I have GBs of photos, can I switch to all iOS and ditch the Mac?

I’m a long time mac user (1984) and except for a brief stint with Lightroom when iPhoto didn’t support RAW, I’ve been pumping images into my Mac to edit, curate etc. There’s about 70 GB. My Mac is a 2012 Air and doesn’t upgrade anymore so I am thinking about replacing it with an iPad and taking the Mac out of the “workflow”. I enjoy editing photos on my iPhone (mostly cropping and some exposure stuff), but I’d prefer a larger screen for more extensive editing.

I presume this would mean flipping the switch to use iCloud photos (and bumping up to the next storage tier of $2.99/mo/200 GB)

I have moved music, docs and everything else to the cloud. But have hesitated with photos.

Does this sound feasible? Any tips or warnings?


I considered…for what for me was a pretty long time…doing that but found that after analysis it wasn’t a good idea when I considered it. We used to live in an RV full time and hence had limited internet both speed wise and bandwidth wise…so that was the first nonstarter for me. Second…I have an Adobe Photography plan subscription which gives me full Lightroom and Photoshop on the Mac as well as the ability to use the Lightroom Cloud version. What I found out after taking a look at the cloud version is that it is way less sophisticated than the real Lightroom is in addition to the fact that you need fast, basically unlimited ethernet to use it as iPad storage is limited.

If you are happy with what Photos on the Mac does as far as post processing goes then perhaps the limited cloud version of Lightroom would be sufficient…but for anything serious amateur and up I believe it is too limiting. There is limited (perhaps none) ability to use plugins, passing images off to side apps like Luminar, HDR apps, or ON1 is harder and the results are not directly integrated back into Lightroom.

We moved back into a sticks and bricks house in January and no longer live full time in the RV…so the speed/bandwidth issue went away for me…but even after reconsidering the online version it is still way too limiting.

I’m still using my 2015 rMBP at this point… but most of it’s keys have no letters on them any longer and it’s getting pretty long in the tooth so it’s up for replacement before we start the international travels portion of our retirement after the corona crisis is past. I will either get the new 16 inch MBP or the fully loaded 2020 MBA…each has their advantages. The MBP is obviously way faster than my old MBP…but it’s also heavier and more to travel around with and my laptop and cameras will rarely (if ever) not be on my person as we travel about the world so lighter is always better, particularly as I’ll have my Nikon DSLR, probably 3 lenses total but perhaps only 2 for some trips and perhaps 4 for others depending on whether I need the super telephoto for wildlife, power supplies for everything, a couple of portable drives to back up photos on, iPads and iPhones, etc. Looking at the new MBA…a maxed out i7 one will be about the same performance as my old rMBP…and I can live with that to save the weight I believe. There’s also the 1500 or so bucks I’ll save with the MBA but that’s a lower priority than weight and performance to me. Anyway…now that I’m back in a house with more space I can always keep the LR catalog and photos on an external drive and plug it into the iMac 27 I bought for the office when I’m here…and if I get super lazy I can run LR on the iMac via Screens from the laptop on the lanai.

Long story short…the iPad only would be acceptable only if you plan on always having fast/unlimited internet and if you’re satisfied with the limited capabilities of the cloud version of LR and Photoshop in then iPad.

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I ditched my Mac for IOS a long time ago, I find editing photos on an iPad to be effortless and easy with the latest version of Photos (Lightroom works great on the iPad BTW). I don’t shoot much in RAW however. I would upgrade to an iPad with as much internal storage as you can get so you can keep your whole photo library on there, downloading everything from the cloud can get a little annoying at home and super annoying when your on the road with questionable wifi access. I edit photos on an oldish iPad Air2, looking to get an iPad Pro in the near future but I can’t decide if I should get the new one or the older one.

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The iPad version of Affinity Photo is not limited. It can do virtually anything the desktop version can do, which appears to be almost anything the desktop version of Photoshop can do.

I have not really looked into photo DAMs for iPad. (On the Mac, I am in the process of migrating from Aperture to Capture One. Capture One does not have an iPad version, unfortunately.)

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Do you really need all your photos in the same place 24/7? I’ve found it has worked very well for me to offload a significant portion to my backups on hard drives. I do have an iCloud account so I access some photos I want to always have handy, along with recent photos from my iPhone and iPad.

Could be…I looked at awhile back and it was under capable compared to Photoshop…not that I’m really taxing the capabilities and in truth it would be probably fine…but the cloud only version of LR is really crippled IMO. It’s better with each revision from what I read but is still a long way from the full version. The real kickers for me were the bandwidth issue and the “I have almost a terabyte of RAW photos” issue. Obviously your mileage varies but unless I got the large iPad Pro with 1 TB storage and the pencil I would be able to do less than on my a Mac.

Don’t ever trust an on-line/cloud service, not even Apple, with your only copy of valuable data.

If you want to upload it all for easy sharing, go for it, but don’t trash your local copies. If you don’t want to keep it all on your Mac’s internal volume, then go buy a USB hard drive or SSD and copy the libraries there. This way, if those cloud services should go away in the future, whether due to a service being discontinued or some catastrophic mistake, it will only be an inconvenience instead of a disaster.


Hi Mitch. There are so many capable editing programs for iOS now…Affinity, Photoshop (new but will be upgraded going forward) Lightroom, which has very good capabilities, and I‘m know there others that are recommended by photographers. Incidentally, On1 will be releasing an iOS version soon I‘m told. As to storage, HD and SSDs can now connect easily to my iPad Pro 11in. If you don‘t mind editing on your iPhone, you‘ll love(!) iPad editing. IMHO

Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. Sounds like iCloud photos is the way to make the transition.

Good point about the backups. I’ll keep the MBA around which is backed up with Carbonite. And presuming all the iCloud photos are also on the MBA it should give me a level of protection.

It is interesting to think that in a totally cloud based world, the service provider will become totally responsible for not loosing your stuff.

Absolutely true. But also true is the fact that unless you have a signed contract making the cloud provider legally liable for losses (a contract that you’ll probably have to pay a lot for), then they will not be responsible if your stuff gets lost.

Fortunately, USB-based storage is really cheap these days, so it’s not usually a big deal to keep your own local backups in addition to whatever cloud based solution you choose to use.