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Lightroom Mobile For Android Is Here| Useful Or Useless?

By Kishore Sawh on January 16th 2015


Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the prevalent photo editing programs, and Lightroom, likely, has become the ubiquitous one due to its cataloguing ability and ease of use. These two inherent qualities lend well to mobile photography and mobile image manipulation, and with the rapidly metastasizing world and ability of mobile platforms, the Lightroom Mobile App was born. Making birth initially for Apple’s iOS, it has just been released for Android.


The mobile app is meant to be an extension of your primary Lightroom program on your computer, and not a stand alone app, for now anyway. The app’s value to most is not to be found in its ability to edit your increasingly good phone pictures, but in how it streamlines and detaches your workflow from being stuck to your primary computing device.

Lightroom mobile extends your existing workflows beyond the desktop, allowing you to utilize your Android phone to review and edit your images and have the changes sync back to your Lightroom catalog at home

Of course, this applies to tablets as well, and on either phone or tablet, you will be able to access images in your primary Lightroom catalog, select or reject images, apply a preset (limited), add alterations to your images with some basic editing panel options, and import new photos from your gallery. Any of the changes applied to an image within the mobile app will be synched back to the main catalog on your computer.


Just as in the Apple iOS version, Lightroom Mobile doesn’t sync complete copies of your image onto your mobile device, clogging it up with enormous files. It more elegantly uses Smart Previews based on the DNG file format, which allow RAW editing functionality, even without the RAW files being locally available.

You can get a full rundown and demo of the Mobile App here.

[REWIND: LaCie Rugged RAID | Bringing A Safety Net To Your Adventures]

But Here’s The Thing…

If you’re like me, there’s a rather good chance you know a slew of people using Lightroom with Creative Cloud, and an equally good chance none of them use Lightroom Mobile. Why would that be?

The idea behind the app is a solid one, to be able to edit on the move using your ever powerful mobile device, and have it all synced between the mobile and primary versions. But the strengths of Lightroom are yet to be found in the mobile version. Sure, you have nice control via gestures, which makes the process feel rather organic, but you can only sync collections, which is a little annoying, so you don’t have the full cataloguing power. And yes, you can send your phone images into the app easily, but why would you want to when you likely have Snapseed or VSCO Cam which can do much more with them?


But the real thorn in the side, by a margin as wide as Lightroom’s user base, is the utter lack of Lightroom’s editing features, and inability to import presets. Sure, you have the basics to play with, but those who are subscribers to Creative Cloud are likely going to know how, and do more with, Lightroom than adjust saturation.

The idea that Lightroom presets, which are so powerful, like VSCO and our own highly evolved SLR Lounge Preset System, cannot be used seems such a waste, and for many, myself included, means I take a pass at LR Mobile. Because really, without the editing and preset abilities it falls so far short of other apps. All it really provides is matching collections, which many don’t care much about. Should they integrate the aforementioned, however, it will be a force to reckon with, don’t you reckon?

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. jd kizzo

    I can actually do 90% of my edits on lightroom mobile. The problem is I can’t export them to my device locally. I’d use it though on the go if I could simply store them locally. I don’t care about syncing, I might as well do it on my desktop if that’s the case and skip the whole sync process. The whole reason of me getting a tablet and smartphone was so I didn’t have to rely on a computer to get to a final product. I do not want to be out in the field carrying a computer.

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  2. robert garfinkle

    @ Matthew Saville –

    Your doing good Matt. Gonna share what I’ve personally done. It’s a mild departure from the suggested whompin’ laptop I suggested above… and then I promis to tie it in with the article…

    I built a 10tb server, mirrored down to 5tb (raid 1), for the sole purpose of storing images. I wrote a basic program which stores images (of ANY image type / file extension / content etc.) into a database, stored in binary format – cataloged by reading ALL metadata information of the file – which includes the EXIF data & version. Duplicate file prevention is enabled – using the actual binary content of the image itself to generate a unique signature value which ensures that even if another image containing the same file name needs to be stored in the database it can do so because the actual image content is different – therefore two files (i.e. DSC_1234.NEF – taken on some date by camera “A”, and DSC_1234.NEF – taken on another date using camera “B” (or “A” again) can be stored because they are just not the same image, right?)… and it goes the other way too, where if a copy of DSC_1234.NEF is created and an attempt is made to store it in the database it won’t because it already exists (using same binary content checking method)…

    short story is – though I am an IT guy, it’s very often I create duplicate files over the years and getting confused as to what’s what – this had been occurring well long before I started photography, yet the habit persisted and I ended up with large amounts of duplicate images – yuk, more confusion…

