This is going to be a super, high-level article. I can write a book on mobile systems and accessories. But I’m going to do my best. Some things really make a huge difference. And some are extremely over-hyped by the media.

Tablets. I bought an iPad Pro back in 2016. Adobe had promised that iOS versions of their creative software was right around the corner. It’s 2020, and I’m still waiting. I think the Lightroom for iOS is ‘okay’. Photoshop is still 2 – 3 years from being truly useable. They only support 8-bit PSD files! I’ve posted here and there about my disappointment and quite frankly, lying about how close they were to apps for iOS. It’s the only reason I bought the iPad Pro. Other 3rd party apps are quite decent. But for the most part, they still have a ways to go. The software needs serious work to catch up to the hardware.

Apple iPad Generation 2. My first iPad! (Image: Apple)

Apple iPad Generation 2. My first iPad! (Image: Apple)

Tablets are useful and have some advantages over a laptop. Just not with creative apps.

I saw this great video from 9to5Mac today. It was about a new external keyboard with built-in trackpad for the iPad. It was a 7th Generation iPad. Together the cost was $500. What advantages? Well, cost for one. Even a MacBook Air is $999 minimum. Weight isn’t as great as it’s only .25 lighter than the Air. I really think a tablet is a better way of showing your portfolio to someone than a laptop. It’s so much less fussy than a laptop and easier to go between images.

I also like using the iPad while on a shoot to bring up documents or another information I might need. Especially the Call Sheet when I need to go over things with others on the shoot. Especially with the Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist. Going over last-minute details and looking at images and making adjustments. It’s just easier to do than using a laptop or paper. I mean, I’ve even seen NFL coaches using tablets instead of paper documents of years past.

There are just no iPad apps for photography that I find really useful for a professional though. So with that, I think any iPad will do with basic work apps and some photography needs. With a keyboard, there is nothing I can do on a regular laptop than I can’t do on an iPad. Except use commonly used photography apps. I just don’t see any apps making that real jump for another 2 – 3 years at least.

Cell Phones. Honestly, I use my iPhone 11 much more for photography-related needs than my iPad. Taking behind-the-scenes photos. Instagram. Short videos. You can even use it for photo backup in a pinch if your phone supports it and have the capacity. Absolutely! Purchasing the iPhone 11 with the camera and memory capacity I chose was a lucky move. I really love using my iPhone. Its usefulness has been invaluable.

Apple iPhone 11. Think about what we had 10 years ago... (Image: Apple)

Apple iPhone 11. Think about what we had 10 years ago... (Image: Apple)

Camera Bags. We’re talking mobility. Right? You got to carry your gear somehow. Right? Can I squeeze this in a paragraph or two? I think using bullet points would be best: • There is no perfect bag. Just bags that minimize the drawbacks.

• Buy quality. You’re just as well off as using a cheap backpack to carry your photography gear than buying a cheap camera bag. The camera bag will cost more and its features will most likely fall apart to shoddy constructions.

• Ask more experienced people who do the same photography what they use. But also take it with a grain of salt. I’d say be 51% in favor of taking their advice.

• Usually, the top brands are deserving of their reputation. Usually.

• What are you really going to carry in the bag? Really think about it. Will you ever carry a meal in Tupperware in it? A sweater? Any other gear?

I think I’ve been incredibly lucky with the bags I’ve bought in the past. They fill a specific need and almost no overlap. I don’t get these people who have a dozen bags and are only amateurs. Really? I have:

• A small sling bag. It’s more spacious than it looks. But it’s really only used when I need just the absolute basics. Camera, batteries, memory cards, wallet, phone & keys. I used to have an iPad mini I used to be able to fit in there somehow. But the iPad mini is tiny.

• A much bigger sling bag. If I’m on vacation or on a trip and need to go really light and be able to carry things like a sweater or meal. I can also carry a few extra bits of gear as well.

• Shoulder bag. This is my daily driver that use for both camera and business needs. I can carry a camera, extra lens, batteries/memory cards, laptop/papers.

• Roller bag. My bag for any shoot as I carry all the pro gear in it.

My next two bags are:

• Backpack. The roller bag is just too hard and awkward to roll over tougher terrain and in New York City, can be a hassle when using mass transit. I’m more than strong enough to carry a roller bag-sized backpack. So that’s not an issue.

• Big gear bag. For light stands and strobes. Though I would consider this more of a case than a bag. But I’m carrying gear in it. Using a bag that’s big enough to carry your light stands with your regular camera gear is a huge organizational relief instead of carrying several bags to accomplish the same task. It can be a mess.

