A Mobile Photo Editing Workflow that Actually Works

Sometimes you want to be able to process and manage your photos while you are on the go and not have to worry about hauling your laptop around. Sometimes you want to be able to process your photos and have them backed up and off your memory cards while you’re out in the field.

This concept is not for everyone and not for every situation. There are benefits and drawbacks to this type of workflow. It can be both limiting and liberating at the same time.

The workflow I will outline is one utilizing the Adobe ecosystem. That is, primarily a combination of Lightroom Mobile, Lightroom CC/Classic. There are multiple approaches to a mobile workflow, and if you’re doing something different than what I’ve outlined here, I’d sure like to hear from you!

The All-New Lightroom CC

So, this topic can be a bit of a tinderbox it seems. Not everyone is happy with the recent updates to Adobe’s Lightroom product. Some of us are pleased and excited for the future we envision. What the future actually holds remains to be seen.

Adobe seems to have embraced the mobile approach with this new software release. The all-new Lightroom CC is more or less (at this point a little less) the exact same thing as the existing Lightroom Mobile product. The integration of Artificial Intelligence (Adobe Sensei) is one of the most exciting parts of this new approach. The ability to search using this tool is probably the most instantly useable feature. The future prospect of AI taking the helm to take care of basic editing is REALLY exciting. Anything that has the ability to help us spend less time on basic, rudimentary edits and gets us out shooting more is a good thing.

Adobe, for now at least, has afforded us the opportunity to slowly switch to the new environment (Lightroom CC) with the offering of “Lightroom Classic CC”. I, like many others, believe that this will be a limited time offering and will eventually stop being supported and the expectation will be that anyone wishing to remain in Adobe software will be utilizing the new Lightroom.

There are obviously many concerns surrounding the new Lightroom CC. The main concern I hear is around the prospect of storing RAW files in the Cloud. This is an issue that is at the center of the mobile workflow which I am going to discuss. I am confident that a solution to this issue will be offered by Adobe in upcoming versions of Lightroom CC perhaps allowing us the flexibility to choose what gets stored in the cloud if anything. We’ll have to wait and see on that last point.

Adobe Alternatives 

Like it or not, the changes are real and something we will all have to learn to deal with. If one decides to jump off the Adobe train, there are many alternatives out there that are real possibilities for you. Either way, you need to adjust/rebuild your workflow.

At the time of writing, Macphun (changing their name to “Skylum” in the near future) just announced their Luminar 2018 product which looks to be an exciting offering and now features Digital Asset Management to keep track of and organize all of your files.

Affinity Photo (by Serif) is another that would support a solid mobile workflow as the iPad app is full featured and very powerful. I pulled the trigger on the iPad app myself a while back and spent some time messing around with the app and I need to spend more time to get to know it well but it is an extremely capable program for processing RAW files on the move.

I think these will both be very attractive solutions for those of you who have no interest in a subscription model. The people over at Macphun and Serif both seem to be working hard to capitalize on this newly opened corner of the market full of photographers who want a perpetual license. During the writing of this article, I have received numerous marketing communications from both companies pointing out the benefits of their system and the perpetual license models they offer.

When You Need a Mobile Workflow Solution

There are countless situations in which a mobile photo editing workflow solution can be a real lifesaver. Perhaps you feel the need to satisfy your many followers on Instagram or Facebook, etc. with a preview of your current project. Maybe the images you capture are going to have the most impact if they are published sooner rather than later. It could be that you’re like me and you just really need some form of instant gratification and confirmation that you’re on the right track with your shoot.

My own recent use case for a solid mobile workflow solution came when I had the chance to photograph the PGA Championship Golf Tournament at Quail Hollow outside of Charlotte, NC. I was tasked with following a couple of key players who were known locally. Because these players weren't named Tiger Woods (not playing), Jordan Spieth, etc. it was unlikely that many images of them would come from other sources.

Tiburon Golf Club (Omaha) PGA Teaching Professional, Ryan Vermeer playing his shot from the green-side bunker of #1 during the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow (NC). Canon 7D Mk II; EF 300 f/2.8L IS II; 1/2500″ f/2.8 ISO100

A very similar use case has been mentioned by Jeff Harmon on the Photo Taco and other podcasts where he talked about shooting basketball games and posting photos to Facebook as he was shooting. Providing this type of instant gratification can and does lead to higher levels of engagement and interaction with your work. Simply put, people love it!

When You May Not Want a Mobile Workflow Solution

In any case listed above, a limited number of select photos are processed and published. This highlights the current limitations of such a workflow. The current state of technology makes such a workflow significantly slower than we are accustomed to. The idea of uploading large numbers of RAW files to a tablet, for example, then pushing all of those massive files to the cloud over anything less than the fastest of internet connections is prohibitive to say the least.

If you have just finished shooting a time-lapse on your new Nikon D850 and your time-lapse is 450 shots in length (not unreasonable at all) you could be looking at nearly 40GB worth of files! Or, twice that many shots with twice the data if you just finished shooting a modest wedding. Obviously, these are not the types of situations where you would use a mobile workflow to handle the entire job.

