As soon as I saw Steve Jobs start to demo the new iPad I began seeing how it could help me as a photographer. When Steve spoke about how much more intimate and personal holding and using a tablet device was as compared to a laptop, and even a netbook, these were the words that made me imagine a potential client better connecting with my photography portfolio during a consultation meeting. I think the iPad would be even better than actual prints. Prints are floppy and a bit hard to handle if shown in any significant size to a client, and framed prints are not very portable, but multiple portfolio shots on an iPad could be viewed by the client very elegantly.
I often use my iPhone to show random people I meet some of my portfolio shots to pretty good effect. Since I could basically fit an iPad right into my regular business-sized organizer, and I take the organizer with me everywhere, I could just as easily show random people (i.e. potential clients) my portfolio, no doubt to even greater effect as an image on a 9.7" screen will be much more impressive than on a 3.5" one. Also consider the new slideshow features Jobs demoed and the iPad will help to enhance your portfolio shots' inherent wow factor.
For large budget photography jobs, the iPad could make a great impression as the means for delivering the client their photographs. Could the iPad put a serious dent into wedding album demand by digitally savvy newlyweds? I think so. The same iPad could start as your client's wedding album, then serve to include an album of pregnancy portraits, then newborn portraits, and so on and so on. Your wedding clients will now always carry the photographs you provided for them by their side, no doubt showing them to many more people increasing your chances of referrals.
How much online and print advertising can $499 buy? Quite a bit, but I think if you really are focused on referrals as your source of new clients, an iPad in the hands of a very satisfied client would be able to pay for itself very quickly.
How will you use the iPad for your photography business? Share your ideas in the comments below.
UPDATE: This blog post talks about how the iPad could help sales of photography books in e-book form.