command center | portfolio for iPad delivers

A few months ago I wrote an article about some of the portfolio app options available for the iPad. My first choice - Foliobook - has since seen several worthy updates and is constantly being improved upon, while Padport appears to have been abandoned completely. Such are the vagaries of app development.

This week, I purchased yet another app: Portfolio for iPad. And I’m thrilled.

Why? Because I needed something that went beyond a simple portfolio. You see, when I first got my iPad I immediately tried to imagine ways to use it in a client selection session. Not just to show off work but to actually narrow down images, mark selects, add notes etc. At one point I even thought of writing an app myself - but I’m not that great of a programmer.

Fortunately, another photographer beat me to it and created Portfolio for iPad. It’s exactly what I was looking for.


Rate. Select. Annotate.
Sounds simple right? But I can’t tell you how many convoluted methods I experimented with to get those three things done elegantly without a computer. Various sorting photo apps? Been there. PDF’s in iBook or GoodReader? Done. Apple TV and Keynote? Tried that too. It was all clunky, slow and a pain in the rear.

So I could go on to explain in details all the basic portfolio capabilities of Portfolio for iPad, which are all absolutely fine and on par with the best of them, but the killer feature for me is that aforementioned workflow: rate, select, annotate. This thing just gets the work done.


Thanks to this app, the iPad has finally become the command center of my projection setup:

In case you’re wondering, I’m using the Apple VGA adapter for iPad for which the app has built-in support. Obviously, iPad 2 users could use HDMI or AirPlay mirroring to get the entire interface on-screen but this function was available well before those were even possible. And I have to say I like how I can see thumbnails on my iPad screen while projecting only the full-size picture. Leaving the viewer mode also shows a user customizable image on the TV instead of the app’s interface - a nice touch.

Best of all, even when driving an HD TV everything feels fluid. There are no delays, no stutter. The app supports photos, videos and… PDFs. Which means you can project and browse a studio brochure or price list just as easily as everything else, without even leaving a client’s album. Pretty slick.


So what’s the client selection process like?

  • I start off with a video slideshow created in Aperture. The app does slideshows as well so this may eventually change.
  • We go through the full-screen images one by one.
  • I can tap an edit button on individual photos to assign a one star rating as a first pass.
  • When I’m done I tap the name of the album to bring down the sort window and select one star to filter down.
  • We go through the images again and repeat the process.
  • Once I have the selects I add notes to each of those individual pictures to describe size, format, whatev.

Now, one of the greatest features? The app lets me email a list of the gallery, complete with thumbnails, names, ratings and notes in PDF (or html). So as soon as i have a final selection, I immediately send this to myself. Once the client has left I import that PDF as JPEGS in the client’s Aperture project so I can easily reference what needs to be done.

A client is hesitating between two pictures? Double-tap on the second pic and you enter a side-by-side compare mode. Useful? Huh… yeah. Very.
I use the iOS version of Numbers to complete the process and get a sales total. It’s reeaalllly cool and it’s made the sales sessions quite enjoyable for everyone. Painless in fact.

Features galore

Portfolio for iPad offers a ton of customization features, but unlike Foliobook these aren’t geared towards changing the interface itself: most of the customization focuses on how pictures and data is presented. For instance, there is an extensive metadata panel that allows placement of various IPTC data as overlays — as many as six fields are available per picture. You can choose to enable or disable any of these fields and assign whichever data is available from a drop down list (name, caption, rating, keywords). And you can choose different views for thumbnails, video and PDF.

Galleries can be sorted by various IPTC fields or manually à la iPhone/iPad wiggle mode. They can also be emailed and easily hidden from view individually. What’s more: all these settings are per gallery. At first I thought this would make the process a little tedious, since all settings need to be reassigned every time a gallery is created. But while the ability to set a default view would be nice, I soon found this to be extremely useful: I can set client galleries to show filenames to make the selection process easier while keeping portfolio galleries clean and focused on the photography. I can also choose to show ratings on the thumbnails for my own use, while the client only sees the unobstructed pics on the external screen.

getting it in

The app offers five different ways to import pictures: from the iPad library, File Sharing (iTunes sync), Dropbox, URL or an optional Mac server application. This last one offers very nice Photosync-like functionality but I found it to be less reliable with larger video files: it crashed every time and in those cases I had to resort to plugging in the iPad and using iTunes file sharing. For photos, it worked without a hitch.

You can’t select and import an entire album in one shot — something I’ve only seen offered by Foliobook — but you can easily select multiple pictures to populate a portfolio in one go.

Some screenshots:


Overall I’m very happy with this one. For me, it serves a different purpose than Foliobook but it does a stellar job of it and fills an important gap in my workflow. Some things I’d like to see in a future version:

  • Ability to save a default gallery view.
  • Allow notes as a metadata view and/or sort criteria.
  • Ability to do a three-up comparison (this may be limited by the iPad itself).

But here’s the thing: The gold standard in projection software is Time Exposure’s ProSelect. Tons of studios use it and it obviously offers a lot more than this iPad app. It’s also $399 US for the basic version. And it requires a Mac.
Portfolio for iPad has enabled me to create an almost perfect projection environment for my current needs… and it’s $14.99. That’s pretty darn hard to beat.


Portfolio for iPad
$14.99 CDN on the iTunes Store.

P.S. This isn’t a new app by the way. I always check to see if an app has received recent updates before buying - it usually shows a certain level of commitment from the developer. This one has been around for awhile and development doesn’t seem to be slowing down.