Perhaps, however, you do want to choose a few select images to work on right away and post as a value-added service within the overall service you are providing. I have never shot a wedding (and I’m not sure I ever will) but I’d bet that the ability to instantly share a professional quality shot from the ceremony and/or the reception is something that clients would love.

Hardware Necessary

For this sample workflow I will outline the basic requirements in terms of hardware/software as well as what I have used specifically.

Mobile phone/tablet (iPad, etc.)

In my case, I utilize Apple devices including the iPhone 7 Plus in 128GB and the iPad Pro 9.7” also in 128GB. The same type of workflow is possible for Android based devices but your experience may vary from mine depending on which device you are running.

I try to utilize devices that have fairly high storage capacities to help me manage files that I want to work on but obviously, for a lot of reasons, permanent storage on the device is not recommended. Many Android based devices allow for the expansion of storage (a sticking point with Apple) but one should still be careful not to rely on the device as the lone or even primary storage location of their images.

A bonus that comes with the iPad Pro is the ability to leverage the power of the Apple Pencil. This handy (though pricey) little tool really adds a lot of value to the mobile photo editing experience. Plus, it can be used in other ways… For example, I pair it with an app called Duet Pro and turn my iPad/Apple Pencil combo into a graphics tablet (as a second monitor supporting touch). It may not be a Wacom tablet, but it's still cool!

Memory card reader (if you want to employ a RAW workflow/do not have wifi in camera) 

The DSLR Camera systems that I employ all have WiFi built in (70D, 6D Mk I, 5D Mk IV), so this offers me one possible solution for transferring images from my camera to my device. It is important to note that the files that come over via a WiFi connection from the camera are generally not RAW files. In many cases, however, they are good enough for a quick edit and posting to social media to generate buzz.

The workflow that supports RAW utilizes a card reader that plugs directly into your device. I use the Apple USB 3 Lightning to SD Card Reader which plugs directly into either device I use and upon inserting a card, it launches the photos app with an “import” dialog. Unfortunately, the iPad Pro 9.7” model I use does not support USB 3.0 speeds and I am relegated to 2.0 speeds (slower) for transferring the files to my device.

It should be noted that it is also possible to attach your camera directly to your device using USB adapters. I have not employed this method, but the experience should be similar to using an attached card reader.

Software/apps for cataloging/editing your photos

There are countless apps that work for mobile photo editing and many of them even support RAW workflows. There are a couple that I turn to. The list of apps mentioned in this article are by no means all-inclusive and there are tons of them out there. If there are apps I missed that you find extremely useful, let me know!

Lightroom Mobile App: One, which is the center of this workflow example is the Lightroom Mobile App. This app has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year or so and is really powerful. With the release of the new Lightroom CC this app integrates seamlessly with the desktop version of the software and edits made on one device automatically (assuming you have an active internet connection on both devices) transfers to the other. Also produced by Adobe and useful on your device is; Photoshop Express, Photoshop Mix (supports a layer based Workflow) and Photoshop Fix (not sure why these last two are separate apps).

Snapseed: Another app, which I commonly use is called Snapseed. Snapseed is maintained by Google and is another very powerful mobile photo editing app. This particular app supports a RAW based workflow and is full of tools, some of which are very useful and other that are less useful in my opinion. I frequently find myself just opening a photo in Snapseed, making my edits and posting right to social media. It is important to note that when you go to save your edits made in Snapseed you have three distinct options. You may save the changes directly to the photo, in a non-destructive way in which the photo may be reopened in the app and edits changed or undone. You may also export to a separate file where the changes can be edited later on or undone completely. Finally, you may export to a separate jpeg where the changes are “baked in”.

Affinity Photo for iPad: One last editing app I use (and need to spend more time with) is Affinity Photo for the iPad. This is an extremely powerful image editing platform that approaches the functionality of any desktop program, complete with layers and everything. A completely viable Photoshop replacement for many people.

The Workflow (an example)

I start by outlining the RAW mobile workflow. I will show the same example utilizing both the new Lightroom CC as well as Lightroom Classic CC.

Step 1. Attach Card reader to device and insert card.

iPad Pro with Lightning to SD Card Reader Attached

An import screen will appear allowing you to import all, select photos to import or delete photos (I suggest never deleting any photos through this functionality).

Step 2. Select photos you wish to import to device.

Apple iPad photo import screen with 3 photos selected to import to device

As stated in Step 1, there are a couple of options here. You may select specific images or just import all. When choosing, keep the goals of this editing session in mind. Do you want to edit the entire wedding now, on your iPad? No? Perhaps just select a few then. Also remember that storage on your device may be limited. Storage limitations are a critical component of any photo editing workflow. After import, you may be prompted to choose between keeping and deleting the photos you just imported. I always just keep and clear my cards by reformatting in camera.

