Setting up Lightroom Mobile for First Time Users


I laughed at Lightroom Mobile the first time I saw it. “Why would I ever want to use that stripped down gadget on a small screen?” And now, here I am about help you install and use it. Why is this?

It’s because I have found how totally useful the app is in sorting through hundreds or thousands of images from the world of “any time, any where”. Most notably, in a comfy chair with good light or on a weekly airplane flight. iPads also became lighter and iPhone screens larger.

Let’s start with how to set up Lightroom Mobile on your iPad or iPhone and then give some examples of how I find it useful in managing a huge library. I will be using a Collection of mine that is a work in progress to craft black and white images of the Himalayas.

Setting up Lightroom for mobile use

Connect Lightroom to your Adobe ID

The first step is to make sure you have the right version of Lightroom on your PC or Mac. You need to have version 5.4 or later, you can download the latest version from Adobe here. You also need an Adobe ID (free) for this to all work as it is the hub in the cloud that makes this all spin. If you don’t have one, sign up here.

With Lightroom open, you will notice in the upper left corner the phrase “Get started with Lightroom mobile”


Click the triangle next to the words and log in with your Adobe ID


You will then see that the top left of the screen has changed to the name you gave to Adobe upon creating your Adobe ID.


Great! Now let’s set up Collections to synchronize

Setting up Collections to sync

Lightroom Mobile will currently only work with Collections. If you need help setting up a Collection, the free Adobe video here will help. To enable a Collection for syncronization, simply right click on the Collection and choose “Sync with Lightroom mobile”. Pretty easy!


After clicking, you will notice a double arrow appears to the left of the Collection. This indicates the Collection will be syncing when sync is turned on.

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Now, up in the top left, Lightroom will let you know it is starting the sync of those images.


As a first pass, we are done! Simply repeat this process for Collections you have already created. Additionally, when creating a new Collection, there is a box that can be checked to automatically sync the new Collection. It looks like this:


Setting up your iPad or iPhone for use

This is the easy part. First, ensure your iPad/iPhone is connected to the Internet. Go to the App Store and search for Lightroom Mobile.


Install (it’s free) and then start the app.


You will be presented with an Adobe ID screen after paging through the first time introduction.


After signing in you will be taken to a page showing all the Collections you have set up to sync on the desktop version of Lightroom.


Tap the main image and you will be taken to the Collection itself. The first time you run through Lightroom Mobile it will give you helpful contextual hints.


Tap on any picture to edit it.


Quick filtering with Lightroom mobile

While there are a lot of features in Lightroom Mobile that make it useful for photographers, this post is going to concentrate on the basics to get you started.

Now that you have a Collection synced to your iPad/iPhone (note: it might take a while to fully sync a larger Collection), you can start filtering. For me, filtering is the best use of this app, currently. I enjoy being able to filter my images from the comfort of my living room or while traveling. I also do some basic edits to images but I usually leave the major edits to my desktop. To filter images, I use both the flags and stars features. You can switch between changing those features by tapping the icons in the bottom left corner.



When the flag icon is highlighted, as it is here, simply move your finger up or down on the screen to pick, unpick or reject images. These settings will then sync over to your desktop within seconds as long as Lightroom is open on the desktop.



I use these two features to sort images. Flags are images I especially like and I know I want to work on back at my desktop. I then use two stars to indicate the image should be used for my stock photography work (the scale then goes up to three stars once edits are done, four stars when title and keywords are done and five stars when completely finished).

There are a lot of editing options available in Lightroom Mobile that can be accessed from tapping the icons at the bottom of the screen on an individual image.


All of these features are best left for a future post.

Offline use

One last thing; Lightroom Mobile usually needs to ‘see’ your desktop’s version of Lightroom in order to show previews the first time and make edits. Therefor, once I have a Collection fully sync’d, I will then turn on Offline Editing which allows me freedom from wifi to make edits, knowing they will sync the next time I am online.

To do this, click on the three little dots on the bottom of the Collection image:


This brings up a menu with many options.


Choose to Enable Offline Editing and Lightroom Mobile will now bring across Smart Previews of the images to your mobile device.


How do you use Lightroom Mobile

Lightroom Mobile has a host of other features such as automatically uploading images shot on your iPhone/iPad into Lightroom on your desktop.

What about you? What have you found useful in Adobe Lightroom Mobile?

Read more from our Post Production category

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Morocco, Seattle, Los Angeles and more. He is also the creator of 31 Days to Better Photography & 31 Days of Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

  • Peter

    Beware though that on older computers enabling mobile sync will make the develop module unbearably slow for images that are in synced galleries. There are also currently a few essential features missing from LR mobile (creating virtual copies, B/W conversion, metadata entry, card import via Camera Connection Kit).

    For metadata editing and similar as well as importing on location from a memory card, the third-party Lighroom companion iPad app Photosmith is worth considering. It can also sync via WiFi and does not require an internet connection nor a Creative Cloud subscription. It does not have any “Develop Module” features like LR mobile does, and it hasn’t been updated recently (though the LR mobile update cycle isn’t exactly fast either, especially considering how many essential features are still missing).

  • Carol

    I have a question. Is internet required for syncing if mac and ipad are on the same wifi network? I see internet needed to sign on, but the reason I ask is that I am on a boat and bandwidth is precious (and expensive). Having signed on, I’d like the albums to sync without having to upload photos to the internet and download again to my ipad. A deal breaker! How do you handle that issue?

  • Peter West Carey

    Unfortunately you need an internet connection as the data and sync need to pass through Adobe’s servers. I wish it were different because it would be a help to many of us.

