How to adjust your iPad screen for viewing and editing images

If you take photographs and you edit them on a desktop PC or laptop then you are probably well aware of, or should at least have heard about, this business of calibrating your computer screen.  Calibrating your computer screen is the important first stage of a color managed workflow. You can edit your images, print them (on your profiled printer/paper), send them off for printing elsewhere or share them in some other way safe in the knowledge that your images will look very similar when reproduced or displayed by someone else – provided, of course, their printer or screen is properly calibrated.  If what I have just said makes no sense to you, or you want some more info, then take a look at this Overview of Colour Management.

There are three main factors to calibrating your computer screen

  • Colour calibration:  making sure the screen is correctly adjusted to display colours as accurately as possible (this is a broad area and covers several settings that I’m not going to go into)
  • The luminance (brightness) of the screen
  • The brightness of the ambient light in the room and falling on to the screen (the colour temperature of the light is important too, especially so if you are viewing prints)

This is all very well when you use your computer at the same location and you have control over your environment but what do you do when you have an iPad, it’s a mobile device and could be used anywhere.  What can you do to set the screen up to give you predictable results?

What you can’t do

Well lets start with what you can’t do:  you cannot control the colour.  Due to the fact that Apple lock the iPad down, and there is no access to the system, there is no way to change how the iPad renders colours for all applications.  There is an image viewing app that allows you to use a Spider to calibrate the iPad screen but the colours are only corrected for that appication. Fortunately though the iPad already renders colours pretty accurately anyway so this is something we do not really need to worry about too much.

Here are the things you can do

  • Disable Auto-Brightness
  • Choose your location
  • Set a specific brightness
  • Use a reference image

Disable Auto-Brightness

The iPad has a great feature that automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the ambient brightness at your location.  It is on by default.  When you are sat by the window or some other bright location the screen brightness increases to compensate,  and vice-versa.  This works really well but is not good for image editing when need some consistency so turn the feature off.  Go to Settings > Brightness & Wallpaper and flick the slider.

Choose your location

The brightness of the ambient light where you are using your iPad makes a huge difference to the way the screen looks.  If you are in a bright location the screen will look dim and the colours washed out no matter how high you turn the brightness up.  Similarly if you are in a very dark place the screen is going to look very bright indeed, and even hurt your eyes – if you have every used your iPad in the dark with the lights out you will know what I mean! – it is not possible to turn the brightness down very far.  So it comes as no surprise to be somewhere not too bright and not too dark and don’t have sunlight falling across the screen.

Set a specific brightness

The next thing is to set a suitable brightness manually so while you are in the Brightness & Wallpaper setting you can adjust the slider to set the brightness you need.. but how bright or dim should it be?  You need to use a familiar image as a reference.

Use a reference image

There are several things you can do here.  Use an image that you are really familiar with and know what it should look like on the screen.  If you process images on a PC then you will likely have such an image.  It should have some bright areas and some shadow areas so that you are able to tell if it looks correct.  Perhaps the preferred method, and the one that I employ, is to use a test image.

This is the image I use to adjust the brightness of my iPad screen for image editing or viewing.  Download the image from Keith Cooper’s website, Northlight Images.  Load it up into your Photos app via iTunes or into some other app like GoodReader.  Thanks to Keith Cooper for making this image available on his website, I use it all the time for testing printer setting and new papers.

Once you have the image displayed on your iPad screen you can now double press the Home button to pop-up the application switcher. Slide the switcher to the right to reveal the brightness control.  Whilst this has pushed the image slightly off the top of the screen the all important darker areas of the 21 step wedge down the left had side are visible. Now all you need to do is adjust the brightness so that you can just about see the boundary between the two darkest areas.

And that’s it, you should now have your iPad brightness set up correclty.  Be prepared to follow this process all the time as the light changes and when you find yourself editing images on the move.

Snapseed updated with improvements – v1.1.0

An update is available for Nik Software’s Snapseed iPad app today.  Details below of what has been up updated.

At the moment I cannot open a RAW file as the update suggests.  When I choose to open an image I have imported with the connection kit then Snapseed opens only the embedded jpeg rather than doing a RAW conversion.  This is what happened before with the original version so I cannot see what the different is with v1.1.0.  I must say though that it was quicker opening the file with the new version and the image seems clearer.

What’s New in Version 1.1.0

In Version 1.1.0 Snapseed
+ Supports RAW images transferred with the Camera Connector kit
+ Preserves EXIF data on saving
+ Visual enhancements
+ Performance optimizations
+ Various bug fixes and interaction tweaks

Snapseed iPad app from Nik Software

Nik software have entered the iPad application market with their newly released Snapseed app.  Nik Software are better known for their excellent Photoshop and Lightroom plugins, like Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro, and now they have applied their skills and knowledge to bring this new app to the iPad with the claim that it “makes any photograph extraordinary”.  Here’s the introduction text from their web page:

Snapseed for iPad makes any photograph extraordinary and is brought to you by Nik Software, the recognized leader in digital photographic products and technologies. With Snapseed, enhance your photos with one tap. Tweak photos to perfection with Tune Image or selectively adjust only a part of your photo with revolutionary Control Points. Add incredible effects with innovative filters like Drama, Vintage, and Grunge. Share photos with your friends and family with social network support, or print your photos directly in Snapseed.

I have had a quick look at this app and it seems to be rather good.  It has the usual adjustment options, like brightness and contrast, but the features that sets this apart from other ‘photography’ type apps that I have tried are the style presets allowing you to create a cool look to your photograph and then to adjust those presets too.

snapseed screenshot

I use an original iPad and it seemed to be pretty fast and certainly acceptable in terms of speed and responsiveness.

One feature that appears to be missing, or I have not found yet, is a resize option.  I would have expected it to be bunched with the regular adjustment options but I could not see it.  Resizing an image is important to me because I don’t want to be emailing or uploading images that are several thousand pixels across or several megabytes in size so I hope the option really is there and I have just missed it.

Details of Snapseed can be found at Nik Software and I’ll get a more detailed review on here shortly.