EyeFi changes everything!

Blognosticator Head

Last year I wrote about using the iPad as an instantaneous proofing device when shooting digital portraits. It turned out to be the most popular blog I have ever written. Months later, I still get many hits a day on the article.


This is the 8GB EyeFi card. The company now makes a 16GB version of the card, which includes a WiFi transceiver. Insert it into your camera, and it can send images to a viewing device instantly – actually closer to three seconds. This device is amazing.

The process involves an EyeFi card, an SD memory card that doubles as a WiFi transceiver. I have a 16GB EyeFi card plugged into the SD card slot on my Canon 1ds Mark III camera. That camera has two card slots; I put a Compact Flash card in the other. I have the camera set to record Raw onto the Compact Flash card, and JPEG images to the SD card. This works well because the JPEGs are smaller files, and they transmit to the iPad faster. Transmitting Raw files to the iPad is painfully slow, and I avoid it.

EyeFi comes with its own iPad app, a photo browser that is part of the EyeFi package. It works well. At least one other photo browser app works with EyeFi, specifically Shutter Snitch. I use the EyeFi browser.

Rusty, Ashala, Brian

Rusty Watson, Marketing Director for Heritage Oaks Bank, my wife Ashala, the Art Director, and I are admiring a portrait on the screen of the iPad. This process is empowering – the two decision-makers were able to review and approve the photos as I shot them. We knew before we left that every portrait was a success. Photo by Eric Johnson.

With the EyeFi card in the camera, and with the iPad “paired” to the card (you do this in the Settings menu under Wireless), the EyeFi browser will start receiving photos from the camera in a few seconds after you start shooting. Once it’s working, the delay between taking the photo and an image showing up on the iPad is about three seconds. This is adequately fast for me and my art director and assistant.

When shooting portraits, it’s a particularly valuable tool because the subject can see their image on the iPad almost instantly. I use a Tether Tools case on the iPad, and a Tether Tools light stand clamp on the back of the iPad when I am shooting portraits.

Rusty and Ashala with iPad

I promise – this photo was not posed. Rusty and Ashala are smiling at the results of one of our portraits during the photo session. Whatever it cost, it was worth the investment to put this package together!

In a recent portrait session, I had about a dozen subjects who filed in front of the camera on 15 minute intervals. The art director and marketing director stood to the side looking at the images as they appeared on the iPad. They were looking for a certain smile on each of the subjects’ faces, and I kept shooting until I heard them say, “Yes! We got it!” when we would invite the next subject in.

It took a while for me to integrate the iPad into my portrait sessions, but once I did, I declared it a success. Having the iPad as an instant proofer is simply magical. It gives me the freedom to shoot, knowing that the subject, the art director and the marketing director will all have given their approval of the portraits before anyone leaves the studio set-up.

Thumbnails on iPad

Here is the thumbnail view of some of the portraits we took that day. By tapping on any of them, a full-screen version pops-up on the screen, making the iPad the perfect photo proofing device.

For the most recent job I was shooting in a hallway at a bank in the northern part of our county. I set up there because it was immediately adjacent to the board room where the bank’s leaders were holding a meeting. They only had to walk about 20 feet to get to our temporary studio, and that made the process swift. I shot only as many photos as I needed to get the right smile on each person being photographed.

My photo assistant for the day exclaimed that the iPad was “magical.” I agree. It frees the me to shoot, while it empowers decision-makers to see the images and be completely confident that we have each shot before moving on.

And, the iPad is several diameters larger than the LCD screen on the back of my camera. It’s so much easier to admire a portrait on the iPad than it is to have two or three people hovering around the back of the camera, trying to see if a person is smiling nicely.

The EyeFi card costs about $100 from most camera stores, the accompanying app is free on the iTunes Store. I think it’s possible to shoot with a camera that has only one card slot, best done by writing both Raw and JPEG images simultaneously (if your camera allows this). If you instruct the EyeFi card to send only the JPEG, then the files will be sent quickly enough to be practical. The Raw files are untouched, and can be processed after the shoot in the normal manner.

The EyeFi people suggest that you can also download video from a video camera that uses an SD card for its storage. I have not tried this, but I worry that it’s pretty slow. Judging from my experiments, the time needed to send multi-gigabyte files from the EyeFi card to any receiving device might be prohibitively slow, but I will leave that to those who want to try this.

As for me, I am extremely happy with the magical EyeFi card and its companion iPad app. The combination is a must-have accessory for any photographer who uses digital photography in a studio or field setting where the art director is able to participate in the assignment. This combination of tools is invaluable in situations where the photographer is up on a ladder, and the art director is on the ground organizing people into a photogenic grouping.

EyeFi changes everything!

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is a Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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4 Responses to EyeFi changes everything!

  1. Brian – thank you so much for your blog post! Absolutely wonderful job!

  2. Trevor Schroeder says:

    This is great! Thank you for posting.

    Is it possible to flag or rate the photos on the EyeFi app on the fly?

    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hi Trevor!

      Unfortunately, it is not possible. That would be a great addition. I was using it this morning on a portrait project, and we were at least able to record the photo numbers as they arrived on the iPad. With those it is possible to identify favorites in Adobe Bridge later.

      • Han says:

        I use Adobe Bridge and set the folder to the folder where eye-fi puts the files. With a macro recorder I made a macro that pushes the down button and waits for a second. This macro runs over and over until I hit ESC. While running this macro, Bridge always shows the last picture in the preview window. I can rate pictures and load them directly into photoshop.

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