Lightroom Mobile – Deep Dive

Lightroom mobile

 Lightroom mobile is the next leg in the journey for the professional and amateur Photographer/Image maker. The Lightroom mobile app is now available as a free download via the Apple App Store. Lightroom Mobile will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to log in with their Adobe ID and have their images available wherever they are. Lightroom Mobile enables basic adjustments to be made on the iPad, then automatically synchronised to the desktop (This also work in the other direction as well). Non Creative Cloud members can also sign up for a 30 day trial and see if it will work for them.

History of Lightroom mobile

When the Lightroom team were looking at the next evolution for Lightroom they looked at the origins of why Lightroom was created, they also looked at how people use Lightroom today and what the trends are happening within the image making industry. The outcome was that more than one workflow is required for image processing today. The majority of people will make their complete and complex edits on the desktop/laptop, as this combination is typically where the horse power will be, as well as the colour managed part of the workflow.

What about the additional workflow?

Now a days, with the rise of the iPad and other mobile/tablet devices, the way that people engage with information has changed. There is a now a casual or laid back approach to working electronically. People have started to carry their iPad/tablet and phone with them everywhere, even replacing their laptop in some cases. There is a lot of activity on tablets when people commute or have a free bit of time (coffee breaks, commuting etc). Image makers at home might also want to select images, make basic edits and generally look at their pictures  in the evening, but not always be tied in front of the computer. Other examples of remote working may include when the image editor is in a coffee shop and finds a little time to review images without having a cumbersome laptop with them, or maybe on a trip, holiday or an assignment, the image maker may want to review, select and make basic adjustments to images.

Recently on a Photography trip a good friend of mine was shooting with just a set of SD cards and no computer to review his pictures on, he said that he wasn’t bothered about seeing them, but I think if there was a way to do this with an iPad he would have had a look.

The Lightroom mobile companion app has been designed with the laid back approach in mind and providing access to your images everywhere. The Lightroom mobile app has the added benefit of being able to review, pick/unpick, make basic edits, some pre-configured presets as well as a run a slide show on your images. However, in this workflow, Lightroom Desktop is at the center of this process, or the single point of truth. You can apply basic edits (including highlights, shadows, black point, white point, temperature etc), whilst on the move, in a plane, bus or even on the water. Any adjustments that are made in the Lightroom mobile app will  sync automatically when Lightroom mobile next gets a connection to the internet. Likewise, if any edits are made in Lightroom Desktop, and the images are part of a synced set of images, these changes will be sent to Lightroom mobile once a connection is obtained.


When Lightroom is first open you will need to sign in with your Adobe ID and be a member of Creative Cloud or be on the 30 day trial. It’s likely that an empty screen will appear (as below).


Lightroom mobile content is controlled by collections within Lightroom Desktop.

N.B.You will need to be running Lightroom Desktop 5.4 (5.4 is Mobile enabled), to have your images available on your iPad via Lightroom mobile, and will also need an internet connect for synchronising images. Lightroom 5.4 is available as an update to both Creative Cloud and to the box version of Lightroom 5.

The Lightroom mobile connection is managed in the Lightroom Desktop Preferences screen under the Lightroom mobile tab (marked Red below). At this point you will need to login using your Adobe ID. Once you have completed this step, Lightroom mobile will create the structures on the server that are needed to store your images and provide a sync to your iPad.


Under the Identity plate configuration you can choose to show any Lightroom mobile activity (marked Red). This activity will show the queue of images or activity that is happening to and from Lightroom Desktop or downloading pictures that have been taken using Lightroom mobile (from the camera roll). Any adjustments that are made within the Lightroom desktop or within the mobile client are also synchronised at the same time.

5Double clicking on the Lightroom mobile activity (top right of Lightroom) will show the Lightroom mobile preferences as well.


The images are stored in the Creative Cloud and are also available via the Lightroom web view. Available at

N.B. The images that are part of Lightroom mobile will not use any of the Creative Cloud storage and is managed separately within the Lightroom mobile solution.


Sign in with your Creative Cloud Adobe ID to see your collection(s) and pictures.


Once you have signed in, you will see your synced collections. Notice that there is nothing synced at the current time, as we have not selected any collections in Lightroom Desktop.


Back in the Lightroom Desktop, we can control which images are sent to the Lightroom mobile and the web view.