  • randypollock

    …and still the majority of tablet and phone users still can’t use it

  • Peter

    Yes, you need fast internet access. And your images don’t just need to be transferred once, but at least twice: Once to Adobe’s cloud servers where they are stored, and then back down to your mobile device(s). This syncing process can also be quite slow, even on fast internet, at least here in Europe. And on the mobile device, you have no real indication if all images are transferred or not. New images just show up, and sometimes you have to sign out and in order to get new galleries to show up (which loses all images stored for offline use).

    One would think that you could see the gallery and the total number of images waiting to be synced on the mobile device soon as you click “Sync” in LR desktop, but the only way to see if everything has completed on both sides is to check the total number of images on both the computer and mobile device. What’s more, LR sometimes seems to stop syncing when it is in the background for too long or the iPad is on lock screen, so you can’t just rely on it happening seamlessly over night. Not to mention privacy concerns (wouldn’t be the first time Adobe is hacked).

    What’s more, there is no way to set Desktop LR to import new images into a collection that is being synced. That means you first have to import all images, and only then can you set them to sync. You cannot connect all your cards and have them import and sync with LR mobile over night, you have to manually start the sync after the import is complete.

    For fast turnaround times, the current workflow is just impractical. When I have a set of 1500 images, it is not uncommon for me to have to wait two days until everything is ready to go and shows up properly on my iPad.

    For workarounds, you essentially have the following options:

    1) Bring a laptop instead and use Desktop LR like we used to. That’s what I do most of the time.

    2) Use something like the app Photosmith (iOS only), which supports local sync with Lightroom via WiFi and allows you to edit all sorts of metadata (more than LR mobile), create collections and it can also import raw files from card via USB, but it has no Develop controls.

    3) If you shoot JPEG (doesn’t work for raw): import the jpegs via the USB adapter into Apple’s Camera Connection Kit or use an EyeFi card, CamRanger or camera vendor app if your camera has WiFi. From the camera roll, you can import the files into LR Mobile. But this only works for JPEGs, LR cannot import raw files on a device.

    4) Run Desktop Lightroom on a tablet running Desktop Windows, like the Microsoft Surface Pro or one of those expensive Wacom ones.

    5) Control your laptop remotely via screen sharing via VNC (built-in on OS X in System Preferences, free for Windows) over an ad-hoc WiFi. Laptop needs to be running for it to work and it is clumsy, but I have done this on occasion.

    6) If you only need to apply ratings: Use CaptureOne on your Laptop instead of LR (C1 has much better image quality anyway) and use the free Capture Pilot app to sort through the images. The free Hasselblad Phocus might work as well if your camera is supported (Nikon/Canon are for example), but I haven’t tried it. You should be able to see the ratings applied in CaptureOne in LR since they are XMP metadata. Laptop needs to be running for this of course.

    Overall, it’s all quite frustrating. I hope we will see major improvements when LR6 comes out in February, but I doubt it. Not having local sync via WiFi gives them an excuse to make LR mobile a cloud-exclusive service, luring people into subscriptions.

  • Peter West Carey

    Peter, I hear you on the large collection upload times. What I find
    to help and take considerably less than two days for even 5000 images is to turn off the Auto Lock feature of your iPad (if it is safe for you to do so, assuming you are at home) and leave LR Mobile running.

    I was getting frustrated with it taking more than a couple of days to
    sync when I just used my iPad normally because you’re right, eventually the iPad wants the resources LR was using and stopped it.

    With leaving it on, plugged in and syncing, I can get through 1000 images in about an hour, maybe a little more. I can always find something else that ‘needs’ to be done during this time.

    It would be real swell if they would make it sync directly through USB too. That would cure a lot of ills for time and bandwidth. Maybe that will come one day.

  • Arnotron

    I don’t use it for one simple reason: I bought a full license for Lightroom when it was released, and have no need for Photoshop. Paying the creative cloud subscription ONLY for Lightroom mobile seems a little too much for personal use a few times a month, even though I really liked my short trial period.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately you need a web based access as the information and synchronize need to successfully go through Adobe’s web servers. I wish it were different because it would be a help to many of us.

  • Harun

    I’d like the collections to synchronize without having to publish images to the world wide web and obtain again to my ipad. A cope breaker! How do you manage that issue?

  • Kenneth Twist

    Can anyone tell me what specification android smartphone is required in order to use lightroom mobile?
    Thank you.

  • Peter West Carey

    I agree that LR Mobile doesn’t have it all right now, but I think that is the plan so it doesn’t become the behemoth that LR itself now is. Good to know about the other options out there. Thanks!

  • Peter West Carey

    The fully paid subscription is not needed, just an Adobe account, which is free.

  • Peter West Carey

    An Android version was just released a couple weeks ago! Check out Google Play.

  • Peter West Carey

    Right now there is no direct connection option, just over the web. Maybe Adobe can change that this year?

  • randypollock

    Not for 5.0 and up which leaves out the Nexus 9

  • Mark Stone

    why don’t you just go to Google Play, find the app and it will tell you if your phone can run it.

  • Kenneth Twist

    Thanks. I do not actually own a phone. I know, unheard of in today’s world, so am looking into the best affordable phone that will fit the bill.

    Thanks for your reply.

  • Flo Iya

    There is much to learn about lighting.Anyway for first time users round editing etc, here is a good link

  • Ville Kemppinen

    I waas not able to get this to work with just Adobe Account. Or yes I was, for 30 days of trial. After that it stopped and I am not able to use the mobile services.

  • Jessica Lillis

    Nice new features and you provide an excellent overview Peter West Carey, thank you!

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