Just how good is Adobe Lightroom Mobile?

A couple of months ago, I got myself an iPad Pro. Why did I get it? I still don’t know. It was one of these impulsive purchase where I had to have it. turns out I enjoy it more and more. I recently discovered the Adobe mobile products via an email I received after subscribing to their CC cloud products. Being a big fan of Google Snapseed and VSCO cam I was very sceptical about Adobe Lightroom mobile but Id decided to give it a shot on my iPad Pro.

The first generation of Adobe mobile products were very basic, slow and didn’t work very well. Let me tell you that we are in a different ball game now. The apps are mature, very responsive and well design. They are not perfect but my first impression were very good. Having the latest generation of CPU from Apple and a lot more RAM plays a big part in the experience but I tried the Apps on an iPad Air 2 and they work just as well.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile (LRM)

When you launch LRM, the first screen you see is your photo library. In that screen you can create collections to organize your photos, launch the LRM camera App, configure your sync parameters, import photos from your camera roll or present your photos in a slideshow. My test were done on LRM 2.2. It supports importing full size images from your camera roll but it cannot read raw files yet. DNG support was announced for Android so we should see it very soon on iOS.

Sync Options

LRM can sync photos accros your different iOS device and with Lightroom Desktop. This feature is not intended to be a backup solutions for your photos. By this I mean that if you accidentally delete a photo from one device, it will be deleted on all the other devices. There is no way specify a unidirectional sync at the moment. If you edit a photo on one device, let’s say your iPhone, once the sync is completed on your iPad, you will be able to change your edit on that iPad even if the photo is already open. This is a pretty cool feature but unfortunately, it does not work with Lightroom Desktop. Once the photo is synced to your desktop, Lightroom will see your edited phote as an original. Your changes will be there and they will be visible but if you set your exposure to +1.0EV for example, Lightroom desktop will see it as 0.0EV. It would be nice in the future to have these adjustments synced to the desktop as well.

Tools and features

LRM contains many of the existing tools in Lightroom desktop. You can adjust your Tone Curve, Vignetting, Split Toning, Color and B&W settings and they even implemented the Dehaze feature.

Then you have your typical adjustments:

  • Conversion to B&W
  • White Balance
  • Temperature
  • Tint
  • Auto Tone
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation

I don’t know why but there is no sharpening option. You got to use Photoshop Express if you need to sharpen your photo. When you make changes to your photo, LRM is very snappy to apply them on the image. If you press and hold 3 fingers, you will see your original photo before you made any changes. This is pretty neet.

Of course you can flag and rate your photos an LRM comes with a bunch of preset to accelerate your workflow. There is no way to create your custom preset for reutilization and that would be a nice addition. If you need to fix something on your image, there is a nice option menu to allow you to edit your photo in Photoshop Fix. Il talk more about that a bit further.

Finally, LRM allow you to select what metadata you wish to attach when you share your photo or when you save it to your camera roll.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile allows you to specify what Metadata to share

Adobe Lightroom Mobile allows you to specify what Metadata to share

Adobe Photoshop Fix

What the hell is Adobe Photoshop Fix??? That’s what I asked myself when I saw the option in LRM to edit my photo in Photoshop Fix. It turns out that this is yet another great App fro Adobe. It’s the missing features of LRM… Well sort of. This is the app you wanna use if you need to adjust your sharpening, defocus a specific area on a photo, add a custom vignette to a photo, add warp, swell or twirl to a photo.

Photoshop Fix's best feature if you ask me is it’s ability to heal your photo. You can use a spot healing tool, a patch tool, a clone stamp and a red eye removal tool. These are essential to a have a complete photo editing workflow. Both LRM and Photoshop Fix use the same cloud sync so you can open a photo directly in Photoshop fix, make your adjustments and if later on you wish to use it in LRM, it will right there in your photo library.

To me, the way Photoshop Fix is integrated in LRM makes complete sense. These are not tools you use all the time. Therefore instead of having a single App with 300 controls, Adobe decided to segment it’s features and it just works. Why does it work? Simple, from LRM I can open my photo in Photoshop Fix, make my corrections and from a single tap, return to LRM and continue my edit workflow. This is how integrated these apps are.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Some of you might think: What about Photoshop Express? This is a very valid question. When you look at the features offered by this product, you can tell LRM inherited most of them but… LRM feels a lot more refined in my opinion while Photoshop Express feels more basic. For exemple, the slider used by LRM are a lot more precise and graded. Some of them have color indicators while in Photoshop Express it’s a simple slider. One key tool missing from Photoshop Express is the white balance correction tool. The healing features from Photoshop Express are very limited and nothing compared to what Photoshop Fix has to offer.

Finally, Photoshop Express does not interconnect directly with LRM or with Lightroom desktop. It’s really meant to be a standalone product and not a companion to a desktop apps.

Can Lightroom Mobile replace a desktop workflow?

Answer to that question is not easy. Of course it’s missing a lot of feature offered by Lightroom desktop and editing on a calibrated monitor will result in better photos in the end. But you have to remember that LRM was never design to replace it’s desktop version. So if you are a professional photographer and you edit countless images day in and day out, this will not replace your desktop workflow. Let’s face it, editing on a 27in iMac is a lot more fun than on an iPad pro.

On the other end, news outlet, photojournalist and bloggers will be tempted by this new mobile workflow. Remember a couple of months ago Reuters decided to switch to a JPEG only workflow… Well if you are in the field and you need to edit your photos quickly to send them back to your editor, than this workflow works very well. Journalist are not allowed to alter their images in a significant way anyway. Carrying an iPad of iPad Pro is very light and if you equip your iPad with one of those bullet proof case then your in business. It’s a lot safer than carrying a laptop in my opinion.

As for the transfer of your images from your camera to your iPad, you can do it via WiFi between your camera and your iPad or you can use the adapters sold by Apple that can either read an SD card or connect your camera via USB. These adapters work at the same transfer speed USB3 works so it’s a lot faster then WiFi if you need to transfer a lot of photos.

All this workflow works on iPad, iPad Pro or iPhone but for a better experience, I recommend sticking to iPads. For me this is better than using Snapseed or VSCO. Don't get me wrong, they are great apps but the Lightroom Mobile + Photoshop Fix combination is a step ahead in terms of productivity and editing capability especially on the iPad Pro.

I hope you enjoyed this review and make sure to leave me your comments below!