Getting started in iOS (iPadOS) : confused about file locations

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    TN Args


    I am a keen amateur photographer. I am trying to make a fresh start and handle all my photos on iPad. But the learning process is getting me confused.

    What I want to do is load my photos directly into a folder of my choice on iPad with Files App, so I made a folder MyPhotos/2020/09, and obviously future monthly folders will be made. With a card reader I copied my SD camera card photos to that folder.

    Now I want to access them in that folder with Photos App (which will be my photo manager) and edit them from there with RawPower, and hopefully my RP edits will be visible in Photos. I also have Affinity Photo and plan to use it for occasional layer-type editing, and save those edits into the above folders. (And as the iPad fills up I want to move entire folders to external drive and see them there with Photos App and the other apps.)

    Well, that’s the dream, but maybe I need a rude awakening?

    Because all Photos wants to do is import the photos straight from the camera card and save them goodness-knows-where — I can’t find them with Files App? Anyone know how to locate them with Files? And when I use RawPower to open photos from Photos, it works OK, but then I see there is a folder created called RawPower/Originals, which looks to have copies of my photos.

    So it already looks like I have 3 copies of my photos: the ones I copied manually from camera card to a monthly folder I created, plus the unfindable folder where Photos App is keeping the files it works with, plus one made by RawPower with a copy of ‘Originals’.

    Seriously?? Surely it doesn’t have to be like this. Triplicating photos is only okay if you are an occasional casual photographer. My drive space will fill up in no time. Also I have no idea where my edited photos are kept and how to manage them when I eventually need to move them to external drive.

    Any idea how a serious amateur photographer can take control of where his photos are on iPad, and manage, curate and edit them, without apps whisking them all away to secret places and making duplicates? I seem to have started the wrong way, or with the wrong mental idea of how to do it. Happy to learn, but not happy to have everything wildly out of control, and me clueless about what to do when the iPad starts to fill up and I need to move photos to external drive and still have iPad apps ‘see’ them and work.


    Nik Bhatt


    Your dream is reasonable. However, any time you use a “library” or “shoebox” style of app, especially on iOS, it’s going to copy the files into its container. So that’s why Photos does that (as well as Lightroom). It wants to make sure the files are always available and there are other technical reasons why it greatly simplifies the implementation (and therefore the reliability). Managing a single file here or there externally is not a problem – it’s the hierarchies and such that get a little crazy.

    RAW Power currently copies the files as well. That is a temporary limitation that I plan to lift in a future release, where files can either be copied (which is essential for SD cards when they aren’t copied ahead of time by the user) and referenced in place (as you would like). I’d also like to support folders and such things, but that also creates a set of headaches that the current implementation side steps. In general, referenced file implementations are notoriously difficult to get right and the feature set that people want makes it a considerable investment in time.

    For example, you mentioned wanting to move the files to another drive and have everything be visible. When files move to different drives (and different folder structures), apps then need features to smartly reconnect them. If you ever saw the reconnect interface in Aperture, it is a real bear. Lightroom on the desktop sort of throws up its hands at that case. Reconnecting also requires moving / renaming / synching the sidecar and database files which is hard to get right. None of the features by itself are intractable, it’s the combination that takes time (and the error cases – when moving files around, one has to handle file name collisions which mess up the connection to sidecars etc.)

    There certainly may be apps already available that do what you want, though I’m not aware of them. If you want to use RAW Power for this, then I do plan to get there, sooner rather than later.

    TN Args

    OK thanks for your thought-provoking reply, Nick. Nice to hear it explained from someone who knows the ins and outs and whys. (Although, when I used LR on desktop, the photos themselves were not copied into the catalog/container file — although I suppose you are talking about LR iOS, which I never looked into.)

    What would your advice be for me, given the intentions I have outlined? Forget the dream for the moment. What approach to take that is iPad based, today, where I have a raw processor (RP!), a photo manager (Photos?), and a way forward when the iPad fills up? With the minimum of dupli-triplication other than what is unavoidable. I need to get started, but I clearly have started the wrong way. I don’t want to go too far down the wrong path.

    I’m not fixated on the folder structure I outlined. Anything will do, even one big folder. (I always remember the time management expert in the late 90s, telling us all to Please Stop Making a Million Folders In Outlook and Sorting All Our Emails Into Them. Just leave them in the inbox and rely on the good search tools to find what you want. I’m cool with that. And I see Photos as analogous.) I just got really nervous when I realised Photos App doesn’t show photos I have separately loaded onto iPad — I can’t even see how to import from an iPad directory of my choice into Photos App — and I couldn’t find the Photos library in Files App, so where are my raw files if I want to move them? Then I saw the RP copy of Originals, and realised I am out of my beginner-status depth.

