Adobe Lightroom is a pretty serious photo management and editing tool, and now it's with us on the iPad. It first leaked some time ago giving us hope that it would one day grace us with its presence, and now what we have in the finished article looks pretty impressive.
It's polished, packed full of features and perhaps most importantly of all, designed 100% with a touch interface in mind. The editing tools are indicated with large touch buttons, controlled with precision through the use of a slider mechanism so you can tweak to your hearts content. Don't think this is a Photoshop Express vein product, either. While it's not exactly the full bore Lightroom experience on your iPad, it isn't short on features.
If I listed each and every editing tool and effect, we'd be here for some time. Suffice to say it's quite a lot. And with those sliders and the double-tap to see Metadata and Histograms, it's actually pretty simple to get into a good flow with Lightroom Mobile. There's never a need to go looking for anything, just swipe and tap, swipe and tap.
Lightroom Mobile brings the Collections organizational structure over from the desktop to help you keep things in order, and more importantly for the more serious photographer it also handles RAW files. We can't import RAW files directly on the iPad into Lightroom Mobile, but by syncing them from Lightroom on the desktop. Adobe is using a Smart Preview system, essentially allowing you access to the RAW files via the cloud and then syncing all edits back to Lightroom 5. Not ideal but it's what we've got.
Sadly we can't import directly to Lightroom Mobile at all from a digital camera – though that's more because of the limitations of the iPad than anything else – so you have to go through the extra step of first importing your images to the iPad using the camera connector kit, then import into Lightroom.
The other way to get your images into Lightroom Mobile is to sync the app with Lightroom 5 on your Mac or Windows PC. Everyone who uses it can do this, because to use it at all you need to be subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud. That also means you're going to be paying a minimum of $9.99 a month to be able to use Lightroom Mobile, but more likely you're already paying for one of the Creative Cloud packages. Lightroom Mobile is just a value added product to those subscriptions.
Syncing is pretty easy but does require the latest version of Lightroom on the desktop. You should be seeing a prompt to update to Lightroom 5.4, anything less and you can't pair up. Since it's Adobe though it may not be that straight forward. Indeed, I was instructed to "Install" all over again rather than update, so check that out if you're not seeing anything. Once you're on version 5.4, sign in up in the top left and then you'll be able to sync collections using the button to the left of each one. It's important to remember that you can only sync collections.
Syncing isn't lightning quick – and naturally the better your connection the faster it'll happen. But you know what, it's quick enough to be both convenient and useful. It works both ways too, so anything you do on your iPad will sync back to your computer, ready and waiting when you return. The same will apply to the iPhone version of Lightroom when that lands at some point hopefully soon.
So, there it is. We've not had a whole lot of time to really delve into Lightroom Mobile and put it through its paces, but first impressions are good. It's a polished piece of software that packs a ton of creative editing tools in an iPad friendly form. There's bound to be disappointed folks out there who would happily have bought a copy, and we feel your frustration. But at no extra cost to Creative Cloud subscribers, it's well worth checking out and seeing if you can slot it into your workflow.
If you've taken Lightroom Mobile for a spin in the short time since launch, how are you finding it? Anything you're missing or is it the mobile photo editor of your dreams?
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