Lightroom mobile and the Lightroom web view are fed from synced collections within the Lightroom desktop. Collections in Lightroom provide a great way to organise images into a group, then re-order as required. A collection can be defined as a synced to mobile collection, as well as control which images are sent to Lightroom mobile application. This means that you can add or remove collections as appropriate, but also change the content of them when you need to. As soon as items are added/removed/changed in a collection, Lightroom will start to synchronise the changes to Lightroom mobile and the web view.

The process for creating a collection and configuring for Lightroom mobile is relatively easy. You can either initially select the images to include in the collection or just create an empty one. In the following screen shot the images have been selected then clicked on Create a new Collection (marked Red). On creating the collection, the “include selected photos” is selected as well as the “Sync with Lightroom mobile”. This one action will add all selected pictures to the collection and start to sync with the Lightroom mobile and the creative cloud.

N.B. You are able to sync one catalog at a time with Lightroom mobile. However, you can sync more than one collection inside a single catalog.


(You can also create a collection for a whole folder, by just dragging the original folder into the collection area).

Once the collection is created, Lightroom will start to sync (marked Red below).


In the background Lightroom will either create smart previews or use the existing smart previews for the images on Lightroom mobile (A Smart preview is 2560 pixels on the long edge).

Each thumbnail in Lightroom Desktop will have the the small sync icon (above), this tells you that the file is part of a Lightroom mobile sync. Lightroom web view will show that the images are coming through to the Creative Cloud.


If the big thumbnail is clicked, the contents of the collection will be shown. From here you can start a slide show of the collection in the browser (marked Red), as well as share the collection publicly (marked Yellow). If you have flags set within Lightroom or in Lightroom mobile you can turn the display on to show the status by clicking the flag icon marker (marked Pink). There is also an option to reverse the sort order, by clicking the icon marked in brown.


Clicking the sharing icon will show the current state of public view of the collection. You can easily make this available for public viewing by clicking on the “Make Public” button.


Once the Public option is taken, anyone with the URL will be able to view the contents. The collection can be shared a range of social networks from this screen as well, or view the link as others will see it. A collection can also be made private at any point.


Lightroom mobile, also has gestures enabled. Touching the Lightroom icon (top left) of the screen will show the help screen(clicking out side of this area will hide the help) :-

  • Sync can be enabled only for Wifi connections (to protect from running up large data bills).
  • Presentation mode will show where gestures and clicks are placed.
  • Collect usage data is way for Adobe to collect anonymous information about how the application is used. This helps us understand the workflows and how the app is used in the real world.
  • The disk usage is available here (this is important when you want to take the images off line, discussed later in this post).
  • Gestures – All Lightroom mobile gestures are documented.


Images should have already started to synchronise into Lightroom mobile. Double clicking to the right of the image tile will show different pieces of information about the collection.


The three dots on the bottom right hand side of the large tile icon will allow the collection to be renamed, (this will also sync back to Lightroom web view and the desktop). The collection can be removed from Lightroom mobile only. Other options will be discussed later in this post. The play arrow on the bottom left of each thumbnail will start a slide show of the collection from the beginning.


  If the large tile is touched, previews of the images will been synced for this collection and thumbnails will be displayed in a grid view.


Clicking on any thumbnail will open a full preview of the image. By default the images will be just thumbnails and you will need an internet connection to be able to review/edit your image as a higher resolution image (2560 pixels on the long edge). Once the image is clicked, Lightroom mobile will start to download the Smart Preview. Activity in Lightroom mobile is shown by the three small dots in the top right hand corner of the screen (marked Red below). Detail of the activity is shown in the box (marked purple) and this can be revealed by touching the three dots. In the screen shot below (marked purple), the Smart Preview is being downloaded, whilst this is happening the circle will be displayed on the image and the edit features won’t be available. 


 As soon as the higher resolution image is available, Lightroom mobile will show the histogram, as well as the adjustment options at the base of the screen.

The first option (Marked red), is of the filmstrip and can be moved from left to right using a swipe gesture.


 The iPad can be rotated at any point in time. This is useful to show landscape images. Touching the top left of the screen with two fingers will show more metadata  for the image (that was captured by the the camera).


