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Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

Back in the film era, before starting a portrait session legendary photographer Leon Kennamer would make a Polaroid test shot of his subject, with the lighting exactly how he wanted. Then he would hand the Polaroid to the subject asking, “how do you like your hair?” His reasoning was that if they didn’t like their hair, they wouldn’t like the portrait and as he often said, “I just did the portrait, I didn’t do your hair.” The use of LCD screens on digital SLRs has made the Polaroid test shot obsolete – or has it? On important corporate shoots, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Barry Staver uses his iPad2 like a Polaroid. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s what you need:

An Apple iPad or iPad2

The iPad Camera Connection Kit gives you two adapters that let import photos from a digital camera: using your camera’s USB cable or directly from an SD card. ($29)
Cable (supplied with your camera) to connect it to USB. This is needed if your camera doesn’t use SD cards.

If you already have an iPad and a digital SLR all you need is the Camera Connection Kit. So spend $29 and you’re ready to make iPad Polaroids.

Step 1: Make a few test shots.
Step 2: Connect the camera cable to the SLR body via its mini USM port. Then plug the standard USB end into the Camera Connection kit USB adapter (the other adapter has an SD card slot) connecting it to the iPad.
Step 3: Place camera in Playback mode.
Step 4: The iPad will automatically launch the Photos app, display thumbnails, and let you Import the images by clicking the “Import All” button.

If your camera uses SD cards, you don’t need the cable. Instead plug the SD card adapter into the iPad, insert the SD card, and “Bob’s your Uncle”.

At that point images will be available by clicking the Album button across the top of the screen. The images can be viewed using the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen and no matter how big your digital camera’s LCD might be, it isn’t THAT big. The image quality on the iPad is hard to beat. So now you not only get to see how good (or bad) your lighting is, but you too can say ““how do you like your hair?” Believe it or not, that will have a big impact on your client’s happiness and a happy client spends more money.

Joe Farace and Barry Staver are co-authors of “Better Available Light Digital Photography” (Focal Press) that’s available on


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  1. […] USB adapter (the other adapter has an SD card slot) connecting it to the iPad .Read the article: Using the iPad for “Polaroid” Test Shots « PhotofocusRelated posts:Apple has a solution for the iPad's missing SD card slot and USB …This […]

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