Step 3. Open your editing app and edit your photos!

Not mentioned in the apps section above, is the option to just edit directly within the iOS photos app. Since iOS 10 this has been possible with RAW photos! Or, use Snapseed as mentioned above and edit photos individually.

Or, open Lightroom Mobile and import there. From the main screen in Lightroom Mobile (showing all albums) on the far-right side of the word “albums” you will see a “+” sign. Tapping this will allow you to create a new album of your choosing as a way of organizing your photos. Be sure to check out Christoper Mower’s recent article on organizing Lightroom!) You will see two small icons in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The one on the left is for importing images and the other takes you to the Lightroom Camera App (more on that later). Tap the import icon and simply swipe over the photos you wish to import, click “add photos” and you’re in!

4 iPad screenshots showing import workflow-Create “album”, Name the album, select photos by tapping the icon in the lower left, then select photos to import. While selecting photos, you can swipe across to quickly select many photos.

If you are running Lightroom Mobile, your photos will upload to the cloud (full RAW files) but you don’t need to wait for this to happen to begin the editing process. Once you’re in the presence of a decent Wi-Fi signal, you should be able to finish the upload fairly easily, depending on the number of files and see/edit your photos on all your devices running Lightroom (Mobile, New CC, or Classic).

Lightroom Mobile editing module screenshot showing editing tools to right

Step 4. Export and Share!

From Lightroom Mobile, after you have completed your edits and you’re ready to share, with the photo open, simply tap the icon at the top that looks like a box with an arrow jumping out of it and choose from the options that come up: “Share” (prepares the file and jumps to a dialog allowing you to text, etc.), “Save to Camera Roll” (simply exports your image to your camera roll-this I what I usually use), “Save to Files” (allows the utilization of the iOS 11 ‘files’ organization feature allowing you to write straight to Dropbox, etc.), “Open in” (allows you to transfer the file to any number of other installed apps for further use), and “Edit in” (exports to other Adobe apps for photo editing i.e. Photoshop Fix). “Export Original” simply exports an unedited version of your RAW file to your photos.

Export from Lightroom Mobile. When exporting, two options are given: Small (2048 px for Facebook, etc.) and “Maximum available”

Where do my files go?

The answer to this question really depends on the exact workflow you select and a lot of it depends on your own personal preference for how you manage your files.

Working in Lightroom Mobile: If you are particularly interested in this type of workflow and you want to work off a device like an iPad frequently, you'll want to pay close attention to the storage of your files. At the time of writing, the iPad Pro is available with up to 512 GB of storage space. While that is pretty large for a mobile device, it is not unlimited and my guess is that many of you are like myself and you'll be working off a much smaller amount of local storage (128GB in my case).

As you import to your device, you are storing the photos under the normal photos app. They are then imported to Lightroom Mobile and upon connecting to the internet they are stored in the cloud. Once this movement to the cloud is completed, you are free to delete the photos from their normal location on your device. I know this is extremely scary, but you will be able to download the originals by asking the app to do so at any time. If you are just not the type of person to trust the cloud storage, my suggestion (and what I will likely do myself) is to make sure the photos appear in Lightroom CC on your desktop and with the option to keep local copies of all files selected, you will also have your on site storage taken care of. At this point you can free up that space on your device.

Lightroom Mobile will keep some of the recently utilized photos in a cache on your device and utilize smart previews the rest of the time. With a photo open in the app, simply tap on the cloud icon in the top right and you will see where the open photo is stored. If the local storage is “smart preview”, you may tap on “get this original” and the full RAW file will be downloaded to your device.

Lightroom Mobile Screenshot showing file status for selected photo. The device has a smart preview on hand and the original RAW file is in the cloud. If I want to pull the original down to the device, I just have to tap “Get This Original” and it will download.

Working in Lightroom CC: If you decide to be an early adopter and jump right into the new Lightroom CC, you’re giving up quite a bit of this control. For many that will be too scary a prospect but it also comes with some interesting benefits. Within this workflow option, your files live in the “cloud” (a.k.a. on some server/servers somewhere in the world, who really knows) and at your option you can keep a separate copy of all of your files stored off-line locally (I would recommend this). As you import photos, they are stored automatically in your cloud account. As you need to work on them, they are downloaded to a cache on your computer and this cache can be limited in size based on your own preferences.

This has the distinct advantage of freeing up hard drive space on your machine while allowing you to have access to your images. The disadvantage being that if you need access to your full RAW files (the ones not currently in the cache) and you do not have access to the internet, you are hosed. The other major drawback to this is that Adobe does not have an unlimited storage plan (as of this writing) and if you have terabytes of data to store, it can get pricey. On the other hand, it serves as a true perpetual cloud backup making the recommended 3-2-1 backup strategy a cinch.

Screen shot of Lightroom CC Preferences. You can decide how much of your free hard drive space Lightroom can use to store RAW files. From this setting, Lightroom will attempt to strike a balance between space saving and functionality. Under “Advanced Options” you would make the decision to store ALL originals locally (they remain in the cloud as well) and decide where to store the files (external HD for example).

