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Lightroom Mobile – The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Why use Lightroom Mobile

Many people don’t realize the benefits of using Lightroom Mobile with your Adobe Lightroom Subscription. When you subscribe to Adobe’s Photographer’s plan, not only will you receive Adobe Lightroom Classic, but you also get access to Lightroom Mobile.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Lightroom Mobile is a cloud-based program which originates from your Lightroom Classic desktop. It’s easy to set up, and Adobe’s help desk is there to quickly assist if you have any questions. You not only have the ability to share your images across multiple devices, but you can also shoot and edit quality RAW images right from your phone or tablet.

 Setting up Lightroom Mobile

The first thing you need to do is enable Lightroom Mobile from within your desktop version of Lightroom. This will signal Lightroom to sync the files that you select. Below is a screenshot of Lightroom’s Activity Screen that shows the status of Lightroom mobile. The activity screen is located in the upper left-hand corner of your Lightroom desktop page.
Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Creating Collections

The secret to working with Lightroom Mobile is to create collections within your Lightroom desktop version that you want to sync with Mobile. It will not automatically sync everything in your Lightroom catalog, you have to tell it which images you want to show on your devices and this is done through collections. I wouldn’t recommend syncing all your images to Lightroom Mobile. Leave this for special collections and your portfolio.

Select a group of images you would like to include in a collection and navigate to the collection module on the left panel of the Lightroom desktop app. Click the + sign in the collections pane to create a new collection.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Create a new collection.

Once you have created the collections and added images to them, you need to be sure that these collections will sync. When you first create them, there is a box to tick to enable Lightroom Mobile and syncing between devices – make sure that is checked off.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Enable Lightroom Mobile

If you don’t enable Lightroom Mobile upon import or when you create a new collection, you can always enable it after the fact by making sure the firebolt is enabled located to the left of the collection name. Just tick the box next to the collection you want to sync and the firebolt will show.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Firebolt Icon is Located to the Left of the Collection Title

To stop a Collection from syncing with your device, do one of the following in the Collections panel:

  • Click the firebolt sync icon next to the name of the Collection to turn it off.
  • Right-click a Collection and deselect Sync With Lightroom Mobile from the sync menu.

Viewing Images on Your Device

If your Lightroom Mobile is enabled correctly, you will need to sign into the Adobe Creative Cloud with your password. The mobile version should start filling up with the collections you enabled on your Lightroom desktop. You can also enable Lightroom Mobile to automatically pull images that you take from your Mobile device. Make sure you create a special collection of those images only.

Creating Images with Lightroom Mobile

With the current version of Lightroom mobile, you can create images on your Smartphone with the app. It gives you the option of either shooting in JPG or DNG. You can also shoot in automatic or professional mode and use a variety of presets. I prefer to shoot an image without any preset adjustments made to it and apply any edits afterward. That way you will always have the un-retouched original image.

The automatic shooting mode on Lightroom mobile works really well. It gives you separate focus and exposure points as well as overexposure indicators that show up as a series of parallel lines indicating highlight clipping. These three tools are the keys to getting a good shot on your mobile device. If you scrub left or right on the screen, the highlight clipping indicators will go away when the exposure becomes balanced. If portions of the image are overexposed, it will show up as you see in the image of my white dog below.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Automatic Shooting Mode with Over Exposure Highlights

The beauty of using Lightroom Mobile is you can edit images on your Mobile device or from your main computer. They can be located in a collection taken with your DSLR, or they can be images taken with your cell phone and located in your Lightroom Mobil collection.

Note: if you have your monitor calibrated, the colors may come out differently on your pad or phone if you decide to edit from there. No editing is permanent within Lightroom, so it’s an easy fix if it doesn’t look right on your main desktop computer.

One of the keys to success in mobile photography is to get it right in the camera just like a DSLR. Using these tools with this intuitive mobile app will help you accomplish that goal.

Please keep in mind, your phone or tablet is not a DSLR, so know that the images will not be of the same quality as a high megapixel DSLR. However, the Lightroom Mobile camera app gives you some great tools to create some really nice Smartphone images.

Editing in Lightroom Mobile

Once you have created your images and imported them to Lightroom Mobile (either from your desktop or from your smartphone), you have almost as many options for editing on your device as you do on your desktop.

If you tap on the edit screen in the top left corner, it will open up a menu of several different editing options.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Select the Edit Tool

On the edit screen, you can choose to edit the image globally or choose selections and edit specific areas individually. This is how to start a post-processing workflow, whether you’re using Lightroom Classic CC desktop version or Lightroom Mobile.

Then you can go through the different options for post-processing, starting with light, color, effects and finishing off with detail. You can also make a selection in your image and go through all of those same adjustments, just affecting the selected areas.

Local Adjustments

By tapping on the selective icon on the bottom left, it will bring up a menu with a paintbrush. Tap on the brush, and then select the middle brush size and paint with your finger over the area you would like to edit. If you overdo it, you can use the eraser tool to clean up your selection. After you make the selection, then you can make any number of adjustments on just that area. Once you have made all the necessary adjustments, save your edits.

Lightroom Mobile - The Secret to Shooting and Editing on Your Smartphone

Using this technique will give you the most interesting effects by truly painting with light and not just adding random light adjustments for the whole image.

Give Lightroom Mobile a try and make it a part of your everyday photo organizing and editing. Give some of these selective tools a try and let me know how it goes in the comments area below.

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Holly Higbee-Jansen
Holly Higbee-Jansen

is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process.
Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique.
Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light” and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo Expeditions.com.

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