An Overview of Lightroom Web – What is it and who is it for?

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Lightroom CC subscribers can access Lightroom in three places; on a computer using the desktop app, on a tablet or phone using Lightroom Mobile, or through an internet browser, using Lightroom Web (go to the url https://lightroom.adobe.com/ to check it out for yourself).

Lightroom web

Lightroom web is probably the least talked about of those three options. So I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at it to see what it can do and who might find it useful.

But first, let’s talk about Smart Previews. A Smart Preview is a highly compressed DNG file that measures 2540 pixels along the longest edge. Smart Previews are a fraction of the size of Raw files (as little as 2%). If you get into the habit of building Smart Previews when you import your images into Lightroom you will enjoy the following benefits.

1. You can develop photos when Lightroom can’t find the originals

If you save your Raw files on an external hard drive (recommended, so they don’t clog up your internal drive) then without Smart Previews you can only develop those photos when the hard drive is connected to your computer.

When the hard drive isn’t connected Lightroom uses the Smart Previews. This is helpful if you’re a laptop user who likes to travel. You can work on your photos while away from home, wherever you are in the world, without access to your Raw files.

2. Smart Previews make the Develop module faster

Using Smart Previews in the Develop module helps Lightroom run faster. Lightroom works quicker with the smaller Smart Preview than it does with the full-size Develop module preview.

Lightroom now gives you the option to automatically use Smart Previews in the Develop module. Go to the Performance tab in Preferences and tick the Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for Image Editing box.

Lightroom web

This feature appeared in Lightroom CC 2015.7 and Lightroom 6.7.

3. Smart Previews enable Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web

Smart Previews are used by Adobe to enable Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web. When you sync a Collection, Lightroom uploads the Smart Previews for the images in that Collection to Adobe’s servers.

Lightroom web

Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web then pull those Smart Previews from the servers so you can access your photos on your mobile device or in a browser. Adobe calls this CreativeSync.

What can you do in Lightroom Web?

There’s a lot you can do in Lightroom Web:

1. You can view your photos

You can view any synced Collections in Lightroom Web as well as in Lightroom Mobile.

This is the Lightroom Web interface. Synchronized Collections are shown on the left. The photos in the selected Collection are displayed on the right. All of this is done using Smart Previews.

Lightroom web

2. You can share photos

You can create online galleries and share the link. If the viewer has an Adobe ID they can favorite photos and leave comments.

This gives you an easy way to show photos to friends or clients. You can disable the link whenever you like, giving you complete control. The links can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Lightroom web

3. You can flag and rate photos

In Lightroom Web you can flag and rate photos, but you can’t apply color labels.

Lightroom web

4. You can develop photos

Most of the developing tools available in Lightroom mobile are also available in Lightroom Web. You can see the histogram, crop images, apply Clarity, adjust exposure and White Balance, convert to black and white and apply a split tone. There are also 25 built-in Lightroom presets.

But there are limitations – you don’t have access to the HSL / Color / B&W tools, and you can’t make local adjustments.

I can make basic adjustments in Lightroom Web to this landscape photo, but I can’t apply a Graduated filter to darken the sky. You can, however, do this in Lightroom Mobile (iOS version only at the time of writing).

Lightroom web

5. You can create new Collections

You can also move photos around between Collections.

6. You can download photos

You can download a JPEG of any photo in Lightroom Web. The maximum size is 2540 pixels along the longest edge (the same dimension as the Smart Preview).

7. You can send photos to Behance and Adobe Portfolio

You can send up to 50 photos to Adobe Portfolio or Behance. Adobe Portfolio is a free service that lets you build a portfolio web gallery for your images.

Who is Lightroom Web for?

If you build Smart Previews for every photo in your Collection you can view those photos using Lightroom Web from anywhere in the world. All you need is a web browser and your Adobe password.

The question of who is Lightroom Web for is a little tricky to answer. If you are away from home and have a choice between using Lightroom Mobile on a tablet and Lightroom Web, then you should use Lightroom Mobile. It has more options, especially when it comes to developing photos. It is also quicker to use if you download the Smart Previews to your device.

Lightroom Web may be useful if you work on two computers, say a desktop and a laptop. You can do most of your work on the desktop, and view photos, apply flags or star ratings and do some developing in Lightroom Web on the laptop.

If you are away from home and don’t have a mobile device, or want to see your photos on a bigger screen, the ability to access your synchronized Collections using Lightroom Web may come in handy. It’s a good to way to show your photos to people. Professionals may find it handy for handling last-minute client requests while away from home.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about Lightroom then please check out my Mastering Lightroom ebooks.

Read more from our Post Production category

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, photographer and traveler. He is the author of over twenty photography ebooks and runs The Creative Photographer photography blog. Join his monthly newsletter to receive complimentary copies of The Creative Image, What's New in Lightroom CC? and Use Lightroom Better!

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