I have found the Holy Grail of portrait and commercial photography!
Yes, I have done it, and it’s working and I am thrilled. The Holy Grail is a combination of tools, specifically an Apple iPad, an EyeFi Pro X2 SD card, and my Canon pro digital camera.
The simple-looking EyeFi card has both 8GB of camera memory, and a microscopically small WiFi network transmitter on board. The card writes photos to its own memory, and simultaneously transmits them to software on the iPad.
When I shoot the occasional group photo, or the occasional bankers-in-a-row photo, I usually have an Art Director with me, and we are often stumbling over each other trying to see the little LCD viewfinder on the back of my camera. In a shot last year in a bank in Santa Barbara, I was up on the ladder while the art director was “directing” from the ground, moving 19 people around in a crowded lobby so that everyone looked good.
I took a photo, then passed the camera down to the AD, then she would hand it back up to me, and I would shoot another one, and so on. It seemed to me that this could be done better.
I bought an app for my iPhone from OnOne Software that allows the control of my camera, and an on-screen image from the camera on the phone each time I shoot a photo. Though I like this software a lot, the problem is that I have to connect the camera to a MacBook Pro with a FireWire cable, then transmit the photo from the MacBook Pro to the iPhone. Awkward, but workable.
The Art Director confers with the subject of our portrait photo session using the iPad and EyeFi software.
Then I learned about the EyeFi card. It’s an SD-size memory card (8GB is the largest currently available) with a built-in WiFi transmitter. At about $90 I had nothing to lose, so I bought one. I watched a video on YouTube that explained how to do this with the EyeFi card and an intermediate “ad hoc” WiFi transceiver (a strange little gadget that I might carry in my camera bag). The transceiver receives photos from the EyeFi card in the camera, and then passes them to an awaiting device – in my case the iPad 2 – over a short-distance WiFi network it creates.
That was a flop. I never got the WiFi transceiver to work; it had settings that didn’t seem to correspond with the instructions, so I let it go (I may take it up again soon, as it might be able to extend the distance between the camera and the iPad considerably.
Making it work: before the iPad can receive images, it must be “paired” with the iPad. This is done in the EyeFi software, and it takes just a minute to do. Once the two are paired, the images from the camera begin to show up on the iPad.
EyeFi cards are made by a Mountain View, California company. They have made a name for themselves making the first camera memory card that includes a tiny WiFi 802.11 transceiver. It’s absolutely amazing that they figured out how to fit that transceiver into a card that is already packed with 8GB of memory. More amazing, it works!
So, I figured if I could get the EyeFi card to work on my pro camera, my Art Director could observe the photo shoot while holding the iPad, and give direction from a few feet (at least) away from my position.
This is the view from the iPad, with thumbnail images at the bottom of the screen. The photo is of Liz Summer, Relationship Manager for Heritage Oaks Bank in Paso Robles, California (used by permission).
The iPad’s gorgeous display would be much nicer for showing a client a portrait in progress.
I don’t know why it took me so long to get it working, but I tried, and failed, and tried again, and failed, and kept putting it off.
Once I got this working, I figured out a way to mount the iPad so that the portrait subject can see it during the photo shoot. This is a MonkeyPod flexible tripod hanging on a SuperClamp on one of the light stands.
While I was floundering and forestalling, the EyeFi Company made their product better, adding the ability for the card to speak directly to the iPad, and thus not requiring the “ad hoc” network device (which I could never get to work). That turned out to be the trick, and suddenly the system worked just fine.
This week I tried it again, and it’s better than I ever thought it would be. On Thursday I had a professional portrait assignment for a local bank. I invited the subject to sit for the portrait at my home. I set up for the photo, put the lighting in position, and then added the iPad, first taking the couple of minutes it takes to “pair” the EyeFi card and the iPad. Within a few seconds, the card was passing images to the iPad, and they were showing up there on the full-screen.
This is a view of the thumbnail images on the iPad screen. With these, the subject can get a sense of how things are working, while in the middle of the shoot.
My camera allows me to put both an SD card and a CF card in the camera simultaneously. They can be mirrored, chained, or written exclusively. For this EyeFi experiment to work, I put the SD card in, and set it to mirror the images I take. The CF card is set to record in Camera Raw; the EyeFi card is set to record in JPEG. This speeds the process, as my Raw files are between 15 and 30 MB each, and it would take too long for these to be copied over WiFi to the iPad. The JPEG images are modestly sized, and get there in a few seconds.
(I have not tried to use the EyeFi card by itself in a camera shooting Raw, but I will soon, and I will write about it then.)
The photo shoot went delightfully well. My Art Director worked with the subject, posing, and showing her the images as they showed up on the iPad. I shot the photos, and paid attention to the camera. The images are nice, the customer is happy, and the system now works.
I will be carrying the iPad from now on, using it as a wireless proofing viewer on my professional photo shoots.
I have found the Holy Grail of photography tools.