Clicking on the second icon (show red below), will show the basic development settings. There are multiple options here, and are available by swiping the screen (left or right). Basic adjustments can be made, including,  Exposure, White balance, Tint, White point, Black point, Highlights plus others. Some of these options will also reveal a mask to show the clipping items if two fingers are used.


Once an item has been selected a slider will appear between the image and the adjustments. At this point adjustments can be made, and any changes that are made will be synced back to the Lightroom desktop via the Creative Cloud (assuming that an internet connection is available). This will happen automatically, but can be forced by pressing the “Sync Now” button (marked Yellow).


If two fingers are held down and the one on the slider moved, the clipping mask will be shown. You can clearly see that two fingers are pressed (two red circles, when using the presentation mode). A double tap on the adjustment bar will reset this slider back to zero.



The mask can be shown for Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. 

Clicking the next icon will bring up the effects adjustment panel


Once adjustments have been made you can easily compare against the before image by holding three fingers on the image (shown below), the text (marked in Red), tells you that you are viewing the before version.


Images can be cropped in Lightroom mobile, by selecting the last option (marked Red below).


Zooming into the picture is enabled by dragging on the image with two fingers. Smart previews have a largest resolution of 2560 on the long side. The image that is being worked on is effectively a reduced size, compressed version of the RAW file. This has major benefits. Whilst on a trip recently, I was able to sync my 24mp images to Lightroom Desktop, then to Lightroom mobile and zoom in to make sure that items in the frame were sharp. With the compressed RAW files, I was also able to sync 2600 images to Lightroom mobile over a hotel WIFI network within a couple of hours (over dinner). This was a great test to make sure that the application is highly useable in a real world scenario. I have also managed to sync a small collection of images over 3G was well (but don’t recommend this, as it may cause an increase of data usage with your mobile provider). The benefits of using Smart Previews in this way, means that we can now take huge RAW files, review and pick them on the iPad and sync changes back and forth between Lightroom mobile to the Desktop.


 The most valuable item for me though is the ability to Flag my images, and create an initial selection of images.

Images can be Picked, Un-picked and un flagged by using a up or down swipe gesture on the image, or pressing the flag in the bottom left hand corner.


If changes were not desired there is always the option to go back a step at a time (marked red) through the history of changes, or back to a previous point (marked Yellow).


Notice the web view includes the adjustments from Lightroom mobile, including the pick flag.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 14.20.05

Changes from Lightroom on the desktop will also be synced to Lightroom Mobile. In the following example, presets have been used to   make this image look like an old film type – Fuji Neopan 1600++.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 14.24.52

The changes are then sent through to Lightroom mobile in seconds (will vary and depend on the bandwidth that is available).


Images can be moved or copied to different locations, by clicking on the output arrow (top right, marked Red below). From here you can share, copy the image to another collection, remove or play a slide show from this point in the collection.


Sharing from here will open up the iOS 7 share dialog box.


Of course the workflow that has just been described is great if you have a reliable internet connection. If you are not so lucky and want to use Lightroom mobile in more remote and extreme locations, then you will not be able to rely on downloading the Smart Previews on the fly. Collections can be enabled for off line editing. The three dots on the bottom right hand side of the large tile, allow selection of  “Enable Offline Editing”. As long as there is an internet connection, the smart previews / Higher resolution images will be downloaded to the iPad for editing and reviewing when a connection to the internet is not available. When this option is, Lightroom mobile will start to download the Smart Previews.

N.B this will take up space on your device. Some recent tests on my trip showed that if  30GB of original RAW files exist, then approximately 1.1gb on the iPad will be required for offline storage. For 2600 images, about 3gb or so of space was used on the iPad.


Enable for Off Line editing knows how much space is left on the device and will alert you and keep you updated. This is the workflow that i used on a a recent trip. I would sync my day shoots in the evening using the hotel WiFi, then download to the iPad. The following day whilst traveling to the next shoot/destination, I could make basic adjustments, pick my images for selection, then the same evening all adjustments would be synced back to the Lightroom mobile via the Creative Cloud and into Lightroom Desktop.


The order of the pictures can be changed. Touching on the title of the album, in this case “Holi 2014”, will show different sorting and filtering options.


Also, back in the grid view you can double click on the images to get more information about the image.

You can show any adjustments (notice the pick and adjustments marked in Red).


Also, show details of the shot (marked Red below).


