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Lightroom Goes Mobile

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With the Lightroom 5.4 release in April 2014, Adobe introduced Lightroom mobile, a subscription service that enables two-way syncing between the desktop application and the new Lightroom for iPad. John Evans, contributor to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: Classroom in a Book, takes Lightroom mobile for a test drive.
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As you'd expect, Lightroom 5.4 boasts support for even more color-matching profiles, lens profiles, and camera raw formats, and also extends the list of cameras supported for tethered shooting—but the main thrust of the update is the introduction of Lightroom mobile.

Lightroom mobile is a cloud-based subscription service that enables you to sync photo collections between your desktop computer and a companion app on your iPad (with iPhone and Android versions to follow), so that you can review, organize, share, and even edit your photos anywhere, anytime. Whether you're working in Lightroom on your desktop or on your iPad, any modifications made to a synced collection or the photos it contains will be automatically updated on the other device.

Lightroom mobile syncs high-resolution Smart Previews to your iPad, rather than your original photos. At a small fraction of the original file size, these Smart Previews won't take long to sync, or use up all the storage space on your iPad, which means that you can even work with raw images while you're away from your desktop computer. Edits you make on the iPad are synced back to the originals in your Lightroom catalog as needed.

Photos added to a synced Collection from your iPad's Camera Roll are downloaded to your desktop at their full file size.

What you need to get started

To test-drive Lightroom mobile, you'll need the latest version of Lightroom (5.4) on your desktop computer, the new Lightroom companion app for your iPad, and an Adobe ID that you'll use to sign in to the service from both devices.

Lightroom 5.4 runs on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Mac OS 10.7 or later. The update is free for Lightroom 5 users through the automatic update mechanism; if you're not already using Lightroom 5, you can download it free from on a 30-day trial basis.

Lightroom for iPad requires an iPad 2 or later (or iPad mini) running iOS 7 or later. You can download the app free from iTunes or the App Store.

If you don’t yet have an Adobe ID, you can create one for free on the sign-in page, or as part of the Lightroom mobile sign-in process in Lightroom 5.4.

Once your 30-day trial ends, subscription to Lightroom mobile is free if you have either a full Creative Cloud subscription, or the $9.99 per month Photography Bundle, which includes the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop CC, 20GB of CC cloud space, Behance Portfolio membership, and an unlimited amount of Lightroom Sync space.

Getting ready to go mobile

Once you've installed both the desktop and iPad applications, you'll need to decide which of your Lightroom catalogs you wish to work with before you sign in. Lightroom mobile does not support syncing from multiple catalogs; if you sync images from a second catalog, you'll overwrite any photos you've previously “imported” to Lightroom on your iPad.

Lightroom mobile syncs selected Collections from your catalog, rather than folders or individual photos, so if your Lightroom workflow is folder-based, you'll also need to create at least one Collection to work with.

Signing in

To sign in to Lightroom mobile from your desktop computer, click the Get Started With Lightroom Mobile prompt in the identity plate at the upper-left of the workspace and choose Sign In in the fly-down menu.

Enter your Adobe ID and password in the Lightroom Mobile dialog box and click Sign In. If you don't yet have a free Adobe ID, click the Create An Adobe ID button at the lower left to get one. When you're signed in, your name and a notification of the number of days left in your Lightroom mobile trial replace the Get Started With Lightroom Mobile prompt in the identity plate.

To sign in from your iPad, tap the Lightroom app icon, enter your Adobe ID and password, and then tap the check mark.

Lightroom for iPad opens to the Collections view, which will remain empty until you have enabled at least one Collection for syncing from the desktop application.

Syncing Collections with Lightroom mobile

To enable a Collection for syncing from Lightroom 5.4, click the check box to the left of the Collection's name in the Collections panel.

The empty checkbox is replaced by a two-way arrow icon to indicate that the collection is enabled for sync. A count of photos yet to be synced appears above your name in the identity plate so that you can easily monitor the progress of the operation.

You can also right-click/Control-click the Collection and choose Sync With Lightroom Mobile from the context menu or, for a new Collection, enable the Sync With Lightroom option in the Create Collection dialog box.

Tip: To stop a Collection from syncing with your iPad, click the two-way arrow sync icon next to the name in the Collections panel or right-click/Control-click the Collection and un-check Sync With Lightroom Mobile in the context menu.

