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How to Use Lightroom Classic with the Cloud and 0GB of Storage

I’m always surprised when I meet Lightroom Classic users who are not taking advantage of all the features and apps included in the Photography plan by not syncing their catalog with the Lightroom cloud. When I ask why, the answer usually involves a reluctance to use “the cloud” out of concern of quickly using up the 20GB of storage included in the plan. They are always surprised when I tell them it is possible to use the Lightroom app on their mobile devices without taking up any cloud storage at all, so let’s demystify that process.

Why Would You Do This?

It is fair to wonder why you need to bother with this at all, so let’s go through some of the benefits before getting into the details of how to set it up. The biggest benefit I find is simply having access to all of your photos on your mobile device. Granted, you don’t have to sync all of your photos, which is also one of the benefits to using Lightroom Classic with the Lightroom cloud versus just using the Lightroom cloud alone, because if you go all in on the Lightroom cloud alone, then you must upload your entire Lightroom library to the cloud.

Even if you don’t need this professionally, there are countless times when I have appreciated being able to pull up photos of friends and family to simply share with other friends and family. And since these photos do not count against any cloud storage at all, you can have many more photos than you store locally on your device alone. If you do use your photography professionally, then this is just one more way to have a living digital portfolio on all of your devices.

Another related benefit is being able to take advantage of sharing galleries/albums of your work via the web from Lightroom Classic. These can be used for getting feedback/responses from the people you share it with, but sometimes it is just really useful to be able to quickly share a collection of photos with anyone you wish.

Additionally, having access to your photo library from your mobile device makes it super easy for sharing to various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Once your photos are synced with the Lightroom cloud you can start using Lightroom on your mobile devices for flagging and rating your photos, as well as adding titles and captions, and even editing, and all of that gets synced back to Lightroom Classic. You basically are just extending aspects of the functionality of Lightroom Classic to your mobile apps.

How Do You Do This?

The first part of the equation is to enable syncing in your Lightroom Classic catalog. You can only sync one catalog at a time, and my advice is to only have a single master catalog anyway (though I know there are certain use cases where having multiple catalogs makes sense for some people), so open that catalog into Lightroom Classic and look for the cloud icon in the upper-right corner of the interface (note, this is a recent change in location from under the Identity Plate).

Then click the Start Syncing button to allow your Classic catalog to communicate with the cloud aspect of Lightroom, or in Adobe parlance, “other Lightroom clients” which means any of the Lightroom cloud apps (for iOS, Android, Win, Mac, and ChromeOS).

At this point I’m assuming that you have not yet installed the Lightroom app on any of your other devices. As such, enabling sync from Lightroom Classic doesn’t just start syncing your Lightroom Classic photos to the cloud, so nothing should be happening. You are in complete control of which photos get synced from Lightroom Classic, and we’ll get to that next.

From Lightroom Classic, regular collections are the vehicle for syncing photos to the other Lightroom clients via the cloud. You can opt to mark existing collections to sync, or create new collections expressly for this purpose (or both). Just check the box next to a collection that you want to sync, then add photos to it.

Only photos you place into synced collections will sync to the cloud. And here is the most important nugget of knowledge, photos synced from Lightroom Classic do not count against your Adobe cloud storage. Lightroom Classic can only sync smart preview versions of your original source photos, and those smart previews do not count against your storage quota. As long as you only sync from Lightroom Classic (meaning you do not import photos into any of the other Lightroom clients or use the built-in Lightroom camera on mobile), then you will never impact your 20GB of cloud storage, yet can still take advantage of all the features I mentioned previously. I think that is a really cool aspect of the Photography plan subscription, and can’t imagine anyone with a mobile device and Lightroom Classic on their computers not finding some usefulness in that workflow. I hope you do too.

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16 comments

  1. Nick 1 August, 2020 at 02:21 Reply

    Does this mean that if you’re on the go and need one of the “synced” photos from your PC in high res, you won’t be able to access it, cause you’re only syncing thumbnails?

  2. Sakari 31 July, 2020 at 15:44 Reply

    It seems that you cannot sync Smart Collections which are far more powerful and useful than collections, for which I have not figured out any use cases as they require a lot of work and time to keep up to date.

    • Rob Sylvan 1 August, 2020 at 08:02 Reply

      You are correct that smart collections cannot be synced. They are powerful and useful. I’m not clear on which type of collection you are having trouble finding a use case for though, can you clarify?

      • Sakari 2 August, 2020 at 08:36 Reply

        I’m using only Smart Collections for their features; I’m not using those collections you need to fill up/update manually (well one can add images to collections on import but.. ). The simple ones (that can be synced). Smart Collections are good addition to my folder organization (yyyy/mm/dd). I’m a database guy also, so I prefer things working like SQL -databases. I only go to folder view when deleting photos.

  3. William Salopek 31 July, 2020 at 15:12 Reply

    Question:

    I work on a notebook and a desktop (and Android)…the notebook’s catalog name is different than the desktop catalog’s name (not on purpose, it just worked out that way). When I try to sync to the LRC cloud from the notebook, it says I can’t, because, like you said, another catalog is already being synced.

    Normally I work off my notebook when traveling, and then when I get home, I export all the new pictures from the notebook via “file…export as a catalog”…and then import that catalog into the desktop’s existing (master) catalog.

    So my question is…if I renamed my notebook catalog to the same as the desktop…could I then sync from BOTH computers? And if I can, would doing this get me into some kind of trouble?

    Thanks…

  4. Paul 30 July, 2020 at 16:53 Reply

    Great Article … thanks Rob

    I’ve been using this technique for a while now BUT my Lightroom (new) shows I’ve used 8.5GB. I’m assuming these are my mobile pics as I haven’t added any pics directly into LR. Is their a quick way to identify which images are taken up that 8.5gb?

  5. ButchM 30 July, 2020 at 09:24 Reply

    My problem with using the iOS version of Lightroom is why is it necessary to always bounce the synced images off of Adobe servers hundreds if not thousands of miles away to get images from my iMac to my iPad that may only be a foot or two apart? I could see it in the beginning when the cloud version was tied to the subscription model while they were still selling the perpetual license for Lightroom … now that the old licensing is gone, why still no syncing over LAN?

    • Rob Sylvan 30 July, 2020 at 15:24 Reply

      I can’t say for sure, but my understanding is that the “cloud” is the primary source, and as such, everything must flow to/from it first. Think of all your devices as dummy terminals that access a central brain.

  6. marc labro 30 July, 2020 at 00:22 Reply

    nice tuto.
    can you please remind me how to delete images on iphone8 when it becomes full, without deleting these in lightroom classic and on hard disk of my laptop ?
    i think Rob did a tuto about that but can’t find it.
    to be sure i break links, i removed synchronization, i put my images in a shared album on LR mobile, import in lightroom, export as original nef on my hard disk and import this folder of new images in classic. Then, delete images on iphone. stupid, no ? but reliable 🙂

    • Rob Sylvan 30 July, 2020 at 15:26 Reply

      Hi Marc, Do you mean photos stored on your iPhone’s camera roll, or do you mean photos that have been imported into the Lightroom app on your iPhone?

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