(this article focuses on the iPad but is relevant to any portable device that can store photos)

If you are the proud owner of a shiny new iPad, you may have discovered that syncing high resolution photos to it in iTunes is slow, Very Slow.

Worse still, it seems to slow up all subsequent syncs, even if you haven't added any new photos.

If you only want a few hundred photos on your iPad you may not think this is a big deal, but once you start adding a few thousand of your treasured snaps it really starts to diminish the "fun factor" of your new toy.

So, what can be done about it, other than hope Apple optimises iTunes and the sync process in future?

The answer is to batch resize all your photos, which isn't as arduous a task as you might think, thanks to the excellent free imaging software, IrfanView.

First of all, I'll summarise what we want to do in real world terms, and then I'll explain how we achieve that in IrfanView.

What we want to do

The iPad screen resolution is 1024x768, which is 4:3 ratio.  Any modern camera will take photos at far higher resolution than this, and some will use a different aspect ratio.  We want to shrink our photos by the optimal amount so that they fill our iPad's screen (I don't like borders on my photo frame if it can be helped) but keep the filesize down to a minimum.  This will speed up syncing, save space on the limited iPad storage and also take up less memory on the iPad when displaying the images.  Note, iTunes does already attempt to do this, but there are enough people complaining online to make me think I am not the only person who is finding this inadequate.

How can we do this with as little effort as possible?

Well, honestly, there are many different tools you could use to do this, and some will be faster than my method.  However, this article is I feel a good balance between speed and ease of use.

1) First of all, download, install and run IrfanView.

2) Click File->Batch Conversion / Rename and change the following settings:

  • Choose "Batch Conversion"
  • Change the "Look in" folder to your root picture folder. Nb. Change the list type to "details" rather than Thumbnails so it looks something like below.
  • Tick the "User advanced options" box
  • Change the "Output directory" to somewhere else on your computer. Nb. Ensure it has enough of space on it to store all your newly resized photos.

iPad Photo Sync 1

3) Click "Options" and set the following:

  • Choose a JPEG image quality. I've gone for 80% which is a decent default. Tweak according to your space limitations.
  • Tick "Keep original EXIF data". Some iPad apps may use this information so it's worth keeping.
  • Same for IPTC, JPG-Comment and XMP. (unless you've written nasty things in your comments and want to keep them confined to your desktop of course!)

 iPad Photo Sync 2

4) Close the Options window and Click the "Advanced" button on the "Batch Conversion" window, to the right of the "Use advanced options" checkbox, and set the following:

  • "Resize" should be ticked
  • Select "Set short side to" to 768.  Nb. if you have a camera that takes images at 3:2 ratio like most SLR cameras, and viewing the entire image is more important to you than avoiding borders, you should select "Set long side to" to 1024 instead.  Personally, I'd rather my 3:2 photos are slightly cropped at either side, and display full frame. You can always manually zoom out or scroll after all.
  • Tick "Preserve aspect ration", "Use resample function" and "Don't enlarge smaller images." Nb. I haven't actually tried not using the resample function, but I figure the iPad cost a fortune, so I'd rather have the best quality I can get!
  • Select "Create subfolders in destination folder." If you don't do this all your photos will be lumped into one giant album on your iPad.
  • Select "Save files with original date/time". This isn't crucial but you may want to view photos chronologically on your iPad in future, so it's worth doing.

iPad Photo Sync 3

Finally, I'd recommend clicking "Save Settings" and creating a file called "Ipad Export.ini" somewhere for future use.  Then, next time you can click "Load Settings" if needed to restore all of the above.

Click "OK" and we'll move onto step 5:

5) Now you need to select which folders you'd like to sync by "Control-clicking" each folder.  Note there is some kind of bug with IrfanView which means that I couldn't get "Add All" to do what I wanted (or maybe I'm just being stupid) so I had to drag and drop my selected folders into the "Input Files" area of the window. Regardless of how you do it, check the file paths look correct in that window once you've chosen your folders.

iPad Photo Sync 4

6) Click "Start Batch" and wait.  Make no mistake, this is going to take a fair bit of time even if you have a powerful computer.  Your image files are likely to be big and IrfanView is resampling each one which is CPU intensive.

Once it has finished you should have loads of new folders, all containing images perfectly optimised for iPad.  All you have to do now is point iTunes to the new folder and tell it to sync everything.

To add new photo folders in future, try and remember the most recent ones you've synced, order the "Look In" folder above in date order and just select your newer photos before repeating the process for the new folders only.

The only downside to this technique is of course that you won't be able to zoom into your photos to view them at the original resolution.  Personally though, I have tens of thousands of photos I'd like to have on my iPad, and it's just not practical on this generation of hardware to store them all at full size.

So, what's the iPad like then?!

Well I'm not going to blog a full review as millions of people have already done that.  I will say that as a photo viewer it is a beautiful, tactile way to reacquaint yourself with your photos though.  The top-end iPad costs more than an Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 and laptop combined*, which is pretty obscene, and all of those can be used to view photos. The iPad is much more immediate though, so if that's important to you then it is a worthwhile luxury item.

It's also a very competent web browser, mail reader etc etc of course, but this article is about photos :-).

One negative point is that the bundled Photo Frame / Slideshow apps have the glaring oversight of only allowing a maximum interval between transitions of 20 seconds.  This is far too quick for me, and I expect them to add some higher values in the next software update.  In the meantime, I'm pretty sure 3rd party apps are available to display slower slideshows.


* This may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much!

Written by Celerity Design, on May 29, 2010
Tags: ,

Showing comments 1 to 10 of 23 | Next | Last
Mark Edgington
Posts: 20
Photo Sync
Reply #23 on : Sun May 30, 2010, 20:02:18
Does this not then give you the issue of 2 copies of all of your photos? I have 50GB worth, so am not sure if it's worth the resize, to get them all on there or a wait to avoid the double copies!
Posts: 3
Re: How to optimise your iPad Photo Sync
Reply #22 on : Tue June 01, 2010, 12:01:19
Yes, this method does of course mean you have to create (smaller) duplicates of all your images. However, they will only take up a tiny fraction of your original 50GB and local storage is so cheap now I don't see this as a major issue.
You also get the benefit that you can go in and manually delete images you don't want to be transferred to your iPad. I know my master image folders are filled with loads of repeat photos (blame the fast shutter mode of my Eos!) which make for some tedious slideshows :-)
Posts: 3
Re: How to optimise your iPad Photo Sync
Reply #21 on : Sun June 06, 2010, 18:26:19
As an update, I just resized 69GB of full size images and the resulting size is less than 3GB at iPad resolution.
Posts: 20
And yet...
Reply #20 on : Fri July 02, 2010, 14:13:31
Despite resizing to 1024x768x24 as jpg or png it STILL optimizes the photos.

I have 2500 photos I want to sync and regardless of if I resize or not it takes about 8 days straight to optimize! Huh? This isn't right. The good thing is it works on a few, about 1 picture per 5 minutes, and caches those so that when I sync again it continues where I left off. The problem is after 2 weeks of slowly working it down to around 800 pictures left and leaving it syncing each night, it forgot and started over. Come on, I have a quad core Q6600 with 4GB of ram and a raptor HD. This is ridiculous.
Posts: 3
Re: How to optimise your iPad Photo Sync
Reply #19 on : Fri July 02, 2010, 14:18:34
Wow, I sympathise Chris, that sounds insane. I'm glad to say I don't have this problem myself though - my photo syncing takes barely no time at all now. Also, if I don't add any new photos, syncing doesn't bother wasting any time trying to resync old photos.

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