Adobe Lightroom Mobile Is All That

Recorded on June 14th, 2016

screenshot of Lightroom Mobile for iOS

Screenshot of Lightroom Mobile on the iPhone. The iPhone!

I’d heard and heard about Lightroom Mobile and finally gave it a throw the other day. Why did I wait so long? We were already paying for the monthly membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan ($9.99/mo), and the Lightroom Mobile app is free on the iOS App Store anyway, so that’s no extra money there. Plus, with the Creative Cloud plan, you can sync back and forth between Mac OS Lightroom and iOS Lightroom. Just pick a catalog on the Mac version, tell Lightroom to sync it to mobile, and your photos appear on the iOS app a minute later.

And get this: the RAW rendering engine is purportedly the same one whether you’re editing on mobile or on desktop. So all those edits you make on the iPhone/iPad look the same when they sync back to your Mac! This is great for a bunch of reasons, most of all that you can check an iffy white balance on a bunch of devices quickly and zero in on a setting that looks pretty (pretty, pretty, pretty) good everywhere. Without that, it would be like doing a final mix of a song on one set of speakers and hoping for it to sound good in the car, on earbuds, on laptop speakers, on a big stereo, etc.

The only downsides I’ve seen are that (1) there’s no great way to import custom film emulation presets to mobile, and (2) when you do a bunch of mobile edits, all the iterations of them get collapsed under one mobile edit “step” in the History panel on the Mac.

For (1), the film emulation problem, you’re fine if you import photos from your camera to the Mac first, apply your import presets, and then sync to mobile. The settings all transfer over, though they’re not actually called “VSCO Kodak Tri-X 400” or whatever.

For (2), I’m not going to complain about the neutered History that shows up on the Mac version, because these two apps do so much other great stuff together.

Keep in mind that though RAW files (if that’s how you roll) are “synced” to mobile, what you’re getting there is really a lightweight, high-quality JPEG preview. It’s all good, because the edits you do in Lightroom on either platform are just non-destructive “instructions” that the computer processes every time you view an image. So all those big fat RAW images are still only really stored on your Mac, which you should back up (with something like SuperDuper! and Backblaze). Don’t rely on Adobe Creative Cloud as a backup (although they say you can store as much as you want on there, so it’s better than no backup at all).

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