    So, that’s when I developed a program that solved my duplicate problem

    T’would be good to note I wrote a basic googlized interface to search for images… etc. So, this way, I can pull images down from the database, work on them, make changes etc, store the changes back to the database too (as now they are different, right?) along with the originals – all unique…

    Now, here is where I tie in the subject matter of the article in with what I just told you…

    The server is accessible both internally to my network (of course), and via VPN over the internet – I use my workstation no matter where I am in the world to pull from or update the database…

    Note, the server is 800.00 for parts, and the windows server operating system (same make up as described in above post and costs around 750.00) – so for 1500-ish, and a decent internet connection / firewall (built into router) good to go more or less, and quite secure… to serve it up using a domain name that I won’t get into the specifics but it’s not too costly to buy and fairly easy to setup, no real maintenance / overhead per year…

    It’s not hard to do, of course the program I wrote was a bit difficult, yet very beneficial

    Here is my belief –

    I do not believe in the cloud per se, too many privacy dangers / concerns, even though I am an IT guy who writes web applications for a living – that’s ironic, right? But I’d rather, for not too much money my personal “cloud” (stored where I live) is not dictated / managed by a third party provider. I feel somewhat confident that it is even more secure than storing somewhere else as my “private” storage is not in a public eye so to speak. This does not mean it can’t be broken into, yet the VPN port is the ONLY way in using the strongest of passwords I could throw at the server. but more important, it’s more a function of out of site, out of mind so to speak…

    I rest my case

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  3. Barry Cunningham

    Not really a fan of doing photo processing on a laptop or mobile device any more.
    Did it with one laptop and managed to fry the CPU in less that 3 years; the cooling was just not up to dealing with the heat from the RAW processing. Newer models may be more robust, but I’m still a lot more comfortable throw more serious iron at photo processing that I know I can’t overheat.

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    • robert garfinkle

      I’m a computer geek analyst, by trade, would it serve you best to look into laptops that are geared / designed for gaming – for example, ASUS,

      The reason I bring up these types, as they got cojones; could be powerful enough to do the job. and last*

      Now, none of this will apply if you’re on a mac, but you’ll get the idea, bear with me.

      In some cases I have converted these puppies to servers, and frankly converting one to a server might do the trick, here is why…

      Historically even windows professional or ultimate is used, though a good enough base, they have a tendency to be overkill with “everything” installed.

      But windows server is a different animal altogether. Yes, in every way shape or form it is just like Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1, right? Yet the biggest difference is 95% of the components are NOT installed during setup. Essentially you get a clean base install of a windows operating system with most of it’s memory and other resources available for you to do with what you want.

      Install pattern

      1. Install windows using default settings
      2. Install your driver base for hardware
      3. Do windows updates
      4. Done.

      Now you can install your software, you are good to go.

      The other advantages of server are this –

      Built-in full blown web serving capabilities – unlimited users / unlimited connections, and there is a way to turn the webserver into a full blown media streaming server – using one file, from Microsoft, for free

      Windows server provides better security and can accommodate a wider assortment of storage options…

      Now, you may not need ALL that, just pointing out options available which may be of use to a photographer.

      Windows server is about 750.00 whereas regular windows pro is a tad less than half that…

      The ultimate idea with the entire package is this –

      1. seat you into a 17.5 diagonal laptop which has dual hard disc capabilities, superior on-board graphics engines (i.e. nVidia), up to 32GB ram, most powerful wifi connectivity as well as wired gigabit Ethernet, and a quad core processor that is a real one, not ultra like a tablet…

      2. An operating system base that is poised to not be the central focus of your PC, where it uses enough resources to act as your workbench, is not a hog, thus allowing the installed software to be king.

      3. as far as how it will be after 3 years, well, it may have by then a need for fan replacement, but easily maintainable… what I would do, is about once a year take it to a place to get serviced, cleaned out (dust / dirt removal) and see where the fans are at. I would imagine that it’d be way less expensive to do maintenance on a yearly basis, let alone you could almost do it every two years…

      4. Out of pocket, if you were to get every feature (e.g. 32 GB ram, 2 TB HDD, windows server 2012) – you are looking at 3600.00 around that price don’t take as a specific price.

      About 3 year cycles – typically, after 3 years, it’s not so much the hardware that fails where concerns lie, but software match to hardware – is the hardware capable of keeping up with software. Your PC, Tablet, phone – whatever stays a constant, in some cases you can upgrade, more so with the PC, but the ability to jump to a new layer of technology is slim to none, yet software becomes more robust…

      about cloud computing as a complement to thin computing technology – I just don’t see it. Imagine if you will, shooting all RAW, and trying to move those items across the web using an ultra lite tablet etc, it just is not going to be productive IMO – not practical.

