Thursday, 8 September 2011

How I used my iPad to post photographs "near live" from Stamford Bridge last Tuesday night.

One of my (many) roles is that of roving photographer for the The Chels website. As such I'm often to be found at Stamford Bridge where, thanks to a much more enlightened approach to fan liaison from the Abramovic regime I can cover matches below first team level.

With the action images that I produce having a very clear "sell by" date, it's important that I get them processed and available to viewers as quickly as I can.

Prior to this season that has involved an hours trip home, 10 minutes to download and import the images into Lightroom, 45 minutes of selection and editing, and another 30 minutes or more to export and publish them to my Facebook gallery.

This often means that my images aren't available until around 1am, too late for the majority of viewers who want to check back on the game before they head to bed.

So, having purchased an iPad, I was keen to ensure that I used it to get my images processed and published as quickly as possible. Last Tuesday's Chelsea v Blackburn reserve game provided a first opportunity to do so. Here's how I acheived it!

Part 1. Download of captured images to iPad:

With Eye-fi not supporting compact flash cards, I was limited to the Apple Camera Connection Kit (around £23), which is great, but has certain limitations. Firstly it supports either SD cards or USB only.  My Canon cameras write data to Compact Flash (CF) cards, so I was limited to USB. A search through various online forums suggested strongly that I wouldn't be able to directly connect a card reader (apparantly this draws too much power for the iPad to manage) so I needed a card reader with a source of power.  I could have connected my main camera to the iPad and downloaded via cable, but there was an inherent risk that I wouldn't be able to use the camera whilst the download took place and thus miss out on a lightening attack. My solution was to alternate two CF cards between my main camera, which I used to photograph with and secondary backup camera which was simply used to download images to the iPad.  This was the most expensive card reader I'd ever used!

Part 2. Editing images.

I always try to get things as correct as possible in camera, but the nature of photographing sports like Football means that a little cropping is often necessary to ensure the most dramatic images. I've installed a couple of applications on my iPad that can straighten and crop my images, and tried each that night.

First up was Adobe Photoshop Express (free) - the straighten and crop functions were simple enough, but I hit a major issue when it came to saving the images. Despite photographing in .jpg mode and despite cropping, the save process was taking two or three minutes to complete. As I was looking to upload maybe 50-60 images in the course of a 90 minute game, this clearly wasn't going to work. So I switched to Snapseed (£2.99). Once again it was quick to rotate and crop the images as required, and this time the saving process took only a few seconds. So we had a solution.

Part 3. Watermarking.

I've had an issue in the past with people stealing my Facebook football images and posting them to their own streams without attribution. It's strange, as they could simply link to my album where the pictures are all freely available but sadly they didn't always take this honest route. I therefore needed to put a watermark on the images that referred viewers back to my Facebook page should they find the images somewhere else. I couldn't find a way to do this in Snapseed so it was time to switch to a second app. OneEdit (£1.49) allowed me to do this for a batch of images in a single sweep and seemed ideal.

I loaded the images in batches, and set OneEdit to create a textural watermark (although it can overlay .jpgs also, and I may use this facility in the future to create a more arresting graphical watermark). One button click was all that was necessary to add the watermark to each batch of images and a second click exported the images back to my camera roll

Part 4. Import into Facebook Album.

Although OneEdit does allow an automatic export to Facebook, it will only export to albums on your personal Facebook page. If, like me you have a business page  and want to export to this, then you're stumped. I've put an enhancement request into the developers to add this, as it would be a great help.

I couldn't find any iPad apps that bulk export to albums on Facebook business pages (add a comment below if you know different!) so was forced to install a iPhone app instead. iLoader2 (£1.49) connects first to your personal profile, then offers the option of jumping to any pages you administer. From there it's a simple process to bulk export the images into the required albums. In addition to this, as it doesn't support hi-res uploading, there was no need to resize the images to fit the 595 pixel limit.

So, whilst the game went on around me, with one eye on my iPad and the other on the game, I could edit and upload batches of images, using half time as major catch up period. At the end of the game I had only the last 10 or so images to upload. My trip home was therefore taken up with the editing of these, and as soon as my tube appeared back above ground, I was ready to start the final upload.

I therefore arrived home with the job essentially done. This was especially useful as I had a 6am start the following day! The only remaining task was to copy the completed, full sized images from my iPad and bang them into Lightroom, something that can be done easily through iTunes or DropBox when I have a quiet moment.

So that's my football workflow for the moment. It'll no doubt improve with time - but for now it's sped up majorly from what went before, and that's good enough for me.

If you know of any better apps or workflow then please add a comment below and let me know.