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iPad for Photographers: The iPad in the Studio

Jeff Carlson shares all sorts of creative possibilities for using your iPad in your photography studio, in this chapter from The iPad for Photographers: Master the Newest Tool in Your Camera Bag, 3rd Edition.
This chapter is from the book

An iPad is a great photographer’s companion in the field, but it doesn’t have to sit dormant when you’re back at home or in a studio. The techniques covered in Chapter 3, such as importing photos using the iPad camera adapters or wireless devices, still apply when you’re no longer on location. Other possibilities open up when you’re not trying to minimize your equipment footprint.

The iPad can work alongside your camera, triggering the camera shutter, providing clients or visitors a window to a photo shoot (without them peeking directly over your shoulder), or even controlling a remote iPhone or iPod touch to capture photos or create stop-motion or time-lapse movies. And with a new crop of wireless accessories, you don’t even need a computer (and its cables) in the room with you.

Control a Camera from the iPad

Often when you’re working in a studio, the camera is tethered to a computer. This arrangement allows you to import photos directly into software such as Lightroom or Aperture, review shots as they come from the camera, and skip the separate import step entirely. So where does the iPad fit in this situation?

If you’re shooting products, food, or other compositions that require the camera to remain locked down, you can trigger the shutter, change exposure settings, and more from the iPad without touching the camera. With wireless devices like the CamRanger and iUSBportCamera, or cameras with built-in Wi-Fi and an iOS app to control them, you won’t trip on a tether cable as you move around.

An iPad also works well when clients or others want to see your output as the photo shoot progresses. If it’s inconvenient to have them hovering over your shoulder, you can hand over the iPad and encourage them to relax on a couch situated a comfortable distance away from the camera.

Wireless Remote Control Devices

As I write this in April 2014, two devices on the market can control a DSLR from the iPad. The CamRanger ($299) and the iUSBportCamera ($199) attach to your Canon or Nikon DSLR’s USB port. Both create their own wireless network, to which you connect using the iPad. You then control the camera using an app. By way of example, I focus on using the CamRanger in this chapter.

Compose and shoot

In many respects, your digital camera is already a computer, so why not use another computer to control the camera’s settings and fire the shutter? In the device’s app, use the following controls (4.1, on the next page).


4.1 The CamRanger interface

Some items can’t be adjusted, depending on the camera model. For example, some cameras don’t let you change the exposure mode in software, because that setting is a physical knob on the camera. Also, as you would expect, the mode determines which settings are active—in Shutter Priority mode (“S” on Nikon models, “Tv” on Canon cameras), the aperture can’t be set, because that’s a value the camera calculates based on the desired shutter speed and ISO.

  1. Shutter Speed. Tap the Shutter Speed button to specify how long the shutter remains open.
  2. Aperture. Tap the current Aperture setting to choose an f-stop from the list of possible values. The popover that appears shows only the settings that are available to the current lens.
  3. ISO Speed. Tap this button to choose the level of light sensitivity.
  4. Metering Mode. Tap to select how the camera calculates exposure.
  5. Drive Mode. Tap to set how many shots are taken during a capture, including time delay and remote trigger options.
  6. White Balance. Tap to select one of the color temperature presets.
  7. Image Quality. Switch between available quality and format options.
  8. Auto Focus Mode. Set how the camera determines where to focus.
  9. Exposure Compensation. Choose from the range of positive and negative exposure adjustments.
  10. Live View. See what the camera is seeing.
  11. Movie Mode. Control video recording.
  12. Movie Auto Focus. Tap to toggle between auto and manual focus in Movie mode.
  13. Capture. Tap this button when you’re ready to capture a shot.

Use Live View

On supported cameras, tap the Live View button to get a live feed of what the camera’s image sensor is seeing.

The CamRanger software can take advantage of the camera’s auto-focus features: Tap the image preview to set the Auto Focus point, or tap the Focus button at the top of the screen for more specific focus control (Focus Nearer, Focus Farther, and Focus Stacking) (4.2).