One tip: look at how sturdy the zippers look on a bag.

Accessory Bags. Sometimes, a sturdy Ziploc bag will do just fine. But don’t underestimate what a professional accessory bag can do for organization and modularity. I have two Think Tank Photo Cable Management 10 V2.0. One bag I have all my commonly used items and the second one, spares and other bits. They fit so perfectly into my roller bag. Keep things tidy and organized. They look professional. Which always looks good for the client. And at $16/each, totally worth it in my opinion. I know I still have some growth in my gear and will probably get a 3rd accessory bag.

Think Tank Photo Cable Management 10 V2.0

Think Tank Photo Cable Management 10 V2.0

And talking about accessories….

Keyboards. Yes. You know one of the biggest reasons why the 16” MacBook Pro and new MacBook Air are selling like hotcakes? The improved keyboard. Yes. Great technical evolution. But the keyboard.

I originally bought an Apple keyboard for my Mac mini and really tried to like it. But I couldn’t. Hated it. Even the keyboard on my 2013 15” MacBook Pro took a while to get used to. The keys are just too small for me. The keyboards on Apple laptops after that I just hated. I felt I was causing tiny micro-fractures in my fingers when typing.

I then bought a solar-powered Apple-specific Logitech keyboard. And I still use it! 7 years ago and the worst thing: one of the rubber pads came off the bottom. Replaced it with some Home Depot thingy. But 7 years later, still works perfectly. All the keys work. No batteries or charging.

Logitech K750 Solar Keyboard

Logitech K750 Solar Keyboard

Be open to getting a 3rd party keyboard. There are some really fantastic ones. When I get a new computer, this year I hope, I might keep the Logitech as a backup and get a new one. Just because I love the newest Apple Magic Wireless Keyboard keys. Wide, soft and nice key travel. Close to perfect. The keys on my Logitech are just a tiny bit on the small side.

Monitors. For me at least, it’s pretty simple for photography needs:

• 24” Minimum Screen Size. 32” is preferable.

• High sRGB and Adobe RGB Performance. I’d say 100% and 97%+ respectively. Apple likes to pump their DCI-P3 ratings. But if you’re posting a pic on the web, you use sRGB. For printing, you use Adobe RGB. DCI-P3 is nice for every-day things but for professional reasons, you won’t use it. For video, look at how other color gamuts are rated.

• Resolution. 4k is pretty much standard these days. Though for photography, it’s not a requirement. My current monitor is only HD and works perfectly well. Though the bigger the screen, the better a higher resolution will work for it. You don’t want pixilation. So if you go 27”, you should probably consider 4k. Certainly with 32”, you want 4k.

• Bit Depth. This is the number of colors supported. 10-bit. Minimum. Absolutely.

Asus ProArt PA32UC 32" Monitor. Hopefully my next monitor! (Image: Asus)

Asus ProArt PA32UC 32" Monitor. Hopefully my next monitor! (Image: Asus)

I think everything else in addition to this minimum is gravy. Higher contrast ratio. High brightness. Power supply for a laptop. Thunderbolt connectivity. USB hub. HDR support. I’ve had my 24” monitor for about 8 years and it’s been awesome. It’s a professional level monitor and believe I paid about $650. To go 27” at the time was a huge price jump. I plan to go 32” with my next monitor. I know I’ll use the space.

Creative Pen Tablets. I saved the best for last. You CAN use a regular mouse to do your photo editing. But the tablet brings so much more control and precision to editing. Seriously. My tablet is around 7 years old and it’s been fantastic. Wired and wireless. It’s a medium-sized version and I’ve been very happy with it. I can really do some more customizing with it. I know I don’t utilize the functions as much as I could.

So that’s it! Really, I can make write a book on IT and the Photographer. How about networking? Automation? Cloud systems? Printing? But what I’ve written in this 3-part series will really take you a long way. Part of learning these systems will help you better prepare for other technologies. I think there are two attitudes you should have about technology:

• Don’t be afraid. It’s actually really hard to seriously screw something up these days. If you’re fairly confident about doing something, then give it a try.

• Learn it. I mean, how many functions do you actually know what your phone can perform? Do you know all the automation tasks your software can perform to speed up your workflow?

We really live in a fantastic age when it comes to technology. You really have the opportunity to do the work of 3 – 4 people without really trying hard. If you’re somewhat organized. And for cheap too!

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