Working in Lightroom Classic CC: If you stick with Classic (which I plan on doing myself…for now) the file storage should be fairly familiar. It works like this…Once your device where you’ve done your mobile import has had a chance to sync with the cloud, your images will appear in Lightroom Classic CC. In the Collections panel, you will see a collection set titled: “From Lr mobile”. Within this set you will see all of the collections which you created via your device and the photos will be accessible through those collections. But!?, I know, this doesn’t tell you exactly where the file resides (besides in the cloud, which is one location it will be in). The file also is stored in a temp folder on your computer. You could right click on any file and have Lr show you the file in its folder on the computer but the easiest way to find these is to look in the Files panel and you will see “drives” for each of your devices. These “drives” also have the icon indicating they are synced, which they are.

My “folders” panel in Lightroom Classic CC showing my devices and the files uploaded from each. I can click on the file and select all the images and move them to my external HD within Lightroom Classic to manage their location, just as before.

If you feel the need to move these files (to an external HD for example) simply move them as you have moved any file within Lightroom in the past. As I did this last bit myself, I thought of something interesting. It is possible to have your RAW file stored in three unique locations, automatically with the same edits flowing to each one without any additional input on your part. If you run Classic and the new Lightroom CC on your computer and you upload via the new Lightroom, your file will automatically be placed in the cloud, remain on your computer attached to your Lightroom CC AND be stored wherever you keep you copies for Lightroom Classic CC. If you have the option in Lightroom CC to keep local copies of ALL Files enabled you could have a true 3-2-1 workable backup with minimal effort on your part. I kind of like this…Until I hit that storage limit attached to my CC account.

The Effect of Culling for Mobile Editing

As noted in the next section on speed and also related to the aforementioned storage limit issue, you may want to do some serious culling of your images prior to the import/upload process in Lightroom Mobile or the new Lightroom CC. When importing your RAW files into your device, you are given the option to keep the photos on the card. I recommend doing this and only reformat in camera when you are ready to work from a fresh card. If you upload select images and you plan to upload the balance of the images in Lightroom Classic CC later on, you will notice (assuming you have the ignore duplicates option checked in Classic) that you are only set to import the files not previously uploaded. This is rather handy, I think.

The drawback to this that you will want to keep in mind is that the new images you import via Lightroom Classic CC will not be backed up in the cloud and will not be available across your devices unless you place them in a synced collection (more on that later). So just be aware of this.

Some notes on speed

Photo from my speed test showing the time it took to import 75 photos to my iPad via the card reader. Photos were Full Size RAW files captured on a 5D Mk IV.

I did a test on the speed of the various elements of this workflow. The actual speed of Lightroom (all versions) aside, I was interested in how fast my files hit the cloud and were available on my other devices. I utilized a recent shoot I did for work. I came away from the relatively small shoot with 75 photos on the card in my Canon 5D Mark IV (Full size RAW only). Wait times on the various steps were as follows:

Time to import all 75 photos from the card to my iPad Pro via the Lightning to SD card reader- 3 minutes and 17 seconds. Your time may differ depending on which card reader you have and which device you have. My reader supports USB 3.0 speed but my understanding is that to take full advantage of the reader’s speed I would need the larger iPad Pro.

Time to import 30 select photos to Lightroom Mobile: (I did this in two parts to test on my home network connection provided by CenturyLink and on the Wi-Fi in a public location that I have used and found to be reliable and quick) 1 minute 33 seconds on home connection got me to 5%. Extrapolating that out equates to about 1 RAW file per minute or 30 minutes for my tiny batch. I finished the other 95% in the public space in 7 minutes and 50 seconds or just over 3.6 RAW files per minute. This is a main sticking point for a lot of people with the idea of uploading all of your RAW files to the cloud. Most of us do not have very fast/reliable/unlimited internet in our homes and even the faster options we can seek out still aren't that fast when you're talking Terabytes of data. This could be an entire topic/article by itself.

Because I had my computer connected and running Lr Classic and the new Lr CC, it was downloading the images from the cloud as I was still uploading from the device, so the files were available on my MacBook immediately. If my MacBook were sleeping, it is safe to assume that the files would need to be pulled from the cloud to be worked on but I might be working on some while the rest are downloaded, so I might not notice the delay.

The time taken by each device to notice and apply changes made by another device was nearly instant.

A “Reverse” Mobile Editing Workflow

There is another interesting usability to everything that this workflow has to offer as well. This usability is something that you may have already discovered prior to the addition of the recent Lightroom update. Actually, nearly everything I’ve mentioned so far was possible prior to the new Lightroom CC. The new Lightroom simply added a desktop version of the mobile platform which will add simplicity for some and the ability to import to your computer and have RAW files also go to the cloud (whether you like it or not).

