Lightroom Mobile

Follow-up to Yesterday’s Lightroom Mobile Post From Lightroom Guru Rob Sylvan

[Hi Gang: Yesterday when I did my Lightroom Mobile post, Rob was kind enough to drop in with answers to some questions folks had about how Lightroom Mobile handles the transfer of files, in particular Raw files, and his answers were so helpful that I invited him to dig in a little deeper today with a follow-up post of his own. Many thanks to Rob for taking the time, and for being such an awesome part of the overall Lightroom community. -Scott]

Greetings! Scott was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to do a follow up to his post from yesterday where he demonstrated his [link=  for using Lightroom Mobile in the Studio[link]. This follow up post stemmed from a question I answered on his Faceboook page[link] that related to what types of image files can work with Lightroom Mobile, and how big are the pixel dimensions of those images sent to the iPad/iPhone. These are similar to the types of Lightroom Mobile questions I get on the KelbyOne Lightroom Help Desk, so here I am.

Let’s back up a step and clarify some terminology before we go further. Lightroom Mobile was released at the same time as the Lightroom 5.4 update was released. As a result you will hear the regular version of Lightroom that runs on your computer referred to as Lightroom Destktop (LR Desktop), and the mobile app you can use on your iPhone/iPad (Android development is in the works) is referred to as Lightroom Mobile (LR Mobile).


On LR Desktop you can import supported raw files, DNG, JPG, TIF, PSD, PNG, and supported video formats. This is true whether you have purchased a perpetual (non-Creative Cloud) license for Lightroom or if you are a Creative Cloud subscriber. Lightroom 5 is Lightroom 5 no matter how you pay for the license. There’s nothing new in this regard. The difference is that Creative Cloud subscribers also have access to using the new Lightroom Mobile app. Scott demonstrated one way Lightroom Mobile can be used, but it can also be used for simple tasks such as keeping a collection (or multiple collections) of photos synchronized and accessible between your LR Desktop catalog and your iPhone/iPad for your own personal use. LR Mobile workflows will continue to evolve as this platform matures.

The reason LR Mobile is only available for Creative Cloud subscribers is that the cloud is needed to act as the bridge between LR Desktop and the LR Mobile app. There is no way to directly connect LR Desktop to the mobile app. It all goes through the cloud subscription using your Adobe ID.

Note, if you currently have a perpetual license for Lightroom 5 you can try the [link] 30-day trial for Lightroom Mobile[/link].

OK, now when using the LR Mobile app you can import JPG and PNG files stored on your mobile device into the app and have those JPG and PNG files automatically synchronized and added back to your Lightroom Desktop catalog. In this instance the full size version of those images are downloaded to your computer as part of the process. This is very handy, and it has become the number one way I get my iPhone photos stored back on my computer.


That said let me try to clarify two common points of confusion, it is not possible to tether your camera to your iPad using LR Mobile (you can only tether using LR Desktop), and it is not possible to copy raw photos from your camera onto your iPad and import raw photos directly into LR Mobile (you have to import the raw photos into LR Desktop first). Could those things be added in the future? I have no idea, but for now some things just have to be done on LR Desktop.

So in Scott’s demonstration he was shooting tethered to his laptop using LR Desktop to control the camera and copy the photos to his computer. His camera was set to shoot in raw format. He then created a collection, set that collection as the Target Collection (so he could use the B key shortcut to add specific photos to that collection), and configured that collection to sync with LR Mobile. As he added photos to the collection using the B key those photos were then automatically synched to LR Mobile.

Keep in mind that the original source image is not being uploaded to the cloud. Instead LR Desktop checks to see if Smart Previews (a special type of DNG file limited to 2560 pixels on the long side) exist for those photos, and if not it creates Smart Previews on the fly, and it is the Smart Preview version that is uploaded to the cloud. In addition, two smaller rendered previews, the photo’s metadata, and any Develop settings are also uploaded to the cloud. Smart Previews give us all the editability (not really a word, but should be) of the original raw file, but with a significantly smaller file size, which is essential to the uploading of data to and from the cloud.


Under normal LR Mobile operation we are only seeing the smaller rendered previews as thumbnails on our mobile devices. If you tap into a larger view then the Smart Preview version is downloaded to your device so that you can take advantage of LR Mobile’s editing tools (your device obviously needs to be connected to the Internet for this to work). LR Mobile does a good job of managing disk space on your mobile device, so those Smart Previews are not stored there forever. Note, it is possible to enable offline editing of selected photos, which stores the Smart Preview on the mobile device while you are offline for times when you need them and are out of Internet range.


There’s clearly a lot more to be said about LR Mobile, but I hope that filled in the gaps from the original question that spawned this follow up post. I hope that helps!


Sylvan [link] is a photographer, educator, and aspiring beekeeper. He is the author of many photography related print books and eBooks, and answers all of the Lightroom questions on the KelbyOne Help Desk. You can read more of Rob’s Lightroom articles on [link].