Lightroom Mobile


I wrote about my search for (and frustration about) setting up a proper photo workflow on the iPad Pro a little while ago. I mentioned then that I had downloaded Lightroom Mobile on the iPad Pro. I had set up the Adobe account and created the link between the desktop version and the iPad version.

But it’s Adobe, the company who still has not understood how to sell software on the web without making their customers hate them and who likely had one of the most usage hostile websites of the notable software companies out there. So naturally, I was doubtful…

Surprisingly, I was wrong.
Lightroom Mobile has turned into a stunning tool to play with (at least the latest versions – I am using v2.52 right now).

The user interface is well done and while getting to all the functionalities and tools is maybe not (yet) in my muscle memory as it is in the desktop version, I do not feel I am held back when I want to do my work. And – heck! – it is more fun to edit a photo in Lightroom Mobile than in Lightroom Desktop.

The RAW engine is arguably as powerful as what you find in the desktop version. Moreover, without having checked in detail, I guess 80% of the functions that I use are available on the mobile version, and only a few that noticed soon after I started playing with the app (I would love if they added GPS data editing, keywords, noise reduction and sharpening).

The above photo was a random shot I took last Saturday. It’s not a great photo and I am not saying it shows great editing (I’ve overdone it with saturation, that’s for sure), but what’s interesting is the actual source photo:

It’s not new that RAW photo editors can squeeze all the dynamic range out of the image files they handle. If you shoot JPEGs, there is no way you can get the details I am visualizing on that first photo, because so much of the “hidden” information is lost. I don’t want and need to discuss the merits of shooting RAW or JPEG photos here. Just knowing that this sort of editing can now be done on my iPad Pro (or iPad Air or iPhone) is, quite frankly, blowing my mind.

There are several reasons I would have stated in the past why an iPad cannot replace a laptop for me. But the main reason why I always have to take both my laptop and my iPad with me when I go on a photo trip is that so far there was no way to do good editing on the iPad and easily sync it with my photo collection. Now it turns out this is not true anymore. Yes, I likely want to do some additional edits in Lightroom on the desktop. But if you want to travel light (and I always do), you can do 95% of the heavy lifting somewhere in the quiet moments during a trip. This is pretty awesome.

Speaking of editing on the desktop: you might wonder how the photos actually get there.
Again, this is suprisingly easy. After importing the RAW images into Photos on the iPad (or iPhone) with a SD card reader, you pull them from there into Lightroom Mobile. I am not sure yet whether you have to wait until the photos are synced to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or not (I’ll check again next time I import a series of photos), but you can erase them again from Photos, eventually. In Lightroom, you can then do all your edits and they will sync with the cloud, too.

I have actually done this for the photos I took at Aggie’s birthday (and yes, all the photos you see there are entirely edited in Lightroom Mobile – the photo collages are done in Pixelmator on the iPad). The moment your photos (and edits) have synced to the cloud, they can be accessed from any other device (e.g. Lightroom on my laptop or on my phone).

The native data including the edits downloads on my laptop automatically and is available for further editing, tagging or whatever…

This. Is. Awesome.

What about upload speed? Well, when I am home, it’s not a problem, because I am lucky enough to have a rather fast connection. And this is in fact the only thing that matters. When you are on the road, you will only have to make sure the photos you take don’t fill up your iPad completely. My 128 GB iPad Pro has still 67 GB available, and even on longer trips I rarely keep more than 200 or 300 photos – the rest will be removed during my frequent interrogations of what I have photographed. The 25-ish photos from Aggie’s birthday consume about 700 MB. So even if I multiply this with 12x as many photos (= 300), I’ll likely stay below 10 gig that I’d need to have available on the iPad while I travel. Back home I can then sync 10 or even 20 gig of photos in a reasonable amount of time (discounting that I actually might hit a spot on a trip where I can at least start syncing part of such a photo collection, too).

All of this has led to me being suddenly interested in buying into the basic Photography plan from Adobe, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop (and some more Adobe apps for iOS) plus Creative Cloud access for 13 SGD a month.

But there are still two questions, which are relevant then:

  1. How much cloud storage does Adobe offer in this package?
    It’s 2 GB (plus 1 GB of temporary overflow), so not enough to sync large collections as in the above example where I talk about having maybe some hundred photos to sync after a trip (funny enough, when I check on Creative Cloud for how much space I have left, I can see all the photos but it tells me I have used 0% of my storage… maybe it’s because I am running this as a trial?
  2. So how would I handle photo shoots or in general collections that are larger than 2 GB?
  3. Good question. Right now under this plan I could only see one way: edit the photos, sync as many as possible to the cloud until the storage allotment is used up, download thes synced files to the desktop (where they always remain and are not deleted), then remove this batch of synced files from the cloud and sync the next batch. Sounds cumbersome? You bet!

I took these questions also to the Adobe online support and – uh boy: you might remember I was not impressed with my recent Apple online support experiences and this remains the worst one I’ve had in a while. Adobe’s was pretty close in wasting my time in a similar manner without yielding anything useful. So, long story short, the agent did not provide any helpful direction on the above, save the information that the 2 GB limit can be increased to 20 GB on an “exception” basis, whatever this means. You need to be a Creative Cloud member already for this, however. Given the accuracy of the information I’m getting from these support chats, I assume the exception is simply that you have to pay more money to get more storage (it’s of course also possible that the support is entitled to give more storage to people who ask as a way to promote their cloud offerings).

I looked it up and if I added 20 GB this would add 2.98 SGD a month. So 15.98 SGD for the Photography plan including Lightroom CC, Photoshop CC and 22 gigs of cloud storage… to be honest, that does not sound so bad.

Well: if I used it enough, that is.

I might try it out with the base plan first.
Getting always the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop alone for 13 SGD a month plus coming very close to the photo editing workflow I always wanted on the iPad sounds like a pretty good deal.

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