What I mean by a “reverse” mobile editing workflow in this case is the ability to import your photos on your computer and then take them mobile for culling, editing, etc. With the new update, there are a couple of different approaches to this now.

Import/Upload via Lightroom Classic CC

This process remains unchanged from before the release of the new Lightroom CC. Basically, what you do is import as you normally would and then create a collection and sync that collection by clicking the “sync” icon to the left of the collection name. Syncing the collection stores Smart Previews in the cloud which can be worked on via any device running Lightroom Mobile and connected to your CC account.

A recent use case I had for this type of workflow happened after a family shoot (my kids at a local park). I did my culling on my computer in Lightroom 2015 utilizing the popular 1,2,3 star culling system and then I placed all of the 3 star images into a collection and clicked the icon to sync the collection to Lr Mobile. I wanted to work on the images during lunch but I did not want to bring my computer with me.

Syncing 62 images from old Lightroom only took a couple of minutes (smart previews syncing is the only option from old Lightroom and Lightroom Classic CC at this point). When it was time to go to lunch I was able to just grab my iPad and go (iPad not even necessary as I could have also worked from my iPhone).

I edited several images while eating my lunch, had them ready for export from my computer with no additional work necessary and even exported a couple from my device and sent them out to my family before I even left the restaurant. Note that the images exported from my device based on the smart preview may not be on par with the quality offered by a proper export based on the RAW file, but they worked for quick sharing.

Screen shot from Lightroom Classic CC. The arrow is pointed at the icon to be clicked to sync a collection with the cloud. I have a running collection titled “For Mobile Work” in which I will place photos I want to work on “on the go”.

Import/Upload via the new Lightroom CC

If you are working from the new Lightroom CC, things will be a little different. You will insert your card into your computer and follow the normal, and honestly much easier than Classic, import process selecting or creating an “album” in which to place your photos. There will be no need to select an option or click an icon to sync your album since the very nature of the new Lr is built around automatic cloud storage of your files. The real major difference with this part of the process is that your original RAW file will be stored rather than just a smart preview as in Classic. Once the upload of your RAW file is completed you should see the photo appear on any internet connected device you have running your account in Lr.

For more on the technical details around uploading and keeping your new Lightroom CC catalog organized, I will once again send you over to Christopher Mowers’ article on the matter.

A 100% Mobile RAW Workflow

Available on Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” This quote, attributed to award winning photographer, Chase Jarvis, has become cliché in photography. But in a time where our phones are becoming more and more capable cameras (I use my iPhone more for photography than for making calls) it rings true for a lot of us. Chase's first book was titled: The Best Camera Is the One That's With You (2009) and it celebrates mobile phone photography, specifically the iPhone. I have six framed photos hanging in my office. Four of them were taken with various iPhones. I would be remiss if I did not take the time to include mobile phone photography in this article.

The iPhone, by a wide margin, is the most popular camera on planet earth. With the release of iOS 10 in 2016, Apple unlocked the power of RAW photos in an iPhone. Other manufacturers made this possible prior to Apple, but this release brought it into the mainstream. What Apple has not done, as of yet, is build the RAW capabilities into their native camera app. There are tons of 3rd party camera apps that can leverage the RAW file in the iPhone though. I use two in particular. One is called “Camera+” and has a lot of great RAW and manual functionality and the other is the camera built into Lightroom Mobile. Both of these apps generate RAW files (with the appropriate settings) and that goes a long way in expanding the functionality of the camera in your iPhone.

The Camera+ app saves each photo (as a HEIF, JPEG or TIFF or any plus a DNG file) in its own directory within the app rather than in the “photos” app on your phone. From there you can select photos to export to your “photos” app. There is a decent set of editing tools within the app where you can work on your photo prior to exporting it to your regular photo location on your phone.

The camera app built into Lightroom Mobile also creates a “DNG” file and automatically imports it to your Lightroom Catalog where it can be edited the same as any other imported photo. The editing can continue on ANY device you have connected to your Creative Cloud account, which is handy as well.

The ability to utilize the power of RAW files in mobile photography is really exciting and interesting as the cameras get better and better. My question for all of you is; When will photography on a mobile device render our larger “professional” cameras more or less obsolete, if ever? I’d love to hear your opinions/predictions in the comments section!


There are various ways you can utilize the power of the cloud and your various devices for a solid mobile photo editing workflow. what I have outlined here is really just the beginning of the possibilities. The capabilities of our hardware, software and supporting technologies are always evolving and will support us into the future in ways we would be hard pressed to predict at this time.

The method in which you choose to implement a mobile workflow is up to you and with all of the possibilities it will become very individualized. The entire point of this article is to begin to expose you to some of those possibilities and ease any concerns you have in implementing a mobile workflow to help you to accomplish whatever mission you are on in your photography.