4.2 Focus controls in CamRanger

Use bracketing/HDR

The remote camera devices tap into your camera’s ability to shoot a succession of three photos with different exposures (the current one, overexposed, and underexposed), a feature known as “bracketing.” HDR (high dynamic range) images, for example, are created with three or more images at varying exposures. (However, the app doesn’t merge the shots into a single HDR image; “HDR” is just shorthand for bracketing.)

  1. Put the camera into its manual shooting mode.
  2. In CamRanger, tap the HDR button to reveal the feature’s options (4.3).


    4.3 Bracketing/HDR options

  3. Set which variable is locked using the Property control: Aperture, Shutter Speed, or ISO Speed. If Aperture is selected, for instance, the camera will adjust the shutter speed and ISO to achieve the exposure change, leaving your chosen aperture constant.
  4. Tap the Start Value button and choose a setting that establishes a decent exposure for the image, as if you were shooting just one shot.
  5. Choose how many exposures will fire using the Number of Shots button.
  6. Drag the first slider to specify the variance in f-stops between each shot. For example, a setting of 1 would give you an image at the current exposure, one at +1, and one at –1. The higher the value, the broader the difference in exposure will be in the set of shots.
  7. Tap the Start button to fire the shots.

Shoot at specified intervals

An intervalometer captures a series of shots at a specified interval. This automation lets you create a series of time-lapse shots.

  1. Tap the Timer button (4.4).


    4.4 CamRanger’s Timer controls

  2. To pause before the first capture, set a time using the Initial Delay control.
  3. Tap the Number of Shots button, and enter a number in the text field to dictate how many captures are made during the session.
  4. Tap the Shot Delay button, and choose the duration between shots in hours, minutes, and seconds (up to 59:59).
  5. Tap the Start button to start the intervalometer.


If $200–$300 is too costly but you still want to control your DSLR from the iPad, the $30 Triggertrap is a great option. It doesn’t give you a live view from the camera—in fact, you don’t see any photos at all—but it does offer many methods of triggering the shutter. The Triggertrap app is free; the $30 is to purchase a dongle that’s compatible with your camera.

Yes, you can remotely capture a shot of a specific duration, but that’s just the start. Triggertrap uses the iPad (or iPhone) sensors to do things like fire the shutter when a loud noise (such as a clap, whistle, or tap) occurs (4.5), fire when you are driving and want a shot captured out the window every 20 kilometers, and fire when a person enters the picture (for cameras that do not offer built-in facial recognition).


4.5 Trigger the shutter based on noise level.

Triggertrap is also ideal if you want extreme control over time-lapse and long-exposure photography. The Wi-Fi Master mode works with another iOS device to control Triggertrap remotely (for example, when you want to capture starfields but would prefer to sit inside a cabin where it’s warm).

Control a Wireless Camera

I believe that it won’t be long before most cameras will incorporate some sort of wireless control. I’m happy to report that manufacturers have started building Wi-Fi connectivity into their cameras (4.6). The apps vary in their capabilities, but mostly they offer the same shooting features described earlier in this chapter. They also take advantage of the iPad’s sensors, such as pulling location data and applying it to photos on the camera’s memory card.


4.6 The FujiFilm Camera Remote app establishes a live link to the camera (a Fuji XT-1, in this case).

Control Another iOS Device

I’ve focused on controlling a DSLR so far in this chapter, but if you own an iPhone (or iPod touch, or another iPad), you already have a pretty good camera available. Blux Camera for iPad, which I mentioned in Chapter 1, has a companion app, called Blux Lens, that enables the iPhone to be a remote camera. As long as both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, Blux Lens becomes the camera and the iPad acts as the controller.

Choose one to act as the camera and one to act as the remote, and you can then fire the shutter; lock focus, exposure, and white balance; and set a timer. And, of course, it offers a range of filters to change the look of the captured photo.

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