My friend Brian Matiash was kind enough to have me on his photography podcast to talk Siri Shortcuts:
When the topic of mobile photography is discussed, it’s almost always with reference to the cameras and sensors built into our phones. However, there is another side of this topic that is as interesting and can be quite impactful for photographers.
Brian is a great guy and I love talking Shortcuts with him because he gets just as excited, if not more so, than me. Especially when it comes to on-the-go photography and the capabilities of iPad, it’s never been a better time to build up a mobile photo workflow.
For users who’ve updated to the latest version of Adobe Lightroom for iOS, there is a special surprise waiting – a new dedicated Lightroom action for the Shortcuts app, Apple’s newest automation tool for building custom Siri Shortcuts.
This enables users to batch import photos to Lightroom, apply the built-in Presets, and otherwise act on your photos in the process of custom shortcuts in the Shortcuts app, opening up mobile photography to deeper automation potential.
Lightroom is the first native action from a third-party app added to Shortcuts since the days of Workflow, so hopefully this is a sign of more actions to come.
Some things to note:
RAW support is RAW-only, otherwise the RAW+JPG gets imported as a JPG
The action passes content through as output, so you can put Delete Photos right after and they’ll be removed from Photos too
Applying the Presets only takes advantage of the defaults, but hopefully this will change one day.
I’m super excited, because this was a big sticking point in The Verge’s review, and it’s hopefully the first of many Shortcuts actions.
Head over to my friend Shawn Blanc’s site for a good example shortcut – he selects photos and uses the Shortcuts action extension to add them, but what he doesn’t mention is this works great with drag & drop on iPad too.
The coffee shop below where I used to work, and where I first met the RelayFM team during RelayCon just weeks before I started at Workflow. (Source)
During week 29 of the year, I wrote one piece here and one for The Sweet Setup.
On Monday, I saw YouTuber Peter McKinnon1 tweeting about accidental screenshots and remembered my old workflow for cleaning them out of Photos, so I updated it for Shortcuts and shared it as the post “How to delete unplanned screenshots with Shortcuts”. I really enjoy the handiness of shortcuts like this that solve a small problem well, even though that’s only one of the many ways I use the app.
On Thursday, the first out of a batch of posts I wrote for The Sweet Setup was published – How to group smart accessories in the Home app – and the rest will be coming out across the next few Thursdays. I know a ton of quick tips around Apple devices beyond shortcuts too, so I’m sharing them there regularly as well here on my site (alongside tons more Shortcuts coverage too, that is).
As for the photo at the top of this post, I’m shooting an original photo each week to use as the header for these recaps. It’ll be an exercise in using my camera more and capturing random moments as stock-like photography, plus I want to push the overall visual quality of my blog.
Shortcuts tweets of the week
Trying something new this week – curating different tweets I’ve come across about Shortcuts, since seeing how other people use it will be most of the fun for me:
I had a great back & forth with Jason Snell and Federico on Twitter after reading a post from his site and realizing it could be done with Shortcuts. I’m in the process of writing up how it works, but he updated his post with our joint solution2:
Here’s a selection of good links I came across this week – I’m a bit behind on my normal reading so there’s a few tweets in here that got me thinking as well:
Instapaper is going independent: I’m super happy to see Instapaper break out of Pinterest and get a renewed life under the Instant Paper company4. Let’s hope it continues to get pushed forward – I’ll have to write up my ideas and share them with the team.
Pretty sure this is new (and not documented yet), but in iOS 12 Safari you can use ⌘1…9 to navigate to tabs with an external iPad keyboard. You can also do ⌘⌃1/2 to open Bookmarks and Reading List, respectively 👍
Farewell Serenity Caldwell, hello (again) Lory Gil!: Serenity Caldwell of iMore has made an awesome leap to Apple on the communications team. I’ll definitely miss hearing her on podcasts and wish I had more chances to work with her, but I’m positive Apple is better off with her on their team. I’m also super excited to work more with Lory Gil and keep up with the Shortcuts pieces I have been writing for iMore so far. Serenity was kind enough to give me a quick shoutout in her thread of goodbyes even though I’ve been with them for just a few months:
Using your iPad as a digital contact sheet: My friend Drew Coffman came up with a clever way to add back physicality to your photography process when you’re doing it on the iPad – take a screenshot of your recent import and use Markup to draw on it like a contact sheet.