19 thoughts on “A Mobile Photo Editing Workflow that Actually Works”

  1. Hi Brad, really enjoyed your article as I am working through this in detail, myself.

    I am particularily interested in solving problems arising with travelling without an internet connection – e.g. cruise ships or any other place where the WiFi is unusable. In this case, I have experimented with doing everything you suggest with import to the iPad Pro – but turning SYNC OFF. Now I can import from my DSLR camera card using the Lightning-SD Card reader into Photos; and from there into LR. It’s easily to pick those up because in Lr Mobile you can choose Photos Previous Import quickly … do the import and then clear them from Photos. Now, you are not encumbered by the slow WiFi – but you can work freely on your iPad to cull and mark for deletion; and perform initial edits. You can truly delete (the originals are still on your card anyway) to effect the cull. And by clearing them from Photos right after import to Lr Mobile, you eliminate dual copies of the raw files on the storage-limited iPad.

    When you are finally back on usable WiFi you can turn SYNC’ing back on and the remaining good raws will upload to CC and then back down to Lr Classic (or CC) on your DeskTop/Laptop to complete the process and store.

    This works fine for images off your DSLR or from the iPad itself … but ones shot on the phone can’t participate as I have not found a good way to get those from the Phone to the iPad in the absence of WiFi/CC.

    As you suggest, it’s a work in progress but I have two trips coming up at the end of November where this will exactly be my situation and I am looking forward to trying it out.

    I will do each daily shoot on it’s own separate 16GB card and won’t re-format the cards until everything is secure on the DeskTop on return.

    1. Thanks for the note Jim! It sounds like your situation is a perfect use case!! Good point on Lightroom having the creating extra copies of your RAW files. I was afraid to tell people to delete photos and reformat cards before they are able to ensure that all of their photos are backed up with redundancy. One of my biggest fears is that someone follows my advice and ends up deleting their photos from their trip or event “of a lifetime”.

      Another option you have for storage on your trip is to pick up an external hard drive that broadcasts its own wifi signal or one with its own built in card reader (WD makes such drives as do others). This gives you a place to backup your photos and you could possibly also transfer files to it from you iPhone and then download them onto your iPad (TWO problems solved!!).

      The other option you may have to get photos to your iPad from you iPhone, in the absence of an internet connection, is by trying to leverage the “airdrop” feature. RAW files will move across this type of connection which is true device to device communication.

      I look forward to hearing how this works for you on your trips!

  2. Enjoying your “Mobile Photo Editing Workflow /that Actually Works”

    Found a typo if you are interested…

    The workflow that supports RAW a utilizes a card reader…

  3. I just pulled the trigger on affinity photo for my iPad Pro, it is like full photoshop on your ipad. At 19.99 in the App Store I don’t think you can go wrong. It is a bit of a learning curve but the tutorials are vast and very clear, along with a book now. I am getting really sick of adobe and have been looking for a mobile app that I can use and dump adobe like a hot potato. I am 99.9% sure I have found my new photo editing and orginizing programs. I am trying affinity for the mac and Macphun now Skylum along with Aurora hdr for the Mac. I also have Snapseed for the I pad which I really like also. I am positive I will be canceling adobe here very shortly

    1. Good call on Affinity Photo! I have that app as well and I really need to dedicate some time to getting to know it a little better. It’s a real bargin at $19.99! The great thing for all of us with the changes at Adobe, is that it forces all of us to rethink our editing workflow. This is a healthy thing to do from time to time. There is no question that there are a ton of interesting options out there. Cheers to you in your quest for a better way of doing things!

  4. Hi Brad,

    Fantastic article, thanks a lot for putting this together. I’m sure this is relevant for a ton of photographers out there.

    I have been trying to get my head around the optimal mobile workflow for some time now and I am still to find a solution for my objective. When out in the field, I use camera, ipad Pro and SD card dongle. I then import the files into Apple photos, edit them in LR CC and then share it directly via social media. The one issue I have not solved yet, is how to get the edited DNG files off the ipad and onto a harddrive for archiving. I have run out of the LR cloud storage and with my money already spent on several other cloud hosting solutions (e.g. Google drive and dropbox), I prefer not to spend crazy money on yet another one. What is missing in my view is a solution to ‘physically’ get the edited dng files off the ipad and on to another storage device (e.g. a wireless drive such as the Lacie fuel). That way you could edit pics on the go and push jpgs directly onto social media, while keeping high res files archived for when you want to print for example. Unless I am missing something obvious, I don’t think that solution exists yet, does it?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Glad you found the article helpful! It sounds like you have a workflow that mirrors mine almost exactly.

      I do have a solution for your issue…

      Within the article, under the heading “Where do my files go?” there is a subheading for working with Lightroom Classic CC. Classic provides the workaround. If you’re not using Classic, at least in part, you’re tied to the cloud storage provided by Lr :(.

      In that section, I show a panel that shows up on the left in Classic. This panel shows “Folders”. This is where you will see your computer hard drive as well as any other drives where you have photos stored (your Lacie). You should also see a “drive” dedicated to your iPad Pro.

