With the added horsepower of the iPad 2, developers have been able to offer more powerful applications that can meet the needs of professionals. In the crowded image editing field, Filterstorm Pro stands apart as one of the most impressive and fully-featured mobile editing solutions for the discerning photographer.
With its ability to edit high resolution JPEG and RAW images, batch process large numbers of files, and connect to an FTP server for final delivery, we examine whether or not Filterstorm Pro may be able to replace a laptop-based workflow in a demanding professional photography environment.
Among the people who have most excitedly embraced the iPad’s influence on their work, photographers around the world have been enjoying the ability to carry around a portable portfolio, showcase environment, and capture disk for their images wherever they go. Now, Filterstorm Pro allows them to consider it a mobile edit suite too, giving them the power to apply most of the core edits they might require in a batch-oriented environment.
This is incredibly useful for those who want to quickly sift through images on a shoot and put a coat of polish on them before sending them further, but it also has the power to offer photographers the ability to leave their laptops at home entirely and perform all their major editing and delivery tasks right from their iPad.
Less computer equipment to carry means more room for lenses.
Design & Interface
For an imaging app, the interface is especially crucial. Filterstorm Pro sports a smartly designed, no frills interface that keeps all important tasks at your fingertips while ensuring that you always have a good view of the image or images you’re working with.
The ‘Pro’ edition differs from its smaller cousin, Filterstorm 3, in several respects; most immediately noticeable is the fact that Filterstorm Pro has its own internal image library, so you can keep track of original and modified images easily without cluttering up your iPad’s photo albums.
Regardless of whether you’re editing an individual image or performing batch edits or sending actions, the Filterstorm Pro interface remains split between a vertical panel on the left, offering you tabs containing the functions you need for that particular view, and the actual viewing area on the right, which takes up the majority of the available space. The balance is appropriate, with the tabs, sliders, and buttons being large enough to operate comfortably without obscuring too much of the image.
One exception to this rule is the filters area, the main editing environment for actual image modifications. In this view the left panel vanishes entirely, leaving you with a simple slider to control the intensity of the effect. It’s worth noting that some filters have multiple parameters, these appear as separate vertical sliders on the left edge of the screen. In landscape orientation this view gives you a clear look at most of your image, making it easy to judge the effect you’re applying.
Working With Images
In general, Filterstorm Pro is designed to handle large numbers of images as well as individual ones for editing. Once you import some images (from your clipboard or from the iPad’s photo library), you’ll find yourself with some collections in the internal library. This internal library is entirely separate from your iPad library, so you can edit and mangle the images to your heart’s content.
In the Library view, basic actions have simple and intuitive solutions: tap and hold a collection to rename it, drag down an image’s thumbnail with two fingers to change its star rating, pinch an image to zoom in and activate a quick view mode that’s essentially like OS X’s QuickLook but with the option to apply star ratings, and tap multiple images to select them and apply ratings or other changes to them collectively.
Once ratings are applied, you can sort photos in the library by star rating to help keep track of worthy shots.
Double tapping an image opens it for editing, and here you can perform a number of edits to the canvas itself (adding borders, changing size, cropping, etc.) before delving into the Filters tab for more interesting processing options. In addition, you have the option of modifying the image’s IPTC metadata.
In essence, IPTC is a protocol for image metadata that includes a wealth of details pertaining to how the image was taken, where, etc. If you don’t need to see all the categories, you can create an IPTC set that includes only the fields you frequently modify.
The app’s most powerful functionality lies in its extraordinary Filters tab. Here, you’re able to select between various filter types and apply them not only overall, but also — crucially — via a number of different modifiable mask options. This means that, like in Aperture and other desktop solutions, you can “paint” on your modifications to ensure they only affect the areas you intend. Other filters include various gradient options, all of which can be extensively modified to suit your particular edit. The fact that this process is all touch-based makes it particularly easy to grasp and work with, as it feels more natural than applying the same effects with a mouse.
This precision is valuable for those who require more detailed editing options than the basic brightness/saturation tweaks that most other apps offer. Filterstorm Pro does not yet offer the more extreme filter options that you would find in something like a desktop application like Photoshop, so if you’re looking for advanced warping and liquefy options for instance, you won’t find them here. Filterstorm Pro does include effects such as posterization, cloning, text, and tone mapping though, so the majority of users will likely find their needs covered.
What really sets this app apart, however, is its batch processing power. Every time you edit an image, you can tap and hold it in the library to reveal a pop-up that gives you the option of saving an automation. That essentially means that you save the edits you’ve performed on that one image and make it available to apply individually to another image, or as a batch process to an entire collection. This is especially useful for establishing the “basic” edits like sharpening and exposure tweaks for a shoot, so you can perform them once and then focus on more involved edits on an individual basis.
You can even share your saved automations, and the app’s website offers many user-submitted automations that you can download from within the app and make use of.
The end result of any workflow is delivery, and Filterstorm Pro’s features wouldn’t be particularly helpful if you couldn’t make use of the edited images easily. Luckily, its export features are unrivaled. Not only can you export back to the photo library and email your images, you can also set up FTP connections, send images to DropBox, and upload straight to Flickr. Once you’ve configured these output options, you can even do all of them at the touch of a button, making the use of edited images a very streamlined process.
Be aware that the generation of your iPad device will make a difference in terms of the export settings available to you; the original iPad can only export photos up to a maximum of just over 7MB, but with the iPad 2 you can export and work with images of up to 22MB, meaning that even the huge image files produced by a camera like the Canon 5DMKII can be easily managed – though processing them takes longer than processing smaller files (as you’d expect).
It seems that putting all these features together is a recipe for success, and indeed Filterstorm Pro has received great critical reception among its target audience, with many photographers including it in their fieldwork.
For many, the features may be powerful enough to allow them to completely ditch their laptops on the go, allowing them to travel light and get more usage out of their iPads. For pros who work with even higher resolution images or those who have very particular workflow and library management needs, Filterstorm Pro won’t replace their existing solutions, though it still does a great job of augmenting its mobile aspect.
For $14.99, Filterstorm Pro earns its “Pro” suffix, offering extended functionality over its lighter Filterstorm 3 kin. For casual users, Filterstorm 3 and other competitors like Snapseed may suffice, but (for now, at least) Filterstorm Pro is the go-to mobile photo editing app for photographers who need the ultimate in precision and flexibility, even on the run.