After briefly leaking earlier this year, Adobe is finally ready to show off its Lightroom Mobile for iPad software for photographers and photo editors. The iPad application borrows many of the essential features from the powerful desktop software and is optimized for the touch input user experience key to the tablet. We’ve taken a sneak peek at Lightroom Mobile for iPad, and we have all the details on Adobe’s latest Lightroom update.

Adobe has really positioned Lightroom Mobile as just that: an updated feature to the existing desktop software. Notice it’s not called Lightroom for iPad or Lightroom 5; it’s Lightroom Mobile for iPad for a reason.

The iPad client requires the latest version of Lightroom 5 for Mac or PC as well as an active subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service. You log in to the app with your Adobe ID and sync your photos between your tablet and desktop using Adobe’s servers.

Lightroom uses Adobe’s Smart Preview technology to sync versions of your RAW files from your desktop as smaller, manageable files on your iPad. You can edit and make adjustments to these mobile-friendly photos and sync them back to your desktop while retaining the same, RAW quality without missing a beat.

Lightroom Mobile can collect photos from multiple places. Using Lightroom 5 on the desktop, you can allow your existing photos and collections to be available in your on-the-go album which syncs to Lightroom Mobile. Changes made to these photos on the iPad’s smaller, proxy version will be reflected back to the desktop in the original, high quality version.

Although these photos are smaller in size than the full quality versions back on the desktop, they do take up local storage on the iPad. Lightroom Mobile allows you to manually clear the app’s cache to address the app getting too heavy storage-wise; Lightroom Mobile will also manage the cache on its own as it sees fit.

You can also use the iPad’s built-in Camera Roll to bring photos into Lightroom Mobile for editing. This means photographers can use Apple’s Camera Connection Kit or the iPad itself to capture photos intended for Lightroom Mobile.

Lightroom Mobile does have to make a copy of any images imported from iOS’s Camera Roll, though, so this method is not ideal for several, high quality photos that could be massive in size. A larger storage capacity is almost required for serious work with Lightroom Mobile for iPad; using an iPad with 16GB of capacity would surely hit the storage limit often without active file management as the requirement to duplicate each image between the Camera Roll and Lightroom Mobile essentially cuts your storage capacity in half.


Even using Apple’s 128GB capacity iPad may not make Lightroom Mobile and your iPad a replacement for using a laptop running Lightroom 5 in the field.

Adobe has emphasized that Lightroom Mobile is a starting point for introducing Lightroom to the iPad and not a copy-and-paste of the full desktop software. While gestures and taps have their advantages, Lightroom Mobile lacks the precision of the mouse and efficiency of keyboard shortcuts. The mobile application is also intentionally limited in certain areas to avoid an overwhelming experience.

For example, Lightroom 5 supports a number of ways to tag a photo including flags, stars, and color labels, but Lightroom Mobile only supports flagging at launch. Adobe says it has found that many photographers also want stars and color labels as a part of their mobile workflow and it plans to include these features in a future update, but it’s taking the Lightroom Mobile 1.0 experience as an opportunity to provide just the essential features and see what other features will be popular requests by photographers for upcoming updates.

Lightroom Mobile does have quite an attractive interface. A useful two-finger tapping gesture toggles meta data visibility whether you’re in the single photo view or in a collection grid view.

Adobe describes Lightroom Mobile for iPad as the following:

  • Seamless sync with Lightroom 5. Edit and organize your images anywhere, anytime using your iPad or iPhone. Adobe Lightroom mobile automatically syncs your work with Lightroom 5 on your desktop.
  • From snapshots to raw. Edit everything from smartphone photos to raw images from DSLRs using Smart Previews. Adobe Lightroom mobile can handle virtually any image format.
  • Camera roll compatible. Import images from your iPhone or iPad camera roll straight into your Lightroom catalog. Enhance them using familiar and powerful Lightroom tools. Share them online quickly and easily.
  • Share edited images to your social networks. Share directly from Lightroom on your mobile device.
  • Showcase your images. Present photos with built-in slideshow.
  • View your images online at

Once photos are either collected into Lightroom Mobile or edited to your liking, the app offers a number of ways to share photos across the Internet and to others. Internet social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr have built-in sharing support as Lightroom supports the native iOS share sheet.

Lightroom Mobile also has native support for sharing photos to other devices with Apple’s AirDrop feature found on newer devices with iOS 7. As part of the Creative Cloud subscription service, users can also host photos privately or publicly online at on the web interface.



Lightroom Mobile for iPad is available today for the iPad 2 and later and requires iOS 7. While the app is a free download from the App Store, it requires the latest version of Lightroom 5 for Mac or PC (update available today) and a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service (trial and plans here). The following Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions include support for Lightroom Mobile for iPad:

  • Creative Cloud—Photoshop Photography Program $9.99/month
  • Creative Cloud complete plan $49.99/month
  • Creative Cloud Student and Teacher Edition $29.99/month
  • Creative Cloud for teams complete plan $69.99/month

Because it requires a paid subscription and a desktop client for full functionality, Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile for iPad is geared largely toward professional photographers and serious hobby photographers; Apple’s iPhoto for iPhone and iPad ($4.99 or free with new devices) and similar apps will probably suffice for the novice photographer and casual photo editor.

If you already use Lightroom and have been awaiting an iPad version for editing on-the-go, Lightroom Mobile for iPad will probably be a very useful addition to your editing workflow.

For now, Lightroom Mobile is available exclusively on the iPad with plans for