Jeremy’s Mobile photo-lab

This is a collection of devices, accessories and apps that I researched and slapped together to aid me in editing, viewing and manipulating photographs in the field. It’s also useful for showing clients or other people photographs you just took.

Whether you just want to know what the best photo apps are, or cobble together a complete mobile photo-lab of your own, you’ll find the information below interesting and useful.

It’s going to be incredibly fun and geeky for me to tell you all this. I love gadgets and cobbling together home-brew set-ups. Don’t worry, this isn’t any crazy soldering or programming. You’ll love it!

Is all this going to be overkill or unnecessary?

Maybe. It is adding some bulk and weight to carry around and it’s not exactly super-easy to pull out of a hat and put away in the blink of an eye. You may find it inconvenient or not really aiding you for your needs and desires for many reasons. Maybe you’re hiking or your current equipment already does everything you need. But, at the very least, I think you will find the following equipment and apps very interesting.

My Tablet

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4″

(Check prices for Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4)

For a long time I owned a Google Nexus 7 and loved it. However, it was an early generation model and just couldn’t keep up with the latest Android Operating System updates. It just became too old.

This Samsung Galaxy also runs on Android, is amazing, and its screen display is very highly rated. I don’t just mean the resolution either. The display is highly rated for DPI(Dots Per Inch), a range of color, black-level, LUX and other technical hoo-ha’s I know little about.

You might think that 8 inches is still a small display, but you really can see a lot more on it. A lot! And it maintains a smaller form-factor. It’s easily held in one hand so you can use a stylus or your fingers to control the screen.

I own the cheaper 16GB model, because it has a microSD slot for expanded storage and I have a cool little setup I used with my Nexus 7 to add quick plug-n-play external storage and other devices, you’ll see below!

Case with Mini Keyboard

  • Fintie Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Smart Shell Case Cover for Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Tablet

(Check price for Fintie case at Walmart.com)

Why this case + keyboard? I think it’s special because of the key-layout, how the tablet fits into the case and the magnetic keyboard that keeps it stuck in the case.

I’ve looked high and low for mini keyboards – without cases. I initially figured I’d have to buy each item separately. The problem I had was every mini keyboard had a drastically altered key layout, different from a typical full-sized keyboard. Some came close, but were also really expensive.

Then I happened to be in a Walmart one day and BAM! There it was. Not only is the key-layout almost exactly like a full-sized keyboard, but it came with a case – and a nice case. The case opens and closes with a magnetic clasp and you slip elastic bands over each corner of the tablet to hold it in place. The case also easily folds back to act as a handy stand.

There are lots of cases and keyboards out there and I didn’t look at every last one, but with all I’ve included that it does and all for just over 20 bucks, it’s a winner.

My only gripe is that it doesn’t quite reach for the stars with the key-layout. Some of the keys are still tied to a new “function” key in the lower-left side that requires you hold it down while pressing other keys to get additional keys that are normally present on a full-size board. Even this doesn’t bother me too much except for one annoyance. A couple punctuation marks are tied to this function key. So when I’m feverishly typing away on the tablet, I constantly keep getting slowed down to a grinding halt when I need to insert a comma, quotation mark or apostrophe. The apostrophe being the worse, I think. Tablets and most writing apps are pretty handy with guessing some things like periods, but apostrophe’s are the worst and never get caught.

USB On The Go

  • USB-OTG

(Check prices for USB-OTG’s on Amazon)

A USB-OTG is a device – little more than a cable, that was ideal for older generation tablets that only had a mini-USB power plug and no other ports of any kind. It’s still useful (and fun) for newer tablets to provide multi-device functionality and added external storage(like having an external hard drive or even a wireless mouse!).

What it does is(with the help of an app – listed below) takes a tablet that has no ports or plugs, other than the power plug and no SD card reader, and gives it a USB port for plugging USB devices into it – like an SD card reader. This is what I started with for my Nexus 7 which was stuck with having only internal storage, but read on because I didn’t stop here.

They are also very cheap!

USB Expansion Hub

  • USB Expansion Hub

(Check prices for USB Expansion Hubs on Amazon)

The USB-OTG provided me with a USB port, but I wanted to be able to use a mouse and maybe other devices I might discover in the future. In order to do this, I needed more USB ports, solved by getting a USB Expander .

They come in all shapes and sizes and provides different numbers extended USB ports. I purchased one that has 4 USB ports on it.

