Adobe introduce Lightroom mobile

 As mentioned in my earlier post regarding Lightroom 5.4 Adobe have included one new feature. Actually, to suggest one new feature is a tad unfair, especially since it opens the door into a completely new digital photography workflow. This new workflow is made possible by a new free iPad application called Lightroom mobile, which enables you to carry out a small subset of the tasks normally undertaken in Lightroom desktop then sync theses back to your desktop catalog. For example,

  • access images in your main desktop Lightroom catalog
  • make selects or reject photos
  • apply develop presets
  • refine your existing develop adjustments using all your favourite adjustments from the Lightroom desktop Basic panel, including Highlights, Shadows, and Clarity
  • import new photos directly from the camera roll (Note: direct import does not support raw files)

Lightroom mobile utilises Smart Previews (sometimes referred to as proxy files) created within your Lightroom desktop catalog to provide raw editing functionality on your iPad. First introduced in Lightroom 5 beta, Smart Previews are:

  • based on the DNG file format
  • limited to 2560 pixels on the long edge
  • lossy smaller versions original raw files
  • can be used to make develop adjustments even when the original files aren’t available locally
  • develop adjustments made to Smart Previews are applied to the original when the original files are available

Above are the aspects of Lightroom mobile that Adobe and many reviewers will likely highlight, and to be fair, they’re generally deserved of praise. However, there are currently some very significant limitations to Lightroom mobile, which might cause some users to take a less positive view than Adobe would wish for. For example, this initial version doesn’t support rating or labels. Nor does it support any form of metadata editing (i.e. basic metadata can be displayed but not applied or edited). I expect these shortcomings will be addressed in future versions, but for now their absence does limit the usefulness of Lr mobile.

Other limitations or pain points are:

  • Adobe only support iPad 2 and higher. An iPhone version will likely follow later this year. (I’ve not aware what Adobe’s future plans might hold for Android devices.)
  • To use Lr mobile it’s necessary to sign up to one of the various Creative Cloud (CC) options. Without CC Lr mobile is little more than a desktop ornament. While the cost of the Photoshop Photography program at $10 per month is actually pretty good value many potential customers will likely reject Lr mobile simply because they’re unwilling to enter into any form of software subscription plan.
  • Sync speed between the desktop and iPad is heavily dependent on your internet connection (i.e. there is no peer-to-peer option). So, users with a slower internet connections will find that the sync takes a lot longer than may be prepared to wait. For example, the best I can achieve with about 350kbs upload bandwidth is to sync a collection of 200 images in approximately 1 hour 50 minutes. Users with much faster connections are reporting a similar number of images being synced in 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Lr mobile can only sync with one Lightroom desktop catalog. If you try to sync with a second desktop catalog Lr mobile will warn that the previous synced catalog and images will be removed from the iPad and Creative Cloud.
  • The last pain point I want to mention is one that has the potential to effect everyone. It’s a very basic flaw in the sync workflow that could so easily have been avoided. Alas it wasn’t, and I suspect there will be many angry users as a result. Basically, when you sync a collection the images are uploaded to the Creative Cloud, but unless you’ve set Lr mobile on iPad to use offline editing the cloud is as far as they go. Sure the iPad will display the first image from your collection  along with an indication that the collection contains X number of images, but that does not mean the images have actually been downloaded to your iPad. Furthermore, there is no visual warning to let you know that you can do little to nothing when you disconnect or loose the internet connection. Therefore, if you know that you will lose the internet connection when you leave your  home/office then its’ best to activate the ‘Enable Offline Editing’ feature from the collection context menu (i.e. tap on the three dots badge in bottom right corner of collection image). This way the proxy files used by Lr mobile will be downloaded to your iPad. However, for this took work successfully the iPad must be configured to prevent it sleeping when the cover is closed, etc. This particular behaviour only serves to demonstrate how little attention Adobe paid to offline editing. As an alternative to setting offline editing to on you can loupe through the collection while connected to internet thus downloading the proxy files to your iPad. Obviously, this method is a lot more time consuming. So, I recommend you activate offline editing mode

I have laboured the last point because I’ve made the mistake myself on at least two occassions and ended up getting no work done. It was not a pleasant experience the first time, and even less so the second. So, be warned.


How to get started with Lightroom mobile

1. Download Lightroom 5.4 from adobe.com

Lightroom mobile is a companion to Lightroom desktop, and is the first version of Lightroom desktop that includes the ability to sync images to Lightroom mobile. You can update to the latest version of Lightroom 5 using either the Creative Cloud app on your desktop computer or by clicking on the Lightroom  “Help-> Check for Updates” menu option.

2. Sign In

Lightroom mobile utilises Adobe cloud services to sync Smart Previews and changes between Lightroom desktop and Lightroom mobile. Lightroom mobile requires a qualifying Creative Cloud or Photoshop Photography Plan subscription. These include:

  • Photoshop Photography Program
  • Creative Cloud complete plan
  • Creative Cloud Student and Teacher Edition
  • Creative Cloud for teams complete plan

A free 30-day trial of Lightroom mobile is available.

To sign in you must open the new panel hiding within the Lightroom identity plate. This panel also serves as an indication of sync progress.

3. Sync a collection

Lightroom mobile is organised around Collections. Images within Collections will be synced to your iPad and be available in Lightroom mobile for editing.

To sync a collection – click on badge to left of collection name

4. Download Lightroom mobile

Visit the Apple App Store using your iPad and download Lightroom mobile. Once you login with the same Creative Cloud account as your desktop computer, you’ll see all of your synced Collections.

Lightroom mobile logon screen

Synced collection

In above example, I have synced 50 images from a collection held on my desktop computer. Using the normal iPad gestures (i.e single tap on collection image)  I was able to open into a view that shows all of the images making up the collection (Grid view).

A single tap on any image within the Grid view will open that image into Loupe view. In Loupe view it’s possible to Pick and Reject individual images (sweep finger up is used for Pick and Down for Reject).

In above example, you’ll note the histogram on top right and a row of four buttons along the bottom. The buttons from left to right are: Filmstrip, Develop adjustments, Develop Presets, and Crop. I’ve included a screenshot for the Develop adjustments, presets and crop below.

Develop Adjustments

Develop Presets

Crop image

In addition to the features outlined above it’s also possible to import images directly from the iPad Camera Roll. Unfortunately, due to iOS limitations raw is not currently supported. On a more positive note, it’s possible to present your images as a slideshow.

Lightroom mobile also includes support for sharing your work using social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: As an Adobe Community Professional I receive a free subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

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