Traveling Light + iPad Pro

As an airline pilot traveling across the globe one of my highest priorities when packing for a trip is not bringing a metric ton of stuff with me. The art of minimalist yet effective packing can be challenging. Thankfully a recent change has helped me pack even lighter while keeping my photography workflow very capable.

For many years I carried evolving versions of laptops as my primary editing machine. Looking back, a couple of those were basically bricks with a screen. As newer laptops became slimmer and lighter it was less and less of a burden but nonetheless even newer 15” laptops are not exactly light. The modern airline pilot carries what we call an Electronic Flight Bag or EFB that replaces all the paper charts we used to lug around in those bulky leather flight cases. Thankfully long gone are those cases & charts but a lot of us still carried a personal laptop along with our company issued EFB. That wasn’t bad, but I wanted to go even lighter. I needed a single device that met my editing needs and the previous EFB (hint, it wasn’t a capable Apple product) just couldn’t do it. 

Thankfully my company switched to the iPad Pro for our EFBs and wouldn’t you know it this thing is small, light and capable of some serious on-the-road photo editing. Since the switch I’ve been able to leave the laptop at home and figured I’d share my editing process & thoughts on mobile workflow. Let’s see if a photographer can get away with just an iPad while traveling.

Editing on the road made easy with Affinity Photo and a good cup of coffee.

Editing on the road made easy with Affinity Photo and a good cup of coffee.

The Import Process 

There are various ways to bring your photos into your workflow. Depending on what camera you are using a bluetooth connection via app or using Apple’s SD card reader can easily be used. The majority of the time I use the SD reader as it is much quicker for importing photos than wireless methods. If I have only a handful of photos I really want, I’ll use Fuji’s app to grab a few photos directly from my X100T via a WiFi connection. Speaking of which, the updated Fuji app is much better than its predecessor and actually works like a charm now.

Whichever method you choose, your imported photos will go directly to your Photos app in one large folder of sorts (more on that below) where you can access your images from within editing & sharing apps.

My photography app collection. The majority of my on-the-road editing, managing & sharing needs are easily met.

My photography app collection. The majority of my on-the-road editing, managing & sharing needs are easily met.

The things you find wandering about in the hutongs of Beijing - X100T edited in Snapseed.

The things you find wandering about in the hutongs of Beijing - X100T edited in Snapseed.


There are a myriad of editing options available from ‘filter’ based apps such as VSCO or Snapseed (which also have in depth editing) to advanced options such as Lightroom and Affinity Photo. My go to apps are usually Snapseed and Lightroom, but if I need a more advanced set of features I’ll import to Affinity for things such as merging panoramas or focus stacking. In fact, Affinity’s focus stack and pano features make packing light even easier with the ability to stack images from my fixed lens X100T to get the wide aspect that is usually reserved for much wider focal lengths.

I try not to over-edit images, instead keeping them what the human eye saw since even the best cameras have a hard time reproducing the tones, saturation and depth we can see. So for my editing needs the iPad is more than enough and with apps such as Affinity one can utilize layers & masks to your heart’s content to make your images pop how you like.

Of course what good are your editing efforts if your screen sucks? While calibrating an iPad screen for printing isn’t really a thing you can adjust your brightness manually and using a reference image to watch for highlights and shadows will keep you in check. Generally the screen does a good job of representing the colors/tones you’ll see but for reproducible color & printing profiles you are best to keep that at home on your calibrated monitor.

Managing Pictures & Storing

One of my biggest complaints about iOS is the lack of a true file management system, you are basically dumping your photos into one giant folder with limited ability to do advanced sorting as you can do on a Mac or Windows based machine. While the ‘Albums’ feature is semi-useful it isn’t a replacement for a robust system.

Thus far I’ve managed to keep the overall numbers of my pictures low on my iPad only editing as I need and not using it for a dumping ground. One thing I’m considering is utilizing Dropbox more since you can import directly from Affinity and of course utilizing the options of Adobe Cloud services though I have yet to embrace that either. The good news here is that if you are invested in a cloud service already you have options for managing your library via the iPad.

For me, I believe the keep it simple principle applies here, import, edit, share and I’ll backup relevant photos once I’m home on my primary drives. This also keeps my images safe in case I lose my iPad while at work or it somehow gets ran over by a hotel van.

Sunset at the Egg in Beijing, edited with the Snapseed.

Sunset at the Egg in Beijing, edited with the Snapseed.


Taking a photo is of course step 1, step 2 is editing and finally the most important is sharing your vision with the world. Which social app or venue you use is of course up to you, but working with the iPad makes sharing a snap. Most social apps are integrated into iOS not to mention the ability to Airdrop a photo right to your friend’s phone.

Other useful apps include a dedicated 500px app, Adobe Spark for making creative story driven pages and Bay ROES to send my images directly to my print lab. The iPad excels here at getting your images out to your adoring fans.