Multi-card Reader

  • Multi-card Reader

(Check prices for Multi-card Readers on Amazon)

Now I have 4 USB ports to play with, but I need something to use in them. The first thing I knew I wanted was to give myself a means to have a makeshift external hard drive. This was extremely useful on old Nexus 7 that had no extra ports or card slots on it. It is still very useful on my new Samsung tablet, because my tablet has a micro-SD card slot, but my camera uses a full-size SD card.

With a multi-card reader I don’t have to worry about this – I can just slip my SD card out of my camera and pop it right into the multi-card reader.

I also found a reader with slots for many card-types. It might be unnecessary and overkill, but it was still cheap and I figured “Why not?”

Mini Bluetooth Mouse

  • Mini Bluetooth Mouse

(Check prices for Mini Bluetooth Mouse – mice? mouses? meeses? on Amazon)

To use up a second USB port, I wanted to see if I could get a mouse working on my tablet. The very first mini-mouse I bought worked and it uses a tiny, separate USB module that just plugs right into a USB port

Apps, Apps, Apps!

I have 1 essential app, 2 powerful photo apps and 1 for-fun app to recommend towards my portable photo lab.

  • Nexus Media Importer

(Check price for Nexus Media Importer at Google Play Store)

This is your “control center”. This makes it possible for your USB-OTG to function for you as an external hard drive, but it also does more. It has a really intuitive interface for quickly transferring pictures, music, movies and other files to and from your SD card that’s connected-up to your USB-OTG.

  • Photo Mate R2

(Check price for Photo Mate R2 at Google Play Store)

This app! This app is amazing! This is one of those extremely few apps you can count on one hand that makes you think “How is such a powerful app even available for mobile devices?”

Think of Photo Mate R2 as a full-featured, very powerful “Lightroom” for your tablet. The biggest thing this app does that most all other photo apps do not is support raw, full decoding of images in almost any camera type you can think of.

You can look at a more detailed list of all compatible camera types. (Click here)

This app also has powerful full-featured, professional tools for vibrance, lens-correction, clarity, sharpening, curves, noise reduction and more. You get powerful layering tools and brushes for pin-point accuracy while editing.

You get a whole host of organizational feature too! Set up exporting schemes, batch exports, single import/exports and social-media sharing. I’m not sure I can express how awesome I think this app is. It’s like squishing Lightroom into my tablet.

But wait! There’s more!

If all that wasn’t incredibly awesome enough – hold on to your seats, you can calibrate your display within the app! Yes! You can change your display within the app to get a truer-to-print display for more accurate photo display and editing!

It’s so awesome that I’m putting Photo Mate’s video here to give you a look at this app.

DISCLAIMER: Adobe has Lightroom and Photoshop apps. I will update this once I’ve fully explored them, but if you don’t have an Adobe subscription – then most definitely, get Photo Mate R2! And, while I haven’t seen Adobe’s apps up close yet, between Photo Mate R2 and PicsArt Photo Studio(below), I do know first-hand they are extremely powerful and work great.

  • PicsArt Photo Studio

(Get PicsArt Photo Studio Free at Google Play Store)

Since I just finished describing an app as being like Lightroom, can you guess how I’m going to describe this next app? If you thought “Photoshop”, you are right.

PicsArt Photo Studio may be a bit confusing switching in and out of different modes, but for all its shortcomings, it’s still a pretty darn complete and deep editor with tools in the vein of Photoshop or Paint.net.

Let’s face it, Editing on a Tablet isn’t the most ideal main choice or a replacement for editing photos, but in a pinch you can do a LOT! (and if I had to be without a PC for some reason, this app and my whole mobile lab setup still will work as a very effective editing studio) Especially if your out in the field, on a trip or you need to show some kind of half-decent proofs while at a remote location.

  • SnapSeed

(Get SnapSeed Free at Google Play Store)

Last on my list of apps is my just-for-fun SnapSeed. I call it my fun-with-filters app. It’s quick, easy, painless and even though it’s mostly just for applying some very quick pre-set filter options, it still has a bit of level-control on the filters.

Conclusion

Nothing ever seems perfect, no matter how much technology is supposedly there to ease our life.

I use an Android based Tablet. But even then, some or all of the apps and equipment I listed above may not work properly on your device. Please be careful. I am not responsible if you go out and buy all this stuff and can’t get it to work.

Just be careful, research your type of tablet, ask others questions and you’ll do fine.

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