Grand Tour

UPDATE: This article refers to an outdated version of Photosmith 1, which was released in 2011.  For a comprehensive overview of the current version of Photosmith, please take a look at the features section of our website.


Photosmith® is the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears from two independent developers over far too many months. We wanted to make a premier photo app, easy enough for the Average Joe and powerful enough for professional photographers. Most of us fall somewhere in between, but many of us have the same need- to organize our photos. Now that everything has gone digital, we have more photos than ever, and a bigger and bigger need to keep them organized.

Adobe’s Lightroom® has become the number one choice for digital photo management. But it requires a desktop or notebook computer, and while very powerful, isn’t suited for a tablet. The iPad allows you to download your pictures directly from the camera using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit. However, the built-in Photos App doesn’t offer any sorting, categorizing, or practically anything other than viewing, and even that is limited.

Photosmith bridges this gap. Now photographers can take their pictures in the field, download them to the iPad, and use Photosmith to review their images, add to custom collections, filter by certain criteria, assign metadata, and filter by that data. Photosmith also fills a critical gap in the photographer’s current mobile workflow- allowing full 1:1 zoom of even 21 megapixel RAW images (on most cameras; see full compatibility list here).

Most importantly, all this data can be synchronized with Adobe’s Lightroom. Instead of duplicating efforts or trying to import through iTunes, Photosmith syncs directly to Lightroom on Windows or Mac using the Photosmith Lightroom Plugin. All photos (RAW or JPG) and all metadata is transferred over wirelessly. In addition, photos can be sent to Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox, or email; and when supported, all keywords and captions are sent as well.

What would a tour about a photo app be without screenshots? It’s time for some eye candy! Click on any picture for the full version. All shots are actual screenshots from the app.

Grid View

First up – the Grid view. This main view shows the thumbnails of your current images and your list of collections.  The collection list, on the left, has a number of special collections (All Photos, Last Imported, etc), which are created and populated for you, as well as your own collections. You can create as many of your own collections as you’d like, or when you sync with Lightroom, they can be pulled over into Photosmith for you.

Photos can be tagged and keyworded, so it only makes sense to show when that has been done. Small icons for the star rating, keywords, rejected, and selected show up at the bottom of each image, when appropriate. If you assign a color label to a photo (red, yellow, etc), the border color changes.

Because you may not always want to see all the special collections or the icons on your images, there’s view options to allow you to turn them on or off as desired. Sometimes it makes sense to see, for example, the remaining unmarked photos (to make sure you’ve gone through everything), and sometimes you just want to keep things clean.


And what’s the point of tagging if you can’t filter? So… we’ve created a filter, so you can show only certain images by color or star rating. The filter applies in all views and for all screens, so you don’t have to reset it if, for example, you only want to see your 5-star photos.

We had to wait on a number of features for after the first release, just due to time and complexity, but one feature we managed to sneak in the last minute was the ability to drag and drop between collections. Simply select your photos (by choosing the Select mode under the collection title or simply two-finger tapping on the photo) , and then drag them over to the collection you want to drop them into. To remove, simply drag off the bottom of the list or click “Select / Remove”.

Sync with Adobe Lightroom

Ah… the reason we started this project. Tag, rate, star, keyword, organize, etc, your pictures in the field. When you’re back at your main computer with Lightroom, simply start the Photosmith Plugin for Lightroom. (See this page for download and install instructions. The plugin will remain free after the app launches.)

The plugin will search for Photosmith running on your iPad, contact it for the latest statistics, and then let you choose whether you want to sync everything, or just a particular collection. Everything includes… well, everything. Even your keywords are sent over to the iPad so you don’t have to recreate them if you’re out in the field. (Your existing pictures aren’t sent to Photosmith just yet- maybe in a future release).

You’re also given the option to choose the destination for your photos. Click Sync, and Photosmith takes over.

The sync process will start transferring over any new images, and applying the metadata (collections, keywords, stars, ratings, labels, EXIF). Everything is transferred over WiFi, so there’s no need to use iTunes or even plug your iPad in for the sync. Modern cameras take some pretty big pictures, so some files can get pretty large, and WiFi can get slow, so Photosmith will continue to transfer the images even if the iPad goes to sleep. (But not if you switch apps due to restrictions in the current iOS software ).

For those with hundreds (or even thousands) of photos to transfer, there’s an option for advanced users – simply plug in the iPad via USB and import your pictures using Lightroom, and then run the same sync process. Photosmith will match up your photos and apply the metadata correctly.

And last, but not least: after the first sync, you can edit the metadata settings on either the iPad or Lightroom, and the changes will be sync’d back to the other (in the case where you update both between syncs, Lightroom wins).

Loupe View

You didn’t take pictures with an expensive camera so you could only view thumbnails. Fortunately, there’s a loupe view, which allows viewing of the image at mostly-full-screen, but also gives you a panel for managing the metadata. In this view, you can:

  • Rotate the photo (in case your camera didn’t detect you were lying on your side)
  • Auto Advance (so a single tap moves to the next photo)
  • Reject (and therefore not sync)
  • Label (red, yellow, green, blue, purple)
  • Star (1-5; whatever system works for you)
  • View the EXIF metadata – shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc
  • Edit any of the IPTC fields (Creator, Location city, state, zip, etc)

And… an app like this is just begging for image editing, including full sync to Lightroom. Future release maybe? Time will tell… :)

When you’re done editing, simply swipe to the next picture. Filters and view options still apply here, in case you only want to see a subset of your photos.

Here I’m showing a picture of a very friendly grouper I took while diving in Belize. Note the metadata below, including the image size. Remember this for later, when we take a look at the full zoom capabilities.

Fields are provided here for the title, caption, and keywords. Scrolling on down reveals the IPTC fields (not shown here).

Full Screen

The iPad has a big, beautiful screen, and it’d be a shame to waste it. So… we have a full screen mode, where you can still flip through each image with just a swipe. Not shown here is the ability to tap the screen and see the filmstrip and nav buttons back to the other screens, just like in the built-in Photos App.

But we’re using Photosmith to do more than just view our photos, so there’s a couple of “quick tag” controls-  notice the boxes on the right side. There’s one for Reject, one for flag, and one for stars.

Simply tap to slide out the control, and select the appropriate value. Tap anywhere else to cancel.

100% Zoom

RAW images are big. Really big. And the iPad is a relatively constrained device compared to a typical desktop. And there’s plenty of people that said 100% zoom on RAW files just can’t be done. Or that it can be done, but it’ll be horribly slow. And here’s where Photosmith can deliver:  full 1:1 zoom. How fast is it? Faster than Lightroom 3 on my desktop for the initial zoom … around 2-3 seconds. When Photosmith was being programmed, we used the largest RAW images available in popular cameras – the 21MP Canon 5D MkII (and Canon 1Ds MkIII); if it worked on the largest, then anything smaller was just that much easier. Other RAW formats are supported as well. See the latest camera compatibility list here.

“But the built-in Photos App zooms!” Yes, it does. But let’s compare. The first screenshot is the same grouper photo, zoomed in all the way in Apple’s Photos App. The second screenshot is from Photosmith.

Apple's Photos App - Full Zoom

Photosmith - 100% Zoom

The additional detail is amazing. Enough to mean the difference between a keeper and a throwaway.

The Photographer’s Workflow – Redefined

The photographer’s workflow just became easier. There’s no need to haul a computer into the field when an iPad with Photosmith will do everything you need. There’s no duplicated effort in organizing and tagging pictures, and it’s all done using a simple interface. The iPad is finally a must-have tool for photographers.

Photosmith is available now in the App Store.