Twinkling Stars in Boston - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Twinkling Stars in Boston - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Exploring Amsterdam - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Exploring Amsterdam - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Additonal Needs

Aside from editing, what use is a device if you can’t easily write blog posts, plan locations shoots and spend too much time drooling over new camera gear? With handy accessories such as a bluetooth keyboard and the Apple Pencil writing blog posts and finer editing is a breeze.

I also utilize various map apps such as and the ever useful Google Maps for planning and exploring new places. is a wonderful app allowing you download offline maps in case you won’t have data at your destination.

For editing my website I use Squarespace to manage all things you see here and thankfully they’ve just launched refreshed & robust app. Again an iOS specific app delivers and I’m able to manage my business and presentation to the world whilst on the road.

Final Thoughts

So can an iPad replace my computer on the road? Sure can! There are a few limitations but for most edits and everyday use I don’t miss lugging my laptop around at all. It’s proven to be more than capable and harnessing what it has to offer has a wonderful thing. Not to mention I can sleep better knowing my primary laptop is safely at home when I travel.

Sleeklens Presets Review

I was recently given the opportunity to test & review some handy Lightroom presets from the nice folks over at Sleeklens. If you use Lightroom much you are probably familiar with the usefulness of presets. Though it's nice to have handy one-click editing at your fingertips, I always consider presets to be a starting point and not a finishing point. This is where presets such as those offered by Sleeklens can come in handy.

How I Create & Edit Images

Before we delve into the before & afters, a quick primer on how I shoot & edit might be handy. I'm of the school of thought that getting the image right in the first place is the best starting point in making good images. Though the camera's sensor and human eye never see the same scene as it was. Digital images often need updated [edited] to do the scene justice as your eye saw it.

So when I do use presets they are 'primers' or 'starters' then I fine tune the image with Lightroom's individual controls as I go along. The nice thing about Sleeklens' offering is that it is built as a 'layered' system to editing in Lightroom that others don't accomplish. So there can be less 'right panel' editing and quicker 'left panel' edits to achieve a similar result. 

Not Just Another Preset

As I mentioned above, Sleeklens presets use a sort of building block or layering method. While their presets also come with 'all-in-one' clicks that you might be used to the stackable options are a different approach. I won't explain how that works in detail as they have put together a short video on exactly how it works, but you can see some examples I used below.

The other handy thing I really enjoyed using are the brush presets, which handily also function in the gradient tool. While you can always customize your brush settings to your heart's content having quick presets in the brush & gradient menu can speed up your workflow. 

Alright, enough chatter - let's get into some before & after images to see what these presets are all about.

Before/After #1 - This was an image from McWay Falls in Big Sur, California. The image on the left was SOOC from my Fuji X-T1 as a JPEG with a 10 second exposure. For this edit I decided to show what the all-in-one preset can do with no further touches. This was the Calm Sunset preset from the Through the Woods landscape collection. I really like the warm tones and clarity the preset gave the image.

Before/After #2 - This image is from Glacier National Park in Montana. Taken with my old Nikon D300 the original file was a RAW file (NEF) with good exposure. Though I thought it might look better as a black & white image with a few adjustments. So I used the layering/stacking method with the following presets in this order:  (1) Base - Monochrome Fantasy (2) Exposure - Less Highlights (5) Polish - Less Contrast (6) Vignette - Subtle Black.

Before/After #3 - The final image was taken from our balcony in Innsbruck, Austria while on holiday. Once again, the first image was well exposed from my Fuji X-T1 and another SOOC JPEG. I utilized the entire suite of options from the 'Through the Woods' landscape preset offering to include local brush adjustment presets. (1) Base - Cinematic (2) Exposure - Less Highlights (3) Color Correct - Reduce Yellows (4) Tone/Tint - Warm (5) Polish - Sharpen (6) Vignette - Subtle Black + Bright Shadows Adjustment Brush on the ballon and Darken Shadows Brush on the mountains. 

Conclusion - Presets Worth the Investment?

So in the end are presets like what Sleeklens offer worth your hard earned money? Absolutely, but with a few caveats you should consider.

Preset packages tend to come with lots of looks/options some of which are superfluous or overkill for some photographer's editing needs, this package included. With so much at your fingertips it is easy to over-edit your images or just get lost in the editing process. If you know your way around Lightroom and have your own style chances are flooding your presets menu with more options isn't for you.

That said, presets tend to help photographers develop their style, help work through editing mental blocks and can be useful in learning how to edit as you can see the changes that happen.

While presets can be a dime a dozen the Sleeklens offering is different enough in the building block/layering methodology to offer something unique. While I'll remove certain presets & brush/gradient options I'll definitely keep a lot of it around for future use. If you are in the market for presets I'd definitely give them a solid look.

*disclaimer - I did receive the presets free in exchange for an honest review.