I don’t know about you, but I’m all down for building shortcuts together in public with anyone who wants help. Tweeting out the progression of shortcuts along the way is also a great demonstration of the process I go through building many shortcuts – it takes some trial and error to get it right. ↩︎
Maybe you’re accidentally gripping the volume up button as you also press power to turn off your iPhone, or you’re pressing the Digital Crown and side button at the same time to pause an Apple Watch workout1 – either way, you probably don’t want most of the screenshots that are filling up your library.
With the Shortcuts app in the iOS 12 beta (or using Workflow if you’re not on the beta), you can set up a three-action script to get your latest screenshots, pick which ones to delete, and delete them all in one go.
Add the actions by searching in the action drawer or browsing through the Content Types categories, then dragging them into the following order:
Get Latest Screenshots
Choose From List
I’ve increased the number of screenshots to 30 so there’s a full screen to choose from, toggled Select All Initially, and set it up with a Siri command as well.
This shortcut is useful since you don’t have to sort out regular photos you want to keep, all the images are already selected by default so you only have to unselect the ones you want to save, and it will confirm the deletion in case you make a mistake.
If you use the Add To Siri function available in the shortcut’s settings, you can set up your own custom voice trigger and later ask Siri to “delete my screenshots” (for example) when you want to kick off this flow.
One thing to note: the shortcut won’t operate entirely in the Siri interface because it requires the menu UI and delete confirmation, so currently it’s expected behavior that using Siri will just open the app and run the shortcut.2
Additionally, you could switch up this shortcut for new purposes with a few tweaks – if you’re not using any of your screenshots anymore, just bump up the number further or run this a couple of times to clean them all out; or, maybe swap out the first two actions with Select Photos to pick from your entire library instead of choosing only from screenshots.
Apple assigns the trigger of pressing the buttons to both pause your Apple Watch workout and take a screenshot, so if you want to keep the screenshot function on you’ll have a library full of mid-workout screencaps. ↩
I hope this type of functionality can be displayed within Siri in the future so shortcuts can operate entirely without opening the app. Admittedly, however, that’d likely be a hard user interface to make look natural from within the Siri overlay. ↩
The iPad has been my main computing device since the Pro line came out. Being without it for a few weeks has really highlighted why I prefer the iPad, and in many cases, has shown me how I can do more than on any other device.
Without an iPad, the joy of using a device doesn’t exist to the same extent. I still have an iMac, but since I lost the iPad and have had to use the iMac full-time again, I’m starting to feel the desktop’s limitations.
I had some good conversation on Twitter and a bit of discussion on Reddit – the conversation was positive, with many people sharing how they also prefer to use an iPad as their main device.
I’m seeing this more and more – it makes sense to me 🙂
To start taking advantage of Copied’s deeper features, I turned to the URL scheme and set up three workflows to show my clipboard, open a list, and add a clipping with a custom title.
Plus I made one specific workflow for saving Highlights out of Instapaper, and my favorite out of the bunch saves tweets into Copied so I can reference them for later projects.
At the end, there was two more example workflows – one for searching Copied, and another for grabbing a specific clipping from a list.
I was also thankful when I saw Federico Viticci linked to my Copied piece in the Interesting Links section of the weekly newsletter that members of Club MacStories receive. If you have the means and are interested in more about workflows & other great ways to use iOS, I suggest paying for the subscription and reading through the archives (here’s a sample from November).
