iPad Photography Magazine Roundup

Remember magazines? Those things made out of paper that photographers used to read all the time, before the internet came around and threw a wrench into traditional publishing?

Well, contrary to what you might think, they haven’t gone away. Barnes and Noble still sells them, you can still subscribe to them, and they can still be found at some corner newsstands.

The newsstands of today, however, are tablet devices like the iPad, and while it’s taken some publishers a while (others are still catching on), we are seeing the old dead-tree rags evolve and step things up a bit.

A number of photography-related magazines have started creating digital versions of their publications specifically for tablet devices, and in this article, we list our favorites for the iPad.

Light It magazine, by Kelby Media
Light It magazine, by Kelby Media

Light It

Light It is a recent entry to the magazine field, and it comes to us from the folks at Kelby Media, who also run NAPP and its publication, Photoshop User magazine. As the name suggests, this is a magazine that’s all about photographic lighting – from small flash to big constant lights, Light It covers it all.

This has to be my personal favorite of the lot, and with good reason. The magazine is full of great content, and doesn’t try to be fancy about its presentation. You flip through it like a normal magazine, left-to-right, and there are just enough interactive elements in the app to remind you that you’re not just reading a PDF.

There are embedded videos with some of the articles, a thumbnail view of all the pages in each issue, bookmarking and note-taking options, and an interactive table of contents that lets you jump to a specific article. I personally like the fact that you can double-click any image to see it full-screen.

One thing I wish it had? A quick “back” button to let you jump back to the table of contents quickly.

Mike Yamashita's National Geographic work featured in Photographer's i
Mike Yamashita's National Geographic work featured in Photographer's i

Photographer’s i

I’ll be honest – I don’t like the name. It’s a play on words, and I get that, but I don’t like the name. I do, however, love the magazine.

Photographer’s i is a new magazine focused more on the creative aspects of photography than anything else. Since its inception, luminaries such as Steve Simon, Gregory Heisler, Steve McCurry, and Jay Maisel have been featured in in-depth reviews and articles – and that’s just in the first two issues.

The app does have a lot of rough edges. There are a number of icons telling you what to do but they aren’t terribly intuitive, which sometimes leaves you tapping, swiping, and general pounding on your screen in annoyance.

But those rough edges are entirely forgiven because they’re in pursuit of an admirable goal – to show great photography and tell you the stories behind the images and the makers that created them. The magazine – issue 2 of which is a whopping 500+MB (closer to 700MB, I believe), is packed with videos, audio commentary on photos, and images. Lots and lots of images.

This bi-monthly mag should be on every photographer’s must-read list, no question about it.

PDN's Navigator View
PDN's Navigator View


PDN used to use the PressReader app for their digital edition, but have since switched to a self-branded app built on the Texterity platform. The difference is night-and-day; pages and issues load much faster and the app lets you start reading an issue while the rest of it downloads in the background.

The full print edition is represented here, and the Texterity platform enables some very useful features. You can share pages via Facebook, Twitter or email, look at a top-down “Navigator” view of all the pages, and switch to a simplified view of the page you’re on that presents the text and images in that article in a single column with large type.

PDN is very much an industry rag, though, so if you’re looking for beginner-level content, this isn’t it. For those in the industry, or those looking for a good view into the the photo industry, however, PDN is an excellent read.

Popular Photography on the iPad
Popular Photography on the iPad

Popular Photography

PopPhoto is the venerable granddaddy of photo magazines, having published its first issue back in 1937. Today, it’s still around in print form, has a great website that feeds my RSS reader constantly, and has an iPad app as well.

While it sometimes leans towards overdoing things in its efforts to adapt a physical magazine to a tablet layout, PopPhoto deserves credit for trying. This is definitely not a PDF of the print version; the iPad version is custom-designed and pretty interactive.

Text floats on a layer above images, and vanishes with a double-click, letting you see the image full-screen. Rotating the iPad to landscape mode reveals landscape-oriented photos in full (the left edge is cut off when holding the iPad in portrait mode), and there’s a nice visual table of contents with hotlinks to the various articles and sections.

I do wish the folks at PopPhoto would do more video content, however; this format begs for that.

American Photo magazine on the iPad
American Photo magazine on the iPad

American Photo

American Photo appears to use the same publishing platform as its sister magazine, PopPhoto. The apps are amazingly similar, though American Photo tries to go for a more traditional layout than its sibling. You still double-tap to reveal the images below the text, but now there’s an opaque layer hiding the full-sized images until you double-tap the screen.

This leads to some confusion with navigation, and will leave you swiping the screen somewhat futilely at times, until suddenly, the screen changes and text either snaps into or out of view. The designers need to do a better job than they have, and frankly, Light It magazine’s model for this is far superior. Still, they’re trying, and I give them props for that.

It’s the content that makes American Photo so good – they often bring you stuff that the other rags like PopPhoto and Shutterbug ignore. Lately, they haven’t been afraid to delve into photo illustration, either, something that purists might not like very much, but I see as an encouraging sign.

BJP makes a well-designed entrance on the iPad
BJP makes a well-designed entrance on the iPad

British Journal of Photography

If PopPhoto is the venerable granddaddy of photo mags, then BJP (British Journal of Photography) is like the ancient wise one in the game. In business since 1854, BJP has made a pretty polished jump to the iPad.

Though it appears to employ the same software as PopPhoto and American Photo, it doesn’t fall prey to all the stumbling blocks of the others. The few stumbling blocks that there are – captions for some photos are hidden behind a double-tap  and a swipe, for example – are minor, and easy to overlook in favor of the meat of this mag.

Where BJP crushes it is content. Like Photographers i, it’s chock-full of awesome, and there’s plenty of multimedia content that takes advantage of the great delivery device that is the iPad. Their focus is on the creative aspects of photography as well, and BJP does a really good job of paying attention to new trends without ignoring pieces on photographic history and heritage.

The Autumn 2011 issue was released as a free download, and subsequent issues are sold for a pricey $10, but I think it’s worth it. Subscribing gets you each issue for about $7.

The Others

There are other magazines available on the iPad through the Zinio reader, or via PDF downloads, like Lenswork. I chose to focus on magazines with iPad app versions that offer more than a scanned PDF would, which is why they weren’t mentioned. Some, like American Photo and PopPhoto, have both, a Zinio version and an iPad app version as well, so if you like, you can go for the Zinio version instead.

The bottom line here is that the iPad provides a great delivery system for content, and magazines are sitting up and taking notice. Photography magazines, in particular, benefit from this new platform, and as photographers, we, in turn, benefit from that.

Since a lot of these apps have free downloads available to give you a taste of what to expect, head over to the App Store and give them a whirl. Who knows? Your Newsstand might just get as packed as mine.

3 thoughts on “iPad Photography Magazine Roundup”

  1. Sohail–interesting article-thanks for writing it. I will look for a way to read these mags on my Android tablet (no iPad yet).

    Fred, TWIP is only listenable when you are hosting. Demand a raise. ;>)

  2.  It’s too back that more of these are not available on the Android platform. I don’t have an iPad and don’t plan to get one. I like my Android too much.