      The workflow looks like this:
      – Set up a destination folder in the drive where you want the photo to be archived/live permanently.
      – Go to the folder where your file is in Lr Classic (under your iPad)
      – Select the images to be moved and drag them to the destination folder you set up.
      -This will move the Raw file as well as the edits that have been done
      – Go into Lr Mobile or Lr CC desktop (NOT CLASSIC) and find the file from within “All Photos” (the all photos part is important, or the file will continue to eat space on your account).
      -Delete the file from within All Photos.
      -This part can be scary so try it with some test files to make sure you have the workflow right.
      -You will see that the file as shown within Lr Classic stops syncing but it remains. It will disappear from your Lr Mobile.

      This should free up the space on your account.

      Here’s a really cool trick: If you then take the file within Classic and put it into a synced collection you will be able to continue accessing it, editing it and exporting it via a smart preview WITHOUT having the file count against your storage!! The only downsides to this is that you no longer have the original RAW file backed up in the cloud and your exports are based on the smart preview, not the original. I find this last downside to not matter too much as when doing things like posting to social media, it doesn’t have a noticeable negative impact.

      Hopefully this is helpful to you and if you have questions feel free to reach out! I’m thinking I should create a YouTube tutorial on this workflow 😉



      1. Hi Brad,

        New LR user here (used ACR for a few years but new to the LR ecosystem). Up until last week I had been using iCloud Photo Library (jpegs) and Canon DPP4 for processing camera Raw photos for output into iCloud. iPhone photos went straight into iCloud. As much as Iove the seamless nature of iCloud photos, I’ve been frustrated by it’s raw support and lack of editing tools in the iOS app. This also meant I have to wait until I get home from travels to process raws in DPP4.

        Long story short, I thought I’d give LR a go whilst I was on holiday last week. Very impressed with the editing power on a mobile device, so when I got home I downloaded the Classic and CC trials and started having a play.

        It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it.

        LRCC behind the scenes works pretty much exactly how I would want it to, basically a souped-up iCloud Photo Library. Everything in one place, with non-destructive editing that I can access anywhere. And I can triage, and edit anywhere in the world. Great! Except it’s missing some features from Classic that I want to use. Mapping for example, and external editing. (FYI I use Geotag Pro on iOS to tag photos.

        Classic, has all the tools I need, but syncing leaves a lot to be desired. I have worked out your method described in your reply above for myself, but it still relies on manual intervention to replace full res masters in the cloud with smart previews.

        If there was a way to simply click on a few photos and choose “replace image in cloud with smart preview”, or heck, if Adobe could implement a way for Classic to do this automatically once it downloads the original, it would make for a lot of happy users.

        Right now I’m unsure where to go. Either:

        1. I persevere with Classic and LR on iOS and manually resync everything once received in Classic effectively replacing iCloud Photos.
        2. Carry on with iCloud Photo Library and use LR Classic in the same way I used DPP4 with the additional benefit of processing raws before I get home and then simply spit them out from Classic into Apple Photos.
        3. I switch wholeheartedly to LR CC and hope it catches up with Classic with the missing features I want. I could potentially geotag photos before they get into LRCC, but I have no idea whether this information will be preserved.

        Advice would be gratefully received.

        Kind regards

    2. Hi Daniel.
      I do this via Sandisk Ixpand. it has a lighting adapter on one end for iPad or iPhone & usb on the other for computers.
      They come in 32, 64, 128 & 256gig capacities.
      I use 64gig & transfer from my iPad to desktop. Can transfer to Mac or Windows PC.

  5. Enjoyed your article. I recently bought a new camera, Canon 80D and a new iPad Pro 10.5” with Pencil. I’ve dived into using Lightroom CC and Affinity Photo. I’ve learned a few things about Lightroom CC that you didn’t mention that i’m Not sure are concerning or not. I’m still experimenting so there maybe something i’ve missed. With Lightroom Mobile if you export as original to Photos or Files, you get the full 20+ Meg file. However if you take your edited photo (the basics of light, contrast, color, etc) you get a much smaller jpeg. Something around 9 MB. That seems to be true if you export the photo to say Affinity Photo. Again i’m Not sure if that’s a deal breaker or a big deal, but I have noticed that if you process a Raw photo in Affinity Pro and export as JPEG it’s not reduced by much. Any thoughts on this and whether it’s something one should worry about? My concern of course is that after I do some culling and basic RAW processing in LR and then decided to edit in Affinity i’m Working with a lot less photographic data than if I just export the original RAW and then import. So then it begs the question should I only use LR for the purpose of culling? Should I always export original from LR and import into Affinity and re-process the the photo? Lightroom doesn’t give you much in the way of options of exporting and doesn’t really tell you what it’s doing or how big or small the file is or even the resolution. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Kelly,

      You’ve hit it squarely. The export features of Lr Mobile are lacking. Of course, if you’re exporting from the iPhone, Adobe is going to assume you’re just getting it ready for posting and thus exports a JPEG at maximum possible resolution (or at 2048 on long edge). They naturally wouldn’t export in a manner optimized for moving into an app like Affinity (which is a solid editing platform) as it is the main competition.

