A Mobile Image Editing Workflow

Having spent some time traveling in the Middle East earlier this year, I thought it might be helpful to post something about my own mobile workflow.

Why?

I know there is a strong preference for many to PP on a “proper computer” (or, not at all ) but there are often really compelling reasons for editing on a mobile device, and I’ll present an example of how I do this. I’m most definitely not professional; this is purely from a hobbyist perspective. Never let perfection get in the way of good enough…

By mobile device, I mean pretty much any android device – tablet or phone. iPhone users I’m sure will be able to do the same, but I can’t talk about that.

I often prefer to edit on a tablet because I can do this anywhere, and this is useful especially when traveling. Some might argue there is no value in immediacy, but my own experience is completely the opposite. There is a lot of value in editing and reviewing your results as you go – you can learn as you go and spot mistakes and shortcomings as they happen. Imagine spending a couple of months traveling and editing all your images when you got home, only to find that shutter shock was far worse than you’d anticipated, or that you had dust on your sensor

It also allows you to share images while you are traveling, that can be far more interesting than doing everything later. I attended a wedding a couple of years ago; it was in a very remote location (no power, no Wifi, no cell coverage) and people traveled from all over the world to be there. People were far more interested in sharing their photos than seeing the professional photos, which weren’t released for another few months – of interest only to the bride and groom and some of the immediate family.

Additionally, this method also ties in to a backup strategy useful when traveling.

Why not WiFi?

This workflow doesn’t include wifi camera connectivity because it sucks. It does work in some contexts, and I sometimes use it, but as currently implemented on Panasonic Lumix cameras, the whole process is painful to use for decent numbers of images.

Equipment for editing:

Device – any modern reasonably high resolution device will do – I usually use a Galaxy Tab S2, but some phones will work just as well.

Cable – a cheap USB adapter cable to suit your device. These are less than $2 online, I always feel so bad about buying items that are this cheap, I always buy 2 or 3. The cable is a Y cable, consists of a male USB connector (usually MicroUSB) correctly configured for your device, and a USB type A male and type A female connector.

Card reader – I use a Kingston MobileLite G4 UHS-II reader, which accepts SD cards on one side, and MicroSD cards on the other – and it can read both at the same time. The reader is small and durable, and very fast.

Galaxy Tab S2, Kingston MobileLite G4 card reader, SD and MicroSD cards, Y adapter cable to suit the tablet.

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Connected and ready to go. Extra power is not required for just the SD card reader.

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Additional equipment for backup:

Portable hard drive – (and cable), 2.5″, USB powered. I use a WD Elements Portable at present.

Powered USB hub – I use a really nice and durable aluminium cased Wavlink hub at present. I have a couple of these at home, just grabbed the first one for recent travels and it worked perfectly.

Power supply – there are several options here. While tablets will usually power the card reader with no problems, they are unable to supply enough power for a portable hard drive. To power the set up, you can connect the type A male connector on the Y cable to any USB charging device (for example, the one you normally use to charge your mobile device) or to a power bank, a shown here. When traveling I in fact used the power supply for the hub itself, and that worked just as well – just a little bit more stuff to carry.

WD Elements drive, Wavlink USB 3.0 hub, freebie power bank.

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That’s the hardware, it is fairly simple once you know what you need and how it goes together.

Editing:

This description is very basic and intended for those not familiar with how editing on mobile devices generally works.

Bear in mind also that many devices are not colour-calibrated or anything like correct, often having saturated displays which can affect your assessment of the final result. Because of this it may be prudent to limit major adjustments in colour, and go with minimal or automatic adjustments. For geometry adjustments, there should be no such problems, and if you are into major PP or effects, who cares?

When you connect the SD card reader and card to the tablet, the tablet should recognise there is storage added and open a file manager (by default this is the standard Android My Files app), in the screenshot below the two extra storage locations are highlighted.

Two highlighted extra storage locations.

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You can browse the folder and file structure as you would on a PC; it is quite fast and easy to use. You can view as lists, by details, or as thumbnails. Select and open a file (I use JustPictures!) and view the image. Use the Share icon to send the image to your editor. I use Snapseed, which is a very compelling app – very powerful once you’ve figured out its features, which many useful tools right at your fingertips. I wish there were desktop applications that were as easy to use as this is.

Use the Share icon to send the image to your editing app.

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When the image is displayed in Snapseed, use the edit Icon to make adjustments.

Make adjustments from the Edit icon, lower right (highlighted).

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A palette of tools appears:

Editing tools palette. Perspective tools shown highlighted.

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For example, adjusting the perspective for this shot is easy:

Confirm adjustments before moving on to the next.

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There are number of useful tools in Snapseed; I mostly use perspective, crop, colour adjustments, detail, total contrast, and if I want a more processed look there are a range of tools to do this. There are aids as well – zoom, histogram, guidelines and preview, for example,

A final edited image, ready for sharing!

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Backups:

Remember this image?

Multiple storage locations means backups are easy.

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Because you can have multiple external storage locations attached (for example, in this setup I can have both SD card slots and an external drive all available at the same time) you can copy and paste folders and files into multiple locations. Some care is required, and speeds may not be blazingly fast – but better than no backups at all, right?

Some examples:

All edited on the go with Snapseed. Good enough…

Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi

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Dubai Mall Waterfall

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Wadi Rum Station

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Palace, Muscat

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So next time you are complaining about people sitting at dinner* with their heads in their device, ignoring the world, well, that’s me, editing the days photos. When else am I going to do it? No time during the day, and slogging through many thousands of photos when you get home is no fun at all.

*or more likely, sitting round a kerosene heater in the freezing cold in Jordan…

Thanks for reading!

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