If you use Photoshop Lightroom on a Mac or Windows PC, incorporating an iPad into your photographic toolset is now easier with Adobe’s Lightroom mobile app. It automatically syncs photos between the desktop and iPad (or iPhone) via Creative Cloud and includes many of the desktop version’s editing tools.
And, of course, it includes several features that are either hidden or easy to overlook. Here are a collection of my favorites.
1. Automatically Import Photos from the Camera Roll
The crux of a Lightroom mobile workflow involves making Collections in Lightroom (which I’ll call Lightroom desktop to differentiate it) and syncing them to the mobile app. However, it works the other direction, too: You can add photos that exist in the iPad’s or iPhone’s photo library to Lightroom mobile to sync them to the desktop.
Even better, Lightroom mobile can automatically add new photos that appear in the Camera Roll, the specific album on an iOS device where photos you capture or import are stored. This feature is especially nice on the iPhone (which I use to shoot many of my photos), since I never seem to remember to manually import them into my Lightroom desktop library.
In Lightroom mobile, tap the Add (+) button to create a new collection on the iPad or iPhone, and name it something like Mobile Photos. Next, tap the ellipsis button (…) to view options for that collection, and then tap Enable Auto Import (see Figure 1). The next time you shoot photos with your device’s camera and then open Lightroom mobile, the new shots appear in the collection and are synced to Lightroom desktop.
Figure 1 Enable Auto Import on the iPhone.
2. Change the Cover Photo of a Collection
Lightroom mobile displays the first image in a collection as the thumbnail, but photographers are often a picky bunch—I’d rather choose my own image.
To do that, tap a collection to open it. Next, touch and hold on the image you want to use as the cover. From the pop-up menu that appears, choose Set as Cover (see Figure 2). When you go back to the Collections screen, that image appears as the thumbnail.
Figure 2 Choose a cover image for a collection.
3. Move Menus while Editing
The challenge of a mobile app is to make the most of limited screen real estate. Lightroom mobile puts its editing controls at the bottom of the screen, which invariably results in menus appearing over the top of the image you’re trying to edit. No need to feel frustrated, though: When a menu is visible, you can drag it with one finger to the left or right (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 Drag a menu out of the way.
4. Copy Adjustments Between Photos
One appeal of editing in Lightroom mobile is that adjustments are non-destructive—you’re not changing the actual pixels of the original image. For example, if you increase the exposure of one image, Lightroom mobile stores that change as a small text value behind the scenes. When the image is synced with Lightroom desktop, you can modify that exact setting without worrying that the application has baked a brand new image.
This non-destructive capability is great for copying adjustments between photos. Lightroom desktop offers a Sync feature that is helpful for applying the same edits to multiple photos (say, from the same photo shoot) so you don’t need to repeat the same adjustments.
Lightroom mobile can also copy edits, in a slightly limited fashion: It can copy the adjustments from the previous photo you worked on (see Figure 4).
First, edit a photo in Lightroom mobile using the Develop features found at the bottom of the screen. Next, switch to the photo to which you want to apply those edits (it’s helpful to use the thumbnail view—the leftmost button at the bottom—to pick the next photo). With the editing controls visible, scroll to the right and tap the Previous button. Lastly, choose whether to apply basic tones or every edit from the previous photo.
Figure 4 Copy adjustments from the previously-viewed photo.
Wait, it gets better. Lightroom mobile’s editing controls are limited to the Basic adjustments found in Lightroom desktop’s Develop module. However, edits you make on the desktop carry over to the iPad or iPhone, even if Lightroom mobile doesn’t have the controls to manipulate them. Those non-destructive edits can also be copied to photos that didn’t have them in the first place.
For example, I’ll apply a Graduated Filter to a photo in Lightroom desktop, which is synced to Lightroom mobile (see Figure 5).
The Graduated Filter adjustment was applied on the desktop and syncs to the mobile version. I can then open another photo in Lightroom mobile (here on a completely different image just to show the effect), tap the Previous button, and choose Everything from Previous Photo. The appearance of the Graduated Filter appears in Lightroom mobile, of course. And when you open the image in Lightroom desktop, you’ll find that the Graduated Filter appears, fully editable (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 The Graduated Filter after it’s been applied to a new image on Lightroom mobile and synced to the desktop.
About the Author: Jeff Carlson
Jeff Carlson is a columnist for the Seattle Times, a senior editor of the weekly electronic newsletter TidBITS, and a frequent contributor to publications such as Macworld and Photoshop Elements Techniques magazines. He is also the author of numerous books, including three editions of The iPad Pocket Guide, iPad for Photographers, The iMovie '11 Project Book, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Pocket Guide, and Canon PowerShot G12: From Snapshots to Great Shots. Find more information about Jeff at jeffcarlson.com and necoffee.com, and follow him on Twitter at @jeffcarlson.