PhotoScope: Aperture On Your iPad

Disclaimer: I have not downloaded or run PhotoScope. What follows are my thoughts on the app based on the AppStore description and the PhotoScope website.


A long-standing gap with Aperture (and iPhoto for that matter) is doing meaningful work on your library using an iDevice. PhotoScope takes a small step in the right direction. In its own words:

"PhotoScope lets you browse your whole Aperture or iPhoto library from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch over WiFi."

I took a look at PhotoScope the last couple of days to see how it might fit into my workflow, and to think about how it might be used by others. I'm an Aperture user, and that will skew my thinking with respect to PhotoScope. I suspect most, if not all, of what's below applies to iPhoto as well. But if it doesn't ... hey, I said I was an Aperture-head.


PhotoScope is a pair of applications.

  1. A helper AppleScript (a server, really) that runs on your Mac where your Aperture/iPhoto library lives.
  2. The PhotoScope App runs on your iDevice.

Both the Mac and the iDevice must be on the same WiFi network. The Mac and the helper AppleScript must be running whenever you're using PhotoScope. The helper script takes care of launching Aperture or iPhoto as necessary.

It's also advisable to have previews generated for all photos in your library (or at least all those you're interested in viewing on a iDevice). I had a quick exchange with the author (a responsive and pleasant chap) and without previews, you may have display issues with some file types. And you may not see applied adjustments.

What You Can Do

I'm always looking to improve or streamline my workflow, and that's forefront in my mind when looking at new tools related to Aperture. PhotoScope is weak with respect to workflow operations. PhotoScope provides the ability to rate and flag photos in your Aperture library (not clear from the docs if the same is true for iPhoto). In my opinion, this is marginally valuable. In my workflow, rating is the very first step. And I almost always do this immediately after importing images from my camera. I'm already at the Mac importing photos, so rating typically happens at the Mac as well.

I see one potential use for PhotoScope if I want to rate photos with someone else. For example, rating photos with my wife after a family vacation. After importing the photos into Aperture, fire up PhotoScope, grab an iPad, curl up on the couch, and start rating. 

PhotoScope also supports sharing directly from your iDevice. From PhotoScope, you can share albums or selections to a variety of places. The usual suspects are present - Facebook, Twitter, email. And your entire library is accessible as compared to whatever you may have sync'd via iTunes or pulled in via iCloud. That's nice.

Arguably, I could do these same tasks with my MacBook. For full access to my entire library, I could enable the Remote Desktop on my main Mac and use a VNC viewer.

If you don't have a laptop, PhotoScope may be your answer. Also, an iPad or an iPhone is a more comfortable device to hold in a recliner or pass back around a group of people for viewing. A MacBook is clunkier in that regard.

What You Can't Do

Pretty much anything else. Other workflow simply isn't possible within PhotoScope. No keywording, locating, adjusting, creating new albums, etc. There's also no "offline" mode, so taking a portion of your library on the road with PhotoScope is not possible. Any rating, flagging or sending must happen while on the same WiFi network as your main Mac.

In PhotoScope's defense, it does not claim to be a workflow workhorse. It's billed as a way to browse your library from an iDevice. And it delivers on that promise.

It is unclear if PhotoScope supports concurrent access. Can multiple iDevices access the same photo library? Are multiple libraries supported? What protections does PhotoScope offer if multiple devices are rating and/or flagging the same photo?

The Net/Net (Scott's Opinion)

PhotoScope is a great start to an iDevice app for Aperture. If you are in need of just browsing and sharing from an iDevice, I'd say grab the app. After your photos have been pushed through your workflow, it's an interesting viewing and sharing experience. Some ideas that come to mind are family members reliving memories or the kids finding photos for school projects. All with the ease of an iDevice.

With respect to a photographic workflow, PhotoScope offers rating only. That's not compelling to me. Rating is a small segment of an overall photographic workflow, and PhotoScope won't unchain me from a living, breathing Mac. If you are in need of a full-fledged, on-the-go workflow solution, a MacBook and Aperture's Library Import/Export facilities are superior.

For now, I'll be staying with my MacBook. If I ever need access to my full library, I'll go the Remote Desktop route. If PhotoScope delivers a "lite," view only option (see the wish list), I'll probably buy it.


A PhotoScope wish list:

  • Keywording and Places: Adding keywording and location tagging would go a long way toward enabling more workflow from an iDevice.
  • Create Albums: PhotoScope allows creating albums on your iDevice, but not in your Aperture library. 
  • Filters: Filtering is mentioned in passing on the PhotoScope web site. It's unclear if that is rating only, or the full-featured filtering Aperture offers. 
  • "Offline" mode: Taking a segment of an Aperture library truly on-the-go, then sync'ing up when returning to the WiFi network.
  • View only mode: I mentioned the kids above. I don't want them messing up my Aperture library ratings. A browse only mode would solve that.
  • AirPlay: Use PhotoScope to display images to an AppleTV, for example. (Maybe this is general feature on iDevices.)

 If a future version adds more workflow capabilities, it becomes very interesting.