Overall, the potential of mobile Lightroom CC is exciting. The app has come a long way in the last year and that should give you confidence that Adobe will continue to make improvements. There are plenty of reasons to give Lightroom CC a trial on your mobile device. We will get to those. Let’s start with some things that could be improved
There is a little bit of lag in adjustments. In the details panel when you move certain sliders like the sharpening mask, you touch your photo with your other hand to get an outline preview. The preview doesn't appear until about half of a second after you stop moving the slider but you need to keep both hands in place and still for that duration. When you move the slider, the outline goes away and returns when you've held the slider still. Keep a finger on the image to prompt the affect.
With some practice, it is not difficult to master because the effect is consistent and appears to be accurate. I have come to believe that this is the best way for Adobe to manage editing photos stored online with live, accurate representations of the adjustments.
Manufacturers need to be concerned with brightness, resolution, and contrast. If a screen makes a good first impression, it will sell better. Color accuracy is not as important for that initial evaluation but it matters for editing photos. The likeness between your screen and the prints you get is sure to vary from device to device. For over a year, Apple has advertised True Tone displays for some of their iPads and now for iPhones as well. Time will tell and tests will need to be conducted to determine how much of a concern color accuracy is on new devices as they are released.
Streamlining photo editing on an iOS device and Lightroom CC requires attention from both Apple and Adobe. The process of importing photos is one phase of the process that Apple could improve. If you are shooting uncompressed 42 megapixel RAW+JPG to import onto your iPhone, prepare to be disappointed. It doesn't matter that you have the 256GB iPhone.
I recently conducted a test while volunteering to help get dogs adopted at a local pound. The Sony A7rii was set to compressed RAW without JPG files to test import speed. Using the new iPad Pro (which is as fast as any iOS device) and the new SD dongle the results were nothing to brag about.
Upon connecting the SD card, the iPad took 6 minutes and 24 seconds to load 165 thumbnails for import. Forty images were then selected for import. The device took two minutes and six seconds to import the 40 images.
Loading Thumbnails- 2.33 seconds/image
Importing selected images- 3.15 seconds/image
Getting files onto an iOS device requires some patience. A computer is much faster so an alternative is to load images into your Adobe Cloud from your computer. Once photos are in the Adobe Cloud they are accessible to other Internet connected devices. But if you sit down at a computer, it would make sense to edit on that screen that can be calibrated. There is also no lag on adjustments and a few extra perks on the computer versions of Lightroom CC.
I format SD cards when possible because previews take so much time to load. It also helps to note that you need the last X number of photos that you’ve taken and just select them for import before the thumbnails load.
In Adobe's defense, importing photos into Adobe Cloud and Lightroom after they are on your device is no hastle at all. It is neat that you can pinch to zoom and adjust the size of the thumbnails as you consider which images to bring into the app.
That concludes my major concerns with an otherwise impressive editor. Let’s talk about all the things Adobe gets right.
The next few screenshot provide a look at most of the controls. The tabs allow you to start at the top to adjust your exposure and then go down through color, effects, and detail in a logical sequence. Cropping, filters, local adjustment, and exporting all work well but this blog doesn’t include screen shots for those functions. The auto button under the Light tab is not a bad place to start when working with RAW. The Split Tone functionality is handicapped by missing saturation sliders for highlights and shadows. Lightroom does RAW well and leaves little to be desired.
Cloud Done Well
Yes! Adobe is not only bundling cloud storage into reasonably priced subscriptions; they have integrated that storage into the Lightroom workflow. Documents are synced across devices and edits are synced as well. For years I’ve been uploading JPGs into Microsoft Onedrive after I edit. Until now Onedrive was priced lower and as convenient to use as Adobe Cloud. The disadvantage to the old process is that the stored files were frozen in time as JPGs. Going back and editing old files was undesirable.
That has all changed. Upon importing RAW to Lightroom, RAW and non-destructive edits are sent to Adobe Cloud. Your iPad, iPhone, and computer are all seamlessly editing the same files. Welcome to the future Lightroom!
Standing Alone Mobile
While the Cloud is connecting your experience on different devices, the new version of mobile Lightroom has finally been untethered from the computer. Importing, editing, and full-resolution exporting can be done independently by your iOS or Android device. You can publish images when you are done developing them in Lightroom CC or kick them over to any of the dozens of other respectable mobile editing apps.
Be careful that those apps don’t export your images in lower resolution but that is a whole different conversation. Just keep in mind that what Adobe is doing is exceptional and other apps are likely to degrade and/or shrink your image. There are winners in the crowded market of mobile photo editors. Also, your experience with Lightroom CC could vary depending on your device, give it a trial before committing to the subscription if you intend to use the Mobile version of Lightroom CC exclusively.
Mobile is Mobile
In terms of convenience, iOS and Android devices are hard to beat. It isn’t advisable to take a laptop backpacking nor is it desireable to take a computer on an extended trip. Until recently the limitations of mobile resulted in a little delima for an impatient person. The compromise for mobile is less of a concern while the advantages of size and weight are undeniable.
This subscription model is not for everyone. With some training for the less technical among Baby Boomers about histograms, file types, etc.; Lightroom CC and Adobe Cloud on a tablet is worth their time and money. Boomers are more likely to learn before they experiment which requires more learning materials or instruction. They are prime candidates for editing travel, hobby, or family photos on a phone or tablet.
Casual Gen-Xers and Millenials might have less of a learning curve just because a larger percentage of us play-to-learn. More of us have our egos attached to the quality of our online publications and the responses that we foster. Like Boomers, we have to decide if the power of RAW conversion and the security of our photos are worth the subscription.
Professional photographers and technology enthusiast of any generation will love mobile Lightroom CC not because of how complete it is but because of how seemlessly it integrates into the desktop or laptop experience.