Since this is my first weekly recap, I also wanted to share something from the week prior: I was grateful to appear on Rene Ritchie’s podcast VECTOR for episode 125 to talk about Siri, Shortcuts, and Workflow, marking one of my debut appearances on a podcast.
We had a great conversation and talked about what some of the changes coming in iOS 12 mean for workflows, getting things done, and some ways I could see Shortcuts being useful for everyone.
Unfortunately I screwed up the audio recording on my end and my microphone input didn’t get properly saved, so we had to default to the Skype call for my end. It doesn’t sound great, but hopefully the conversation topic made it still worth the time for listeners.
During the conversation, I also talked about my Log Water workflow – add it to your library if you want to try it out and examine it. I got really excessive with the logic and honestly confused myself many times while setting up the different messages that differ depending on how close you are to the daily goal, but it’s a fun look at the ways you can take a simple version of an automation and beef it up to be more dynamic.
I really enjoyed recording the episode and it gave me a lot of energy – I’m going to try this more often.
That’s it for this week.
I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time on Twitter (thanks for the data, Screen Time!) so I’ll be spending less time this next week refreshing my feed and more writing. That being said, it’s still worth following me there because I’m sharing there often too.
If you’re interested in receiving my upcoming newsletter, here’s the sign up form.
I’ll be publishing these recaps on Saturdays (unlike this time on Sunday) to play along with the calendar weeks – mostly because it’ll make my date workflows easier. 🤖
Self-shaming myself with “only” because I want to be sharing here much more often. ↩
Even though I've had the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X, I haven't nearly taken advantage of the 2x zoom lenses on both. I default to using the wider iPhone's lens since that's what I've always had before, plus years of training against using digital zooms makes it feel unnatural to zoom in with a phone.
Instead, I've been trying to switch to the 2x camera lens right away each time so I could get better use of it and see if there were any places I hadn't realized it would be helpful beyond Portrait Mode.
Here are a few spots the iPhones with the double lens hardware makes getting the right shot easier:
Taking pictures of tiny text: getting into tight spaces is easier when you zoom in, plus you don't lose quality – for example, taking a photo of the lid of my AirPods in order to capture the serial number (which inspired this post1).
Capturing documents: instead of leaning over and getting the phone up close to frame up the paper, zooming in and just pointing the phone down can help you get through a lot of pages without breaking your back
Getting shots that are out of your reach: if your arms are fully extended and you're trying to get a photo that's above your head or on top of something, the 2x lens can help you get that additional bit of perspective that you might otherwise miss. I've found it can be super handy to stick your arm up and get a zoomed in photo of what's just out of view.
Taking photos that match your eye's perspective: the default 28mm lens on the iPhone is much wider than the way you see things normally – the 2x zoom's 56mm lens is closer to the perspective we see ourselves (albeit more cropped in).
The wider lens can also distort vertical lines, especially if they're up close. Shooting with the longer lens also helps prevent as much warping, although you may need to stand further back. That being said, it doesn't work very well in low light.
Taking sample photos for a bigger shoot later: when I was preparing to make the photography for my HomePod review, I went around first with my iPhone X to scope out how I wanted my photos to look without needing to lug around my full camera.
The 2x lens more closely matched the "in your home" perspective I was trying to achieve, plus I could zoom in and out further to mimic the full range of my 12-60mm lens. I got sample shots so I could properly integrate the imagery into how I wrote the piece, then later did a proper photoshoot with lights and my camera to get the highest quality photography.
Some of these aren't particularly innovative ways to use a camera, but if you hadn't thought of one before it might be helpful2.
Many of the shots won't be up to par for crisp, clear focus or high quality levels of photography, but for quick memories and productive use cases it does the job well.
Next time you open up the camera app on an iPhone X/Plus, try switching to 2x and just looking through the viewfinder for a while – it may help you see things in a different way.
No, that's not the complete serial number of my AirPods. ↩︎
If you have any other suggestions, let me know on Twitter and I'll add them here & credit you. ↩︎