Viewing your photos on the iPad

When the sync is complete, the Collections view displays a cover image for each synced Collection. Tap repeatedly with two fingers on the gray background to display several levels of metadata information about your Collections.

Tap the down-facing white arrow centered at the top of the screen to change the sorting order in the Collections view.

To view the photos in a Collection as a slideshow, tap the triangle at the lower-left of the cover thumbnail. Tap the three dots (…) at the lower right of the cover image to access the Collection options.

You can choose to add photos to the Collection from your iPad's Camera Roll, enable Auto Import so that any new photo captured on your iPad is added to the Collection automatically, enable the Collection for offline editing, rename it, or remove it from your iPad, which will disable syncing for that Collection on your desktop.

To create a new collection of photos from your iPad's Camera Roll, tap the plus sign icon (+) at the upper-right of the Collections view.

Back on your desktop, the Catalog panel shows a new All Synced Photographs listing, and the new Collections you created on your iPad are now listed in the Collections panel.

In the Collections view on your iPad, tap the cover image to see a Collection's contents in the Grid view.

Tap the arrow at the upper-left of the Grid view to return to the Collections view, the arrow below the Collection's name to change the sorting order, or the Share icon () at the upper-right to select photos to copy, move, or remove from the Collection. Choose from the Share menu to post a photo to a social networking site, attach it to an e-mail message, or send it to a nearby friend's mobile device via AirDrop.

Tap and hold a thumbnail in the Grid view to call up a context menu, where you can designate the photo as the cover photo for the Collection.

Sorting and editing your photos on the iPad

Tap a thumbnail in the Grid view to see the photo enlarged in Loupe view. Tap the enlarged photo repeatedly with two fingers to cycle through views with and without metadata info and histogram overlays.

The Loupe view is where you'll mark individual photos as Picks or Rejects and perform a range of editing operations. From left to right, the four icons centered at the bottom of the Loupe view screen provide access to:

  • The Filmstrip, which shows thumbnails of all the images in the Collection in a sliding strip across the bottom of the screen, providing easy access to your photos.
  • The Adjustments controls for editing your photos manually.
  • The Presets menus, which display “live” thumbnail previews showing how your image will look a wide range of different preset effects applied.
  • The interactive Cropping tool overlay and related options.

Loupe view - Filmstrip mode

Loupe view - Adjustments mode. Lightroom's familiar Basic panel controls are arranged in a sliding strip across the bottom of the screen; tap the desired control, and then drag the slider at the bottom of the enlarged image. Tap the photo with three fingers to toggle between before and after views; then tap the Adjustments button again to apply the edit.

Loupe view - Presets mode. Lightroom's preset categories are arranged in a sliding strip across the bottom of the screen; tap the desired category, and then choose from the menu.

Loupe view - Cropping mode. Crop ratios are arranged in a sliding strip across the bottom of the screen; tap the desired ratio, and then drag the sides or corners of the cropping box.

In any of the Loupe view modes, you can tap the enlarged image to see it without the distraction of controls and other interface elements; then, tap again to show the controls. In all but the cropping mode, you can swipe up on the photo to flag it as a Pick, or down to mark it as a Reject.

The modifications you make on your iPad are synced back to your desktop computer automatically when you move on to a new photo or a different Collection. Alternatively, you can initiate immediate syncing for the current photo by clicking the small cloud icon at the upper-right of the Loupe view.

As with the desktop application, all your work in Lightroom for iPad is non-destructive; only the developing instructions are synced back to your desktop catalog.

For more detailed information on working with Lightroom on your iPad, go to the Adobe website.

Viewing and sharing your synced collections online

Even without your iPad, you can view your Lightroom mobile synced collections—and share them with friends or clients—online at Lightroom on the Web.

In your default web browser, go to and click Sign In at the upper right of the page. On the welcome screen, type your Adobe ID and password, and then click the check mark.

Lightroom on the Web opens to a Collections view, just as the iPad app does.

Click a Collection to see the photos inside arranged in a tiled grid; once again, this page is very similar to the equivalent view on your iPad. In the grid view, you can click individual photos to see them enlarged, play a slideshow, or share the Collection.

Click Share at the upper-left of the page.

All Collections are private by default—only you can see them, unless you choose to share them. Click Make Public to make the Collection available for sharing.

To share the Collection, click one of the icons for integrated social networking sites, or simply copy the URL provided and paste it into an e-mail message (see Figure 18).

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