In 2013, Adobe's Tom Hogarty teased an iOS app that could edit raw-formatted photos on an iPad. Nearly a year later, that proof of concept has matured into Lightroom mobile 1.0, an iOS extension of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 that both syncs your images and offers many of the editing features found in the desktop version.
If you have an iPad 2 or later running iOS 7 or later, you can run Lightroom mobile. (According to Adobe, an iPhone version will appear later this year; an Android version is also in the works, but the company gave no release window.)
While you can download the app for free, it's available only to subscribers of Adobe's Creative Cloud plans (Photoshop Photography Program, Complete, Student and Teacher Edition, and Complete for Teams); there is no option to purchase the app on its own without a subscription. (The least expensive option is the Photoshop Photography Program, which at $9.99 per month includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, and Lightroom mobile.) If you're not sure you want to commit to a Creative Cloud plan just yet, you can always sign up for a 30-day trial.
Lightroom mobile's key feature is its synchronization with the desktop version of Lightroom (which I'll refer to from here on as "Lightroom desktop" for clarity). Version 5.4 for OS X or Windows, available now, introduces a new option to wirelessly sync individual collections — but not Smart Collections, alas — to Lightroom mobile.
Behind the scenes, Lightroom desktop creates Smart Previews of photos marked for sync and uploads them to the Creative Cloud servers. Smart Previews retain much of the editability and detail of the source images (even raw files) but occupy much less storage space. In Lightroom mobile, the app downloads low-resolution previews for display in its Grid layout, and when an image is opened it pulls down the higher-resolution Smart Preview file (enabling you to zoom in to check details if needed).
Make a change to a photo on the iPad, and that change should appear in Lightroom desktop within seconds, removing the need to export or import images. Edits you make to the photo synchronize back to Creative Cloud and Lightroom desktop when you close the image — in fact, only a small XML file describing the edits is transmitted, which is why updates appear in the desktop and mobile applications quickly.
Lightroom mobile can also import images from the iPad's Camera Roll and sync them back to Lightroom desktop, saving you the effort of manually importing those photos via USB. There's even an Auto Import option that grabs and syncs any new photos from your Camera Roll added since you last opened Lightroom mobile.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.