iPad + Shuttersnitch Review

One of the biggest challenges we have on shoots is making sure that the client is happy with the finished product. Whether your client is a graphic designer, art director or the University President, it is important to ensure that their needs are met before you wrap a shoot. As photographers we sometimes forget that while we have the ability to look at a scene and envision how it will appear in two-dimensional poster, brochure or webpage, normal people do not have that knack. You need to find a way to show your clients the finished product without impeding your shoot.

In the film days we shot Polaroids to make sure that our exposure and composition were where they needed to be, then we handed the Polaroids to our client to make sure they approved of the setup before we ever loaded a roll of film. Here is a video of Mark Philbrick shooting a poster in what he likes to call “the good old days” and I affectionately call the 4th grade:

The Nikon D1 changed all that of course; with digital cameras we could just show the client photo on our lcd screen immediately after we shot it, you didn’t even have to shake the camera to make the image appear. The problem is, when you look at that small of a preview, you can’t see all the details that will inevitably jump out and destroy your image when it is put on the cover of the alumni magazine.

For a few years we would shoot test shots with our digital camera, then pull out the card, download the image to our laptop and let the designer poke around the raw file in Photoshop until they were satisfied that we could move on. While this system worked, it was slow and cumbersome.

Tethered has never been a viable option for us; most of our shooting is done on location and we are constantly moving from one location to another. The last thing we need is one more wire to trip over. We’ve experimented with using a Eye-Fi card to transmit the images to our laptop, but the laptop was still awkward on fluid and dynamic shoots. Here is a behind the scenes video in which we use this setup, you’ll notice I’m the one trying to hold onto the laptop and keep up with Mark.

When the iPad came out, I finally saw the light at the end of the iTunnel.  We now use a app called Shuttersnitch to wirelessly preview images directly from the camera. Essentially you need something to get the images from your camera to the iPad. You can use a wireless transmitter attached to your camera or an Eye-Fi wireless card. The Eye-Fi is a sd card with a wireless chip built in.  In our camera we use a compact flash card to store our raw files and in the secondary card slot we have an Eye-Fi Pro X2 that we write small jpgs to, and it sends only the jpgs via a wireless network. UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, Eye-Fi updated their cards with Direct Mode, negating the need for a wireless network or a router. All you need is your Direct Mode enabled Eye-Fi card and their free app installed on your iPad or iPhone. It works great and is easy to set up. They’ve put a set of step by step instructions here.

On the iPad we use the Shuttersnitch app to download and display the photos from the Eye-fi card. With this setup we are getting photos transferred to the iPad within about 2 seconds of capture. We give the iPad to our graphic designer or to our client so that they can see large previews of the files on the fly. Check it out in action with this bts video.

In Shuttersnitch you have a bunch of options that you can use to set up the iPad. The program is easy to set up and thanks to the last update, it is now very reliable. It can also display metadata and a histogram for each image. You are also able to rate each image and send previews as email attachments. For each image the program provides you metadata and a histogram. Shuttersnitch is available in the app store for a price of $15.99

The beauty of this system is that we can quickly show the photos to the models so that we can give them direction. On the gymnastics shoot, Mark had a hard time explaining what he wanted one of the gymnasts to do, so he took the iPad and showed her the position of the leg on the test shot and said “I want you to put your leg here”.  They had a much easier time of making the necessary adjustments after they saw the images captured by the camera.

Of all the people on our shoots that have used it, the graphic designers have been the most excited. Rather than squint and try and see the details on the camera’s lcd, they can zoom in on the iPad and work with us to get the best images while we are still shooting.

There is also something to be said about the coolness factor of this setup.  After hearing about how we use the iPad from other designers, we’ve had clients call us up and specifically ask us to bring the iPad to their shoot. We recently completed another shoot in the library during a class break and we had crowds of students and faculty stop and watch the iPad load images during the shoot. It was quite a sight to behold. These days you need to do anything you can to separate yourself from the growing pack of amateur shooters on campus and brand yourself as the professional, and the iPad can help you accomplish that.

For a more detailed explanation of how to set up your system with either an Eye-fi card or a wireless transmitter, plus a bunch of FAQ’s and troubleshooting, check out Rob Galbraith’s excellent review on his website.

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