via the publish service are truly synced — future changes will be managed and will trigger re-processing, if I choose. I think that’s pretty Good Stuff.