Seven Ways to Use Lightroom for Mobile

by Andrew S. Gibson
Seven Ways to Use Lightroom for Mobile

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If you’re a Lightroom Classic subscriber you can also use Lightroom for mobile (formerly known as Lightroom CC for mobile and before that just Lightroom mobile), Adobe’s app for tablets and smartphones and integrate it with your workflow in various ways. If you’ve never tried it before I think you’ll find it surprisingly useful. In fact, I can think of at least seven things you can use the Lightroom for mobile app for, so let’s take a look at them. At least one of them is bound to be of interest to you.

By the way, even if you don’t use Lightroom Classic you can still download and use Lightroom for mobile to view and develop photos. But without an Adobe Photography Plan subscription your photos won’t synchronize with other Lightroom apps or Lightroom Classic.

1. Use Lightroom for mobile as a presentation device.

Lightroom for mobile makes it easy to upload photos to your mobile device. It eliminates at least one step in the upload process because you can do it all from within Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom Classic, as you probably know, requires you to organize photos in Collections.

Learn more: How to Organize Your Photos with Lightroom Classic Collections

You can synchronize any Collection (but not Smart Collections or Collection Sets) with Lightroom for mobile by ticking the appropriate box in the Collections panel. Lightroom Classic creates Smart Previews of the photos in the Collection (if they don’t exist already) and uploads them to Adobe’s servers.

When you open Lightroom for mobile it connects with Adobe’s servers and downloads those Smart Previews so you can view the images on your device. You can even download the previews permanently so you can show your photos to other people without an internet connection. The app is perfect for showing off your portfolio on your phone or tablet.

Collection of photos viewed in Lightroom

Above: A synchronized Collection in Lightroom Classic.

Collection of photos viewed in Lightroom mobile

Above: The same Collection in the mobile app.

2. Use Lightroom for mobile to select which photos to develop

Lightroom for mobile is much more than a photo viewer. You can also use it to assign flags and ratings (although not color labels or keywords) and move selected photos to a new Collection. That new Collection is then visible back in Lightroom Classic.

Let’s say you go out and spend the day taking photos, ending up with around 200 frames. You’re highly unlikely to want to develop all 200, so the normal course of action is to import them into Lightroom Classic, view them in the Library module and assign Flags to your favorites.

If the Collection containing the photos is synchronized with the mobile app you can also do this on your tablet or phone (it works best on tablets with large screens). It’s an ideal way to view and sort your photos while away from your main computer, such as a train or plane journey.

Collection of photos viewed in Lightroom, ready for selecting the best ones

Above: A Collection of images ready for sorting in the app.

3. Use Lightroom for mobile to enable somebody else to select which photos to develop

Whenever you synchronize a Collection with Lightroom for mobile you have the option of making it publicly viewable. This means anybody with the link can view the photos online. This is another feature of your Lightroom Classic subscription and is called Lightroom web.

Let’s say you took some photos of a friend and would like her to choose some favorites. You just synchronize the Collection in Lightroom Classic and send her the link. If she logs in with an Adobe ID she can mark images as favorites and leave comments. These show up in Lightroom Classic so you can see exactly which photos she selected.

A Collection of photos viewed in Lightroom web

Above: A Collection viewable in Lightroom web. Logged in users can leave comments and mark images as favorites.

Comment made in Lightroom web shown in Comments panel in Lightroom Library module

Above: Back in Lightroom Classic you can see comments and likes in the Comments panel in the Library module.

Scott Kelby wrote an article explaining how he set up a studio shoot with a camera tethered to Lightroom Classic. As the photos were imported into Lightroom Classic he sent the best ones to a synchronized Collection. The art director could see the photos on an iPad, and assign flags to the ones he liked. Click here to read Scott’s article.

4. Develop photos in Lightroom for mobile

You can also develop photos in the mobile app. The latest updates give it nearly as much functionality as Lightroom Classic. But bear in mind that mobile devices are not color calibrated, so serious editing should be done in Lightroom Classic. But you can at least try some things out, and again, it’s nice to be able to develop photos away from your main computer.

Lightroom CC for mobile developing photos

Above: Developing a photo in Lightroom for mobile.

5. Backup photos in Lightroom for mobile

The app’s ideal for backing up your photos when you’re away from home. Strictly speaking you don’t need the mobile app, you just need a device with enough storage space. For example, I have a 128GB iPad and with the Lightning to SD Card adapter I can import photos from my camera’s memory cards into my iPad. As long as I don’t exceed the storage capacity of the device it gives me the freedom to travel without taking my laptop. Even better, many Android devices use removable Micro SD cards that you can use for backups.

But with Lightroom for mobile you can view those photos, arrange them into Collections and assign flags. It means you don’t have to wait until you get home to start organizing and sorting the photos you took while away.

You can now import Raw files as well as JPEGs directly into the mobile app. Earlier versions didn’t let you do this.

6. Import photos taken on your mobile phone

You can set Lightroom for mobile to automatically import photos taken with your mobile phone (including Raw DNG files with iOS and Android devices). When wi-fi is available the mobile app uploads the photos to Adobe’s servers. Lightroom Classic automatically downloads those photos and saves them on your main computer’s hard drive when this machine is online.