Lightroom has the capability to populate the Lightroom Desktop with pictures that have been taken by the iPad camera roll. A collection can be created on Lightroom mobile (marked Red) and renamed (marked Yellow).


This will create a collection on the iPad and auto sync back to Lightroom Desktop. Pictures can be added one by one from the camera roll by selecting the “Add from Camera Roll” button, then select the images to add. Photos can be automatically added by turning on “Enable Auto Import”, pictures from the camera roll will be added to the collection when they are taken using the in built camera.


Selecting images from the camera roll is fast and not limited to just a few images.


 Once they have been selected they will be populated in Lightroom desktop (assuming that there is an internet connection). There is a link to the iPad (marked in Red) and a clearly defined place when images are imported from the iPad.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 23.38.39 copy

You can then work on the pictures inside Lightroom Desktop (applied a crop to the image that has been selected below).

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 23.39.00

Then a few adjustments are made,  split tone, vignette and some grain.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 23.41.14

Within a few seconds (assuming that there is an internet connection), the changes are uploaded to Lightroom mobile via Creative Cloud and are visible inside Lightroom mobile.




Hopefully you will be able to use Lightroom mobile in your extended workflow and take advantage of the amazing sync and offline capabilities that are now available.

System Requirements

Lightroom mobile is available now on iPad 2 or later, and works on iOS7 or later. You can download Lightroom Mobile App from here.

20 Responses to Lightroom Mobile – Deep Dive

  1. Scott says:

    Looks pretty cool. I may have skimmed past it, but I didn’t see anything about tethered capture. Will that be an option at some point? Tethered capture plus basic develop settings that sync to Lightroom Desktop would be a KILLER feature combo.

    • rcurtis says:

      Hi, Scott. Are you talking about tethered capture in Lightroom Desktop or within Lightroom mobile?

  2. Scott says:

    Hi rcurtis,
    I’m talking about tethered capture with Lightroom Mobile. That would be awesome!

    That’s not to nitpick the work that’s been done on Lightroom Mobile. It’s an impressive app. It looks great for editing down to your best photos!

    • rcurtis says:

      Got it. Lightroom mobile is the start of the journey with iPhone support coming at some point. As soon as we have news to share, i’ll post it.
      Thanks Richard

  3. Dave Skinner says:

    I import raw files to my iPad, select the best and edit them using iPhoto, Snapseed, Photogene, etc. Is it possible to do this using Lightroom for Mobile? I tried but when I try to add a photo to a collection from “Last Import” it says “There are currently no photos to show” even though the folder has 34 files. My goal is to use LR for iPad on the road for reviewing/basic editing of photos just shot but not yet uploaded to my Desktop. Once home the files from the SD card will be imported into LR for Desktop. Then I’d like to sync the settings made on the iPad on the road. Can this be done? In your Deep Dive you say “Whilst on a trip recently, I was able to sync my 24mp images to Lightroom Desktop, then to Lightroom mobile and zoom in to make sure that items in the frame were sharp.” How did you get the 24MP files to your Desktop?

    • rcurtis says:

      Hi, I used a wifi network to move the images from Lightroom Desktop to Lightroom mobile.

      Interestingly, i was going to write a blog about this soon. The workflow that is working only works with JPG’s from the SD card currently and is importable to Lightroom mobile. You can then make adjustments in LR mobile and have them synced back to Lightroom Desktop. Once you get back to the studio / home you can then apply the adjustments from LR Mobile (synced) to the RAW image. My initial thoughts are that there are two many steps. Let me know what you think, and i can write it up? Richard

      • SergiyT says:

        Hi Richard,
        Please blog about this scenario. That’ s very interesting.
        Thank you,

        • rcurtis says:

          Will do. I’ll tweet it to @richardcurtis….as soon as i get a bit of time i’ll post it.

  4. Dave Skinner says:

    One way to get raw files into Camera Roll after importing from SD card to the iPad is to review them in PhotosInfo Pro & mark the keepers 5* (makes it easier to pick out afterwards). Then export jpegs with embedded metadata into iPad photos library. You can then edit those files with LR Mobile and sync with the raw files once you have imported them into LR Desktop. To do this you need to manually find the raw file and bring it into the collection under Lr mobile on lhs of LR Desktop Library module window. So it is possible but not as slick as one would wish for. Do you know if Adobe will enable LR Mobile to preview raw files? Regards, Dave

    • rcurtis says:

      Thats is true, however, Editing RAW files on the iPad direct is challenging. In my case, I am working with 50mb RAW’s and my iPad would not support this (it struggles with 4MB file). The iPad is currently working with Smart Previews from LR Desktop (which are a smaller RAW files obviously). The challenge as you have identified is the other way around.

