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I am an amateur photographer, and I recently bought an iPad that I want to use for photo editing. Many times, a big barrier to get to organize and edit my photos is my clunky workflow. I'd like to implement something like this:

  1. Photos are taken from the iPhone or the Camera.
  2. At the end of a shooting day, these photos are transferred to my main external drive, where my catalogue lives (currently Lightroom Classic, used to be Aperture Y_Y).
  3. At this stage, I want to use the software on my laptop to cull and organize photos. In particular, I want a software that has at minimum these two features: stacking photos (similar photos taken within a short time interval are stacked and one can choose the best pick), and rating.
  4. I rate my photos: 1–2★, stay on my external drive. I don't do anything with them, I keep them in my archive (I've got a Time Machine backup of this drive). 3+★ are worth editing.
  5. I transfer them to my iPad and edit them.
  6. I transfer them back to my external drive (I don't want any RAW files living in my iPad, and I want the external drive to be the only source of truth).
  7. After editing, 4+★ images get transferred to my iCloud storage in JPG form for further backup but also for accessing through all my devices. Those are the pictures I truly care about to look at and share.

So, my requirements are the following:

  1. The app I use to edit on the iPad should have an equivalent or compatible Mac version, because when I import back my edited files to my external hard drive, I want to do so non-destructively (I should be able to go back and adjust the edits).
  2. I strongly prefer applications with one-time payments, rather than subscriptions.
  3. It would be cool if for steps 3–5, I could use iPad or Mac interchangebly (so to be able to cull and rate on iPad, or editing on Mac).
  4. Ideally there would be a way to automate the cloud operations too: to only sync with the cloud 4–5★ pictures (perhaps through the use of smart collections, or something similar).

Any pointers on how could I achieve this? I'm not locked/married to any specific software, I don't have a budget limit (though, as mentioned, strongly prefer non-subscriptions), and am open to any sort of automation or more complex setup if it ends up achieving my goals.

Here is a rough diagram of what I want to achieve: Here is a rough diagram of what I want to achieve

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    As I get older, I increasingly believe there is no such thing as a good circular workflow, because circular a circular flow requires a pump. Your workflow is circular, and therefore has no end state, and no start state. There’s no clear idea where the pictures go and no clear idea when they are normally done. Thus there is only complexity and no simplicity. Is putting pictures back on your phone and camera really necessary as part of the primary process? Nov 4 at 22:35
  • Thanks for the answer. No, putting pictures back to the phone is not a necessary part of the process, so I'm open to solutions which fit my other requirements. Mainly I want a setup that has the main source of truth on my HDD, I can sync to the iPad temporarily for editing, then sync back to a catalogue which lives on my HDD but non-destructively. Preferably non-subscription, but not a hard requirement. Nov 5 at 2:43

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Not sure if this will help, I use NeoFinder as my cataloguing tool and Affinity Photo for post production. Most of my work ends up on flickr. Backups are stored locally processed work is archived to an NAS as well as an external drive. Both these apps have iPad versions of their software.

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  • Interesting! Could you elaborate on how does NeoFinder help you with this task? Nov 15 at 3:19
  • NeoFinder is an app that has a single purchase price and creates catalogue files that can be backed up separately it is designed for BIG repositories of files, in my case images. It is simple elegant and robust, I use it to keep track of my digital archive going back to the early 2000s. I am quickly and easily able to locate any image or file on any drive on my network the search features alone are worth the purchase price neofinder.de
    – s2art
    Nov 20 at 4:36
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As you have mentioned, you have the best software for this task (Lightroom Classic) - this software performs archiving and creating a database along with separate folders on the external hard drive, as well as creating a library of your images in the best way. With the ability to flag photos, assign stars to them, categorize them by sorting them based on shot date, Exif, etc. Almost everything you mentioned is a feature of Lightroom.

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