      I do believe that this will change in the near future though after hearing of an upcoming release of a “full featured” version of Photoshop for the iPad. I would guess that along with that release they will also update Lr Mobile to export as a PSD, TIFF, etc. type of file. Though they may work to ensure that we can only export directly to Photoshop. Time will tell.

  6. Greetings to all.

    My main workhorse is a IPad Pro 12.9. I use Lightroom mobile but I want to know is there Is a way to work a photo in Lightroom and then use another app to export the Lightroom photo as a TIFF For large Prints. I know that Afinity can export as tiff but I don’t know if I can open my edited Lightroom in afinity

    The day that Lightroom mobile allow tiff export, that day will be a day to remember.

    Best regards.

    1. Hi Oliver,

      See my reply to Kelly above as I think the same thoughts apply to you. I don’t know of a way to accomplish this task now, other than just moving over to the desktop version. Again, I think this will change along with Adobe’s release of the “full” Photoshop for iPad, which is supposedly coming. Fingers crossed!

  7. Thanks for your useful and inspiring article,Brad. I’ve just purchased my first iPad, so far I’ve been working with an iPhone, and I feel like an Photgene4 orphan. This app was just perfect for my workflow, but it has unfortunately been discontinued. I’ll try to resume my workflow, maybe you can suggest me how to adapt the available apps to it, or the other way around.
    I’m a photojournalist in a small town, so I usually have enough time to go back to my bureau after shooting my assignments, edit and backup copy pictures on my desktop pc (LR), and caption, iptc edit and ftp to our main editing desk through a proprietor app. This is the everyday routine. But when things must be fast, I use my iPhone. As I told before, with my iPhone I connect my camera, download some of them preselected to Photos, edit, write caption and ftp. For that, Photogene was perfect. All tools in the same box. Now I’m using Filterstorm Neue, but editing tools are not so friendly. So, my questions are: Lightroom allows me to edit rows and export jpegs, as the desktop version does? I’m not interested in cloud copies. Can I stop the cloud back up process? Is it possible to create templates for fast captioning, or batch caption? Can I export through ftp directly from LR, or should I install a ftp client app? Thanks for any suggestions. My workflow might be messy, but it’s the way I like it. In Spanish we say “cada maestrlillo tiene su librillo”. (Each teacher has his own little book) ????. Thanks for any suggestions, and greetings from Spain.

    1. Hi David,

      Yes, your workflow looks like it can get a bit messy…But that’s probably true for all of us :). There are several apps you’re using here that I do not have any direct experience with but I can answer some of your questions and hopefully help you out. Lightroom Mobile will absolutely allow you to edit the RAW file. In fact, most of my article was focused on that being key to the workflow. And you will be working directly with the actual RAW data, so long as you don’t use something like wifi to transfer the image from camera to phone. Using Wifi will only transmit a JPEG proxy to your device. Use a card reader for your iPhone like the one I show in the article.

      Lr Mobile will also allow you to export a JPEG from that RAW edit. As of now, I can only find two resolution options for the JPEG export: Full resolution and “small” which sets the long edge to 2048 px (probably selected for social media purposes). I hope that in the future, Adobe creates a more robust export dialog, giving more options. These exports are not Cloud Copies (I’m assuming you’re referencing the smart previews) with this workflow. You would really only get the smart preview copy if you were working on a photo and exporting it when it was originally imported to Lr Classic and placed in a synced collection.

      With regards to stopping the cloud backup process, unfortunately there is no way to do this. And the way that Adobe is designing the ecosystem at this point, it would fly in the face of what they are trying to do (i.e. All your images on all your devices). You can pause syncing on your device and work from it if you like. The problem you will have is transferring your RAWs and edits/tags/captions/etc. to your desktop.

      There is a workaround to this last bit. You can allow syncing to the cloud (unless you are strictly prohibited from doing so by your employer/terms of your assignment). The full raw files will become available in LR Classic under a drive dedicated for your device. Look into the article under the heading “Where Do My Files Go?” and the subheading “Working in Lr CC” for details on this. You can open that “drive” and then take the files and move them wherever you like (i.e. another folder on your hard drive, etc.). They will retain all edits from Mobile, tags, captions, etc. Finally, just delete them from your “All Photos” on your Lr Mobile app and the full res RAW images will be out of the cloud. Basically what you’re doing is using the Cloud as just the vehicle to get your RAWs with all edits to your desktop. Does that make sense? Test the workflow with some junk images to make sure you can make it work. It’s a workflow I use regularly.

      Hope that was all helpful!


  8. I used a Lightroom CC + Classic Workflow while traveling in Wyoming last September. I uploaded all my RAW images to the cloud. Not really sure what happened, but I lost three days worth of RAW images and I’m now left only with CC’s DNG files. Never again.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top