    Would your advice be something like this: Don’t copy the camera card photos direct to my chosen directories. Instead, use Photos App to import them, then select photos in Photos App and open RP to process as per the RP manual. Anything I want to work with in Affinity or other apps, open from within Photos App. (This much I kind of already gathered from reading your article on Photos and JPEGs and raw files. If I do this, it seems to mean my original raw files will be in Photos library, not duplicates, but a full set of duplicates will be in RP’s Originals folder — correct?). I don’t mind that method, except, what do I do when the iPad fills up, and I need to move the photos to external storage and release a huge amount of space on my iPad for the next half-year-or-so of photography?

    Or am I wrong and you have a better suggestion, please?


    Erik Brammer

    Hi there!

    Maybe I don’t manage to consider all of your iPad workflow requirements, but given the storage limitations on most iPad models, you may need to consider storing all of your image assets in iCloud Photo Library. RAW Power 3.0 can access it and also store all the adjustment data there. So you have everything in one place. You would want to subscribe to a 200 GB or 2 TB storage plan (I chose the latter – to cover the whole family at the same time), and latest when your iPad runs out of storage space, you would need to set iCloud Photo Library to optimize storage. As soon as you select images in Photos or you access them straight from RAW Power 3.0, the full res images will download from iCloud.

    The one thing that would concern me is that all of your image data now exclusively resides in iCloud. I have an iMac alongside the iPad which I use to keep an archive of all raw files plus edited jpgs, besides having it setup to keep all original full size images in parallel to iCloud Photo Library. Plus of course a whole host of backups of everything.

    Maybe you could overcome this issue when using an iPad only by exporting jpgs and raws (haven’t tried the latter) from the iCould Photos Library through the RAW Power export function first into the iPads file system and copy them from there over to an external storage device attached to the iPad. Then delete the local copies from the iPads file system to free up space. For my personal liking, this workflow is too cumbersome.

    Another aspect to consider: I find it very hard to use the iPad to produce predictable outcome for printing images, even when setting the screen brightness to a lower level. The iMac with a its display calibrated to 100 cd/m² and properly profiled is much better at that task. It would be even better if RAW Power were to support soft proofing based on output profiles for your targeted output device and output substrate. I filed a feature request for this a while ago.

    Hope this helps.

    Best regards,

    Nik Bhatt

    Sorry TN – I didn’t see your response until Erik’s appeared.

    While you are right that LR doesn’t copy the files, they maintain a database and only images that are imported are visible. That’s why they have issues when the original images move around.

    You have a few choices:
    • You could import everything into the Files’ side of your iPad. Since you have a lot of photos, I would not do that since RAW Power doesn’t support hierarchies yet.

    • You can import into Photos – you then get access to iCloud Photo Library if you want it. But it sounds like you don’t care for storing things in the cloud (it helps when your iPad is running out of space, but Apple provides very limited control over what is on your device and what is in the cloud). Photos also provides some amount of organization, though it doesn’t let you create folders on iOS (it will show them, but you can’t make them on iOS). You didn’t mention if you have a Mac, which would affect the answer somewhat (given the presence of Photos for Mac [and RAW Power for Mac]).

    The Files side of RAW Power is immature – I was able to implement the minimum so that people had some options for working with images outside of Photos, but it needs to be bulked up considerably.

    I hope to have a way to move images between Files and Photos (carrying editing data) at some point, though I don’t know how well it will handle many thousands of images being moved around [in part because I haven’t started working on that feature].

    TN Args

    Thanks to Erik and Nick for the replies.

    Erik: my iPad Pro is 1 TB, so it has more storage than any cloud account I want to pay for. I will use the cloud for showcasing and portfolios, but not for total photo file keeping.

    Nick: my MacBook Pro died and I bought this new iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. I am aware that some simplifying is part of the deal, and that’s okay, hence I will give One Big Folder a try and see how it goes with the ‘smart’ tagging and catalogs/albums and search ability of Apple Photos, along with RP for raw editing and Affinity Photo for layer work. My big concern now is what do I do when the iPad fills up (and how to delay that point by not dupli-triplicating all my photos on the iPad any more than I have to.

    I admit that I listened to the talk about iPadOS having file management and external drive access, and made a big mistake thinking that meant more freedom for where my photos can reside and be available to apps, than seems to be the case, at least as of today.

    So I am learning the hard way, and I am in up to my neck now, so there’s no going back and I just want to make the best I can of the situation. I do need some help with advice from those more familiar with the limitations and abilities of the various apps, and I really appreciate the support I am getting.


    @ Erik
    To follow the advice of an tech undereducated and to promote this as a good solution is ignoramus

    The problem is that Apple is recycling the Photos for a decade or more, focusing on “features” only to sold them with bold letters. Apple is reluctant to rewrite the Photos general conception forcing own customers to look for alternative ways and making the things even more complicated.

    Erik Brammer

    Hi zeroID,

    not sure what you are trying to tell me. Can you please explain yourself?


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