      So, that’s why I say, you could be portable, you just have to pick a unit / setup with cojones and with a bit of planned maintenance, you can have a unit which may be able to weather some advancement of software technology…

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    • Matthew Saville

      Stop making me drool, Robert.

      And I thought I was doing OK with a laptop that hasn’t fried in 4 years and processes tens of thousands of RAW photos per month!

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    • Dave Haynie

      Yeah… I wouldn’t have expected that many laptops can overheat so easily, but I’ve run into it myself. My son’s been a PC gamer and really hard on laptops. Quite a few of them were just thermally designed to be run at full performance. Others last a very shot time, until the fan collects a little dust.

      The other problem is that laptops are just so limited. A 12″, 14″, or 15″ screen is just too small for any real work… but 17″/18″ screens seems to be a dying breed (because that’s what Apple says, I guess). Just try finding anything with good color or more than 1920×1200 pixels on a 17″ or 18″ screen. Or more than four CPU cores (ok, maybe not needed for photography, very needed for video). Or more than 32GB RAM. I have a 6-core desktop system with 64GB RAM and 7TB of internal storage (1TB SSD, 6TB RAID).. the CPU and storage primarily for video. The RAM is for photography.. I like panoramas. The three monitors (two 2560×1440 and one 1920×1200, with color checking every two weeks or so).

      There just are some jobs not well suited to a laptop. But I do agree that one place to look is gaming laptops. Back when my CAD tools (I also design computers) fit on a laptop and I wasn’t spoiled by two or three screens, that’s pretty much where I looked. A few companies make mobile “workstations”, which usually means an expensive Quadro GPU that you don’t need unless you’re doing 3D CAD work or 3D animation. Gaming PCs are often just as well turned on the CPU side, with plenty of GPU performance — sometimes more, since the “pro” cards typically use slightly older GPU chips.

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  4. Steve VanSickle

    I understand that it’s still quite new, but I’m kind of disappointed that it works on a Nexus 5, but not a Nexus 7 (2nd gen). I would have figured they’d try to make it work on the previous flagship tablet.

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  5. Matthew Saville

    Given this new release, we’ll have to officially re-review Lightroom Mobile sooner than later.

    I do think Lightroom Mobile has plenty of benefits, if you understand its limitations and intended use for something as limited as a mobile device.

    On numerous occassions, using Nikon’s built-in RAW processing and built-in wifi, I’ve been able to show brides a beautiful slideshow of images before their wedding day is even finished!

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  6. robert garfinkle

    Listen – and I speak as humbly as I can, pardon my egotistical dust…

    I serve the internet community as a developer, I love the concept of mobility, but it has it’s limitations more or less. to me, a tablet, phablet, or mobile devices generally are just not a practical set of mediums to do editing and quite a few other tasks which would be best served on larger devices like a laptop / macbook or complimentary home / office based workstations. There are rare cases, like portable all-in-one solutions like the one I am working on right now – which is 18 inches diagonal, that is decent enough, or a preferred solution equal to or greater than a Wacom – designed for mobility yet is specifically geared to handle this type of work…

    wow, out of breath, again.

    ok, regrouped – where was I, oh yeah, if you are going to use an ipad (or 8 inch to 12 inch device like a Samsung tablet), GOD bless, yet I assume you really will be productive with a blue tooth keyboard and mouse by your side. How you can effectively discern / edit with a retina display would be beyond me. My vision, corrected, is a hair better than 20-20 “tack as a sharp” and I just don’t think the smaller devices do justice…

    and I’m a technology guy who wants the whole world wrapped / packaged up into one device, right?

    at any rate, like I said, if you can work in those confined spaces, great, can’t argue with what works for you, yet when it comes to editing graphics (still or video) I’d prefer something that at least has either a decent size but more worried about computing power and graphics section, and I definitely need a device that would not visually lie to me**. I need accuracy!

    ** It is known that Apple products, including retina, are not nearly as accurate in color representation nor is Samsung. Most portable devices are not. I may be wrong, yet I’d assume you’d want something in your hands that allows you to function as natural as you can, can be visually calibrated, and powerful / spacious (storage wise) enough to allow you to work as if you were sitting at a workstation of some sort. That’s hard to come by in the mobile world, yet if it can be had, it’s expensive…

    So, my final thought is – I’m not so worried / concerned about a mobile lightroom as I am concerned about the underlying device honoring what lightroom promises to deliver…

    to re-ground my state

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    • Dave Haynie

      I could see using this on the road. Connect a camera to my Samsung 12″ tabket, suck over a day’s worth of shots, etc. It’s a Note 12.2, so it’s got a built-in Wacom. I’m not suggesting this would be final edits or anything, doesn’t mean it can’t be useful. And no, neither Android nor iOS currently support system wide color profiles. Adobe would have to bake calibration into their app.

