Ever since the iPad first started becoming popular, photographers have been searching for a way to integrate it with their professional workflows. Unfortunately, the iPad really wasn’t designed for professional workflows, so that has proven pretty difficult. Instead, usually photographers wait until they can plug their camera memory cards into a laptop or desktop PC running something like Adobe Lightroom before they start working with the photos they shoot. The problem with Lightroom is that you have to import everything into the database and that can be extremely time consuming. With my last set of about 750 photos, Lightroom took over 30 minutes just to do that and it ate through quite a bit of the battery life on my Surface Pro 2. Yes, you can start ranking them as they import, but still it’s a CPU/RAM intensive first step that gets in the way of what you really need to do first, and that’s find the good ones.
The second problem with Lightroom is its user interface. In order to be efficient, you really need to use the keyboard shortcuts and that’s no good if you want to use something more portable like a tablet. Even if you have a stylus for your tablet, Lightroom is still poorly designed since there are often scrollbars on the left side of panels which means you’ll cover up their contents with your right hand when trying to scroll. The panel titles also expand to an area off of the screen that you have to scroll to in order to access.
These gross inefficiencies really annoy me in my photography work, so I’ve been using some faster RAW image editors like Adobe Bridge with ACR and Corel AfterShot Pro, but those are still “desktop” programs that are not designed for touch-screen tablets. They’re a little better than Lightroom, but not by much.
After a shoot, the first thing I want to do is flip through the images and apply ranking metadata. This means giving each image stars depending on how good it is. It can also mean applying color labels and keywords. After I go through that sorting process, I can decide very quickly which subset of images I want to add edits, lens profile fixes, noise reduction and other tweaks to before sending off to the client. Going straight to editing 10-20 favorite photos is a lot faster than importing and editing 750.
So I searched the Windows 8 Store for some image viewer apps. A few of them could read RAW files by tapping into Microsoft’s RAW Codec but none were really aimed at ranking and sorting images. The closest one was Phiewer which supported RAW images and had a “flag” button that you could use to either flag or unflag images in order to separate them into two categories. I decided to email the developer with my idea for an RAW image viewer that allowed you to quickly rank each photo using the same metadata that Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, and Corel Aftershot Pro use. A few weeks later, Marten Dalfors emailed me back and suggested that I download the update he published. He added star ranking buttons and labels to his app and they did exactly what I wanted… all ranking metadata was saved in the same way that Adobe Bridge, Adobe Lightroom, and Corel AfterShot Pro do it. Not only that, but it was very fast and the auto-advance after ranking option made flipping through a big set of photos even easier. I wrote him back with thanks, praise, and a few bug reports and he came back with another update a while later. So now the new Phiewer app is available in the Windows 8 store and it’s essentially the best way to rank your photos right after a photo-shoot.
I’m not done yet though! Sure, of course it’s going to be fast on a $1300 Surface Pro 2 with 8Gb of RAM and a Haswell Core i5 processor, but what about a more low-end tablet. I made my first real test of Phiewer using a 32Gb Dell Venue 8 Pro with a Baytrail Atom processor 2Gb of RAM and barely any storage space available. This is a very small 8″ Windows 8.1 tablet that can be found in the $200-$300 range. I got mine for $199 and some of you may have got one for $99 when it was on sale in December. That sounds like a pretty low-end tablet to me, but guess what… Phiewer performed flawlessly!
You can find Phiewer in the Windows Store for $2.99. Personally, I think it is extremely worth it!