      I’m not sure what the plans are, but as soon as i know more i’ll post on this blog. Richard

  5. Dave Skinner says:

    Another way, of course, is to shoot RAW+JPEG if you don’t mind using more of the SD card and slowing down the burst rate. Depends on your type of photography whether that’s an issue. Regards, Dave

    • rcurtis says:

      Yes, that’s how i shoot now. Most of my work is on the move and on location. I might review in a car between shoots (using SD card into Lightroom), but mostly I’ll tend to review post day shoot though across the wifi on the iPad. My focus is always on getting the shots rather than reviewing….;-).

  6. Dan Carr says:

    When you sync photos from iPad photo roll to your desktop computer, what resolution are they?just smart previews?

    Smart previews obviously work well for raw images tot the iPad, but it would be a bit pointless to do jpegs from iPad to desktop since photo rolls on on an iPad are inherently much less permanent.

    Then you would still need to download your full resolution ipad Images to your desktop at some point thereby presumably breaking the link between that image and your collection,, and loosing all your edits…..?

    • rcurtis says:

      If you bring in to the camera roll a JPG (i.e. 12mp, at a file size of around 15mb) Lightroom mobile will take and sync the whole file (not a smart preview) to Lightroom Desktop. They are not as efficient as a Smart Preview (as these are special and quite compressed for easy sync when transferring and designed for a large volume). The JPG’s will take a while to sync obviously,

      What you can do, is make edits to the JPG’s on Lightroom mobile and sync these and the changes to Lightroom desktop, the edits are just meta data updates and can be reverted at any time. The files that come across to Lightroom Desktop are full JPGS with the changes.

      I hope that helps.

  7. dmcmorris says:

    Is it possible to create a collection from the camera roll in offline mode (i.e. without a connection) or do items have to get uploaded via an internet connection to the creative cloud first before you can do edits in lightroom mobile?

    My goal is to use it both to review/quick edit and share items from my desktop catalog when connected, but also to use this while on the road for import and quick review before moving over to the desktop when I get home to dive in. Unfortunately that means I will often not have a connection while using the ipad in that workflow (just one to my eyefi to transfer images)

    • rcurtis says:

      Hi, You can create a collection on the iPad at anytime (This will sync to Lightroom desktop when you have or get a connection to the internet).
      You can take a card reader and plug into the iPad (i am using an Apple SD connector) and take the JPG’s from it (offline or online) and ingest the files into the iPad camera roll. Then you can open Lightroom mobile and import the files (from last import) into Lightroom mobile and work on the JPG’s locally on the iPad. Any changes that are made on the iPad work in the same way as in Lightroom on the desktop and are non destructive.

      When you next go online, the original files (JPG’s) as well as the changes that have been made will be synced to Lightroom on the Desktop (inside a collection by the same name as the Lightroom mobile collection), and also a folder under the iPad connection.

      From here, what you can do is take any edits from Lightroom mobile and sync to the RAW file on Lightroom desktop (just make sure that the JPG’s don’t have any profile attached to them from the camera, otherwise the changes will look different).

      I hope this helps. When i get time i’ll record and blog this workflow, as i think it may be quite useful.

  8. Richard Clark says:

    Ok i need this to work on my laptop i mean sync with my desktop not smart previews. I mean two desktop lightrooms being able to sync as well as the mobile app 🙂

    • rcurtis says:

      Lightroom mobile supports one catalog and multiple collections at a time, therefore supporting one desktop catalog at a time.

  9. Ben Blake says:

    Would this workflow be possible:
    1) import jpg images from eye-fi card to shuttersnitch (I know this works)
    2) move images from shuttersnitch to iPad camera roll (I know this works)
    3) import into LR mobile and make initial edits
    4) import raw images to desktop computer (Lightroom)
    5) sync the edits made with LR mobile with the raw images in desktop LR

    • rcurtis says:

      It would, however, you will need to apply the adjustments from the JPG’s individually to each RAW file. But I have been doing this for a little while and as long as there isn’t a huge amount it’s ok.