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  7. Roland Herrera

    I haven’t seen color accuracy come up anywhere LR mobile is mentioned. I would imagine that that could be an issue, especially in mobile devices. Has anyone had experience with that?

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    • Mark Henry Dela Torre

      Most mobile devices also have blue color cast on them, so not a good working environment for photo editing. Not unless we could use color calibration. The only mobile device small enough I know that can do that are tablets from windows with full OS on them. If Android or Apple enables color profiling on their mobile OS and we got the same tools from the full OS lightroom version, then that will be great.

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  8. Jason Boa

    I agree with regards doing post production on a phone , it’s hard enough to do it on an iPad

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  9. Aaron Cheney

    This is awesome and I would totally use this but this is something you have to pay for monthly right? It would be neat if you outright owned a copy of LR, you could sync the mobile version to it without paying a monthly fee.

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    • Ben Perrin

      Yeah, it’s part of the creative cloud. You can get it for $10 monthly for photoshop and lightroom though. Which really isn’t expensive imho. Of course that $10 may be an unnecessary expense to some.

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    • Aaron Cheney

      I agree that it really isn’t that expensive but it is on the line, to me, of being an unnecessary expense. I will just have to do the math and figure out how much use I will put into it and if it will be practical. Thank you for your response!

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  10. Ben Perrin

    Finally!!! It took Adobe a long time to get this one out.

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    • Murray Severn

      I’ve heard that the difficulty in developing for Android is difficult due to all the different specs of devices available (esp. differing resolutions) whereas iOS basically has the same specs across most of their devices. I used to think it was an Apple conspiracy that they get the apps first but it’s more that that’s where it’s easier to develop (and higher revenue), so that was the platform that got the goods first.
      However, I would have thought that with the development prowess of Adobe, Android apps would have been out earlier.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Android is at least as easy in dealing with different resolutions as any normal OS — Windows for instance. It’s of course very different than developing for iOS, which does have only a limited number of resolutipns, and does not expect every app to run on both phone and tablet.

      Of course, like any new OS, Android takes awhile to learn, awhile longer to really learn to do things the Android way. But certainly Adobe has plenty of Android experience by now.

      There may still be an idea among developers, particularly those with strong MacOS ties like Adobe, that iOS is more profitable than Android, more used by their target customer, etc.

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  11. Eric Sharpe

    This, for me, is bitter sweet news. I recently picked up an iPad, just to use LR Mobile. Had I known the Android version was right around the corner, I would’ve waited and gotten an Android tablet.

    I use LR Mobile quite a bit. I have a 1 hour train ride to work everyday, and I use that time on the train color correcting my images from the previous night’s shoot. It allows me to bring some of my workflow with me, during the 2 hours of back and forth travel. I would otherwise be doing nothing.

    Sure, I could use my laptop, but laptops, and rush hour capacity trains aren’t the best idea. So, I knock at least that portion out using lightroom mobile. Rating, rejecting, color correcting, cropping, white balance, etc. When I get home, all I have to do is take the best images and work on them more in PS, if necessary.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Eric, you’ve touched upon the only reason I even gave LR mobile any time at all. If you do have a commute like this, the time spent culling could be useful.

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    • Greg Silver

      I’m with you Eric. After over a year of chatting with Adobe inquiring about Android support, last week I gave up on Android and bought an iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. This was in large part the photography apps (including Lightroom) available for iOS.

      This is great news for Android users – and I’ve found Lightroom for the iPad to be very useful in my workflow. Really enjoying it!

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  12. Richard Barrios

    Yes, Nick, I have thought about that also and at this point I really am uncertain as to what I will do when I upgrade. Hopefully which ever software I ultimately end up with will offer upgrades for the raw formats of the newer cameras.

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  13. Richard Barrios

    This is an interesting article, and confirmed for me that I will not be using it any time soon or at all. I use lightroom 4.4 and photoshop, but I probably will never upgrade them. I do not like the cloud or the requirement to pay a monthly fee to use the software. Currently I am looking at switching all of my editing to other standalone software. Never-the-less, thanks for an interesting article.

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    • Nick Viton

      What happens when you upgrade your camera and find older software can’t support the new RAW formats?

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  14. J D

    Not for me. I just couldn’t imagine doing any editing on my cell phone or tablet. I am sure it will be useful for others though and its hard to complain about having different options, even if they all don’t fit your needs.

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