You can also use your phone’s camera from within the app itself. But there are a few things to be aware of.

1. The phone in Lightroom for mobile is not as sophisticated as some third-party apps you can buy.

2. If you use the DNG format then the files are much bigger than JPEGs and take a long time to upload. At the moment you can only upload them via internet and there’s no option to transfer files using a wired connection.

For the moment I advise that you take photos with another app, and transfer them to your computer through a wired connection. It’s easier that way and you can still import your photos into Lightroom for mobile from your camera roll.

Photo taken in Ilfracombe, Devon with an iPhone SE using DNG

Above: Photo taken with Lightroom for mobile on an iPhone.

7. Use Lightroom for mobile to share photos on Instagram

Instagram is the hot photo sharing website right now, but one of its oddities is that you can only upload photos from a mobile device, and not from a desktop browser. But Lightroom Classic gives you a couple of ways to upload photos to Instagram.

  • Use the Lightroom for mobile app.
  • Use the Dropbox app.
  • Use the Vivaldi browser on your computer.

My tutorial How to Post Photos to Instagram From Lightroom Classic Using Lightroom for Mobile explains how to use all these methods.

If you’re a Lightroom Classic subscriber and you don’t use Lightroom for mobile, then I encourage you to give it a try. The ideas in this article are a great starting point. Have a play and see what you think. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it useful!

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Linda Rogoff March 31, 2017 - 4:58 pm

I have LR subscription, how do I sign up for LR mobile?

Andrew S. Gibson April 1, 2017 - 2:01 pm

Hi Linda, you should download the Lightroom app for your phone or tablet. Then you can log in using your Adobe ID.

Ed Mullin August 22, 2017 - 7:14 pm

Hi Andrew,
I enjoy reading all your articles and I have several of your ebooks which I find very helpful, so i thought I’d ask you a LR Mobile question…

While traveling I’ve added photos to Mobile directly from the camera since I didn’t take my laptop. When I get home I upload all the originals to my laptop & storage drives. The mobile collections show up in LR on my laptop, but they aren’t linked to the originals that I loaded onto the laptop. The originals are in a file called “Mobile Downloads.lrdata”, which has folders with names that only a computer would like i.e. “a022ed8ff6a727cab84331aabd3b2cb98058c8a9d8050388a18de9367262d188”

How do I move the originals from the iPad/mobile files to my laptop to keep my files all in one place? I can move the mobile collection to the laptop in LR but then I end up with duplicate originals.

Andrew S. Gibson August 29, 2017 - 8:31 pm

Hi Ed, great question! I just realized I hadn’t answered…will work on it and have the answer for you tomorrow.

Andrew S. Gibson September 1, 2017 - 6:22 pm

Hi Ed, as you have saved your photos to your laptop / hard drives it seems to me you have two copies of your photos on your computer – the originals plus the ones in the Mobile Downloads.lrdata file. You can move the ones in the Mobile Downloads.lrdata file to a better location from the Folders panel if you want. You can also specify the folder where you would like Lightroom to save the photos synced from Lightroom mobile to avoid the naming problem. You can do that under the Lightroom mobile tab in Preferences. Just create a folder on your laptop / hard drive where you’d like to save them. That should make things easier. Does that answer your question?

Ed Mullin September 2, 2017 - 3:26 am

I realize that I’ll have two copies, so I guess what I’m asking is how Can I ‘link’ the edits I made on the iPad with the originals on my Mac?

I’d prefer to keep the raw originals that I download from the card rather than the raw files from the mobile app since they aren’t saved in the same file structure.

Do I need to reassign the reference file from the mobile version to the original raw file?

Andrew S. Gibson September 4, 2017 - 3:23 pm

The easiest way to do it is delete the photos from Lightroom mobile from your hard drive using your operating system. That breaks the link – they will still be in the Catalog but Lightroom won’t know where to find them. Then you can relink them to the photos downloaded from your memory card. If you don’t want to delete the photos you can rename the folder they are in or move them to another folder. That will also break the link.

ELLIOT STERN August 26, 2018 - 3:18 pm

Thanks for all the info in the article. I have the Eco system and it works okay. In the article you state that you can import directly to Lightroom mobile on an Ipad. So far the only way I can see of getting images directly into lr mobile is by first getting them into Apple Photo and then having Lightroom access those images from Photos.

Is there a way to get them directly into Lightroom Mobile bypassing Photos?

Allan April 5, 2019 - 3:04 pm

In #6, point #1, do you mean that the camera in Lightroom CC for mobile is not as sophisticated ….?
Great article – very helpful.

Andrew S. Gibson April 8, 2019 - 10:52 am

Hi Allen, strictly speaking it’s the software that operates the camera. I use the ProCam app for my iPhone, it’s a much better camera app than Lightroom CC.

Louie October 26, 2019 - 11:04 am

Is there any possible you can change calibration tru phone. ? Or you can only change it tru PC?

Andrew S. Gibson October 28, 2019 - 7:22 am

Hi Louie, there’s no Calibration panel in Lightroom for mobile. But if you’re comparing with Lightroom 6 you can change the color profile in Lightroom for mobile, just not the other Calibration panel sliders.


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