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I’ve had an iPad for some time now, and it has proven to be a great tool for showing my work, whether to potential customers at art shows, corporate presentations, or just sharing images with family and friends. The combination of the size, portability, and amazingly beautiful display seem to have been made for photographers and other visual artists.


After some experimentation, I think I’ve found the settings that give me the best results when exporting images from Adobe Lightroom 3 to the iPad. Because the iPad’s display is 1024 pixels on the longest side, I export all images at this dimension so that it fills the screen at the longest edge either horizontally or vertically. I’m not concerned about the short edge since I don’t want my images cropped in any way. I’ve also found that the “high” setting for output sharpening works best to keep images crisp at that size. Below is a screen shot of the export window from Lightroom.

UPDATE: If you’d like the ability to zoom in on your images without losing any quality (or use the Ken Burns effect in a slideshow) then you should export at 2048 pixels on the long edge. In addition, this would also be a good setting for displaying your images on a 1080P TV. Also, please keep in mind that the resolution setting in Lightroom has no relevance since the iPad is pixel based and we are only interested in the actual size of the screen – in pixels. (Thanks to RB_Seattle for the tip!)


As far as getting the images into the iPad, I use either iPhoto or DropBox. If I want to have the images saved locally on the iPad itself, then I’ll import the images into iPhoto, organize them, then sync the iPad to my Mac. This works well for my permanent portfolio where I don’t have to worry about not having a wifi connection to access images in my Dropbox (which is online or in the “cloud”).

The excellent DropBox app allows me to export images directly from Lightroom to my DropBox on my desktop Mac, then view them from my iPad once I have synced online. You’ll need to have Dropbox installed both on your computer and the iPad. This works really great and is much faster than the iPhoto route, but again requires a wifi connection for the iPad to sync. Once you sync however, you can then transfer images from Dropbox into your Photos on the iPad, eliminating the need for a wifi connection.

Any questions or other suggestions, just let me know. Look for a future post on other apps I use on the iPad for photography and business!

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This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips, will try that out tonight.

    I’ve had an opposite issue though, which is when I have pictures on the ipad that I want to import in Lightroom. That worked perfectly with Lightroom 2.7 (and still does) but crashes Lightroom 3, 3.2 and 3.3 systematically.

    I’m a windows user though, so you might not be able to help. Very frustrating though…

    1. @Benoit – I have not had that experience and it is possible it is related to the OS – I’ll post here if I find any info…thanks for the feedback.

    1. @Konstantin – The short answer is that because the iPad is a pixel based display, and we know the exact size in pixels, then we only need to export the exact pixels from Lightroom. The ppi setting is completely irrelevant since it applies to actual prints and other presentations that are not pixel based and we need to know how many pixels are needed to produce an optimal image in a linear inch. As long as we export 1024 pixels, it will fill the screen of tjhe ipad exactly regardless of what the ppi setting is.

      I’m in the process of writing a detailed article of this exact issue which I hope will help explain this as clearly as possible and also debunk some common myth’s about resolution that exist in the digital photography world – should be available next week. Thanks for the feedback and for visiting!


  2. Thank you for sharing – it was indeed very helpful. (Can’t say the same for Lightroom’s process of actually creating the Preset. As an interface designer by trade I’m still cringing.) Perhaps the follow up article should teach people how to create a preset in Lightroom. =0)

    1. Thanks Alex – I’ll consider creating a tutorial for creating and using all of the various presets in Lightroom – Stay tuned…appreciate the feedback!


  3. I recommend setting the long edge to 2048 if you want to be able to pinch to zoom without immediately losing resolution. If all you are doing is a slideshow and never zoom, you setting is fine. If you are not absolutely dying for space, then having the image a bit higher in resolution should be fine.

    1. Thanks for the tip Michael, you are right – however I never use the “ken burns” effect, so having it set to the exact size works for me. Appreciate the feedback!


  4. I do something similar for my iPhone. I didn’t create an export preset, I created a hard drive publish service with custom settings. On top of that, I created a published smart folder that looks for images keyword iPhone. When I want to move an image from my PC to my iPhone, I just tag the image with the iPhone keyword, publish, and then sync with itunes.

    1. @Ben – Great workflow idea Ben – appreciate you sharing – this would work well for the iPad too – like I mentioned in the article, sometimes I need to get images into my iPad as fast as possible, so the Dropbox method helps. Thanks for the feedback.


  5. DPI is irrelevant and has no effect for screens, it’s the pixel dimension of 1024 that matters. I assume it was left on default settings because it’s an unused varable in this case.

  6. I would actually suggest a higher resolution for the long edge (2048). The reasons are two-fold. First, it is likely next iPad will be higher resolution and possibly Retinal Display like iPhone (why go through hassle of redoing all of your albums if you plan to update to new iPad next year). Second, you can now use your iPad to display images on your TV using AppleTV via AirPlay. So while the images will look nice on your iPad, they may not appear so on your HDTV.

    1. @RB_Seattle – All good points, especially the ability to output to an LCD – I will probably increase for the future, always learning! Thanks for reading and the feedback!


  7. This may be a dumb question, but from what you’re saying, I need a Mac to do the above procedure, correct? It won’t work with a PC?


    1. @Geoff – Actually, it should work the same for a PC as far as Lightroom is concerned. As far as importing into the iPad, you can use iTunes for the PC or Dropbox – thanks for asking,


  8. OK. Here’s a nice strategy using Publishing Services based on George’s approach. It simplifies creation of multiple sets of albums for publishing (e.g., one for your iPad, one for your iPhone).

    1. Create a regular collection set containing collections of images you want to install on your iPad, iPhone, etc. The collections can be normal or smart.
    2. Create a new hard drive publication service. You can change all settings later except folder location — I use the Mac Pictures folder. The publish settings I used were 2048 long edge, 240ppi, Sharpening High, and 80% JPEG quality.
    3. Create a Published Folder Set called iPad Albums. Note the Folder Set name is subfolder off of the folder specified in #2 above.
    4. Within your folder set, create new Published Smart Folders that point to the collections you created in #1. The names used are folders created.

    At this point, you are set to create your iPad albums with Publish button. That is all there is to it. And if you update photos in any of the regular/smart collection, just hit Publish button again.

    Now, if you want to create a different set of albums for your iPhone, maybe at higher res to take advantage of Retinal Display , you just start over with #1 (create a new hard drive pub service with different settings such as 326ppi), add new Folder Set (e.g., iPhone Albums), and add Smart Folders pointing to same collections as with the iPad (or just the ones you want).

    The only limitation with LR is that you can’t easily duplicate a folder between services and folder sets. It would be nice if I could dragdrop (holding down Opt key) to make duplicate Smart Folder in the new HD service.

  9. This would have been such a tremendous help to me 3 weeks ago when I first started using an iPad to showcase my work
    I sued a portfolio app There are two available one is 14.95 the other is half the price… I tried both. the more expensive one crashed .. a lot! Unacceptable. The other one worked amazingly well. Makes for a beautiful presentation. Highly customizable.
    Now one thing about what you wrote concerns me… as this is geared towards best results.. why is the jpeg quality level set to 90% and not 100? Very curious.


    1. @Jason – I tried various settings from 70-100 and found no difference above 90, so this keeps file size and quality at optimum. There is certainly nothing wrong with setting at 100 – just depends on how you’re managing your iPad storage. Thanks for the feedback!


  10. I see in the comments that a lot of people are obsessed with ppi (or dpi). I think there’s a lot of confusion here. Pixels Per Inch (or Dots Per Inch) is simply a metadata. That means that the picture itself doesn’t change; the PPI indication is only for printing purposes. If your picture is 2048 pixels wide, it will remain so, whether PPI is set to 72, 300, or whatever else you set it to.

    The difference in quality is the pixel size. The iPad has a larger resolution than the iPhones (even the 4th generation), so indeed it makes sense to scale your pictures to 1024 wide or even a multiple of that size if you want to zoom in. If you transfer that picture also to an iPhone, it will look just as great as well, because you resized it to the biggest screen resolution first. No need to fuss with DPIs!

    1. @Daniel – Yes you are correct, and I’m actually in the process of writing an extensive article on this very subject – it’s time to shatter some myth’s out there surrounding resolution. Thanks for the feedback!


  11. Guys,

    Just got an iPad so I’m trying to figure all this out so dont laugh at this question, but once exported in that format is doing the iPhoto or drop box thing any different resolution-wise than setting up iTunes to sync a certain folder to the iPad photos?


    1. @Bryan- how you transfer your images to the iPad has no bearing on the resolution – any method is fine. Thanks for the question and for reading- I’m always willing to help with any questions in the future- just let me know!


  12. What about transferring your photos to an sd card after you Export to a folder on your hard drive. Then use the camera connector kit to transfer to the iPad. There is a trick here, because the iPad will not read just any file, it has to be a camera file. I have gotten this to work, but I can’t seem to get it right every time. The advantage here is you can delete the photos you load this way, but not when you transfer through iTunes. Anyone got this figured out?

    1. @Bob – I haven’t tried this myself because I don’t have the connector kit for the iPad. Again I use Dropbox to avoid using iTunes and iPhoto, plus I can access the photos without actually transferring to the iPad if that is what I need. Thanks for your feedback and sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      Best, RR

  13. A bit late to the thread, but Santa AKA my awesome wife got me an iPad for Christmas. I work on a PC but think I have assembled all the points made above into a workflow that will work.

    My questions relate to once the photos are on iPad:
    Where does one put them? Are they automatically imported by iTunes, or do I get to choose?
    What app do you all recommend for displaying the photos once they’re on the iPad?
    Can photos be searched on iPad?

    Thanks in advance, Tom Rhindress

    1. Hi Tom, great questions and sort of a changing issue as more apps are released for portfolio purposes. Right now, I believe the best app for managing and displaying your photography on the iPad is Photo Manager Pro. It looks great, has a built in server which makes it very easy to transfer images to the app from your computer, and managing albums/galleries is a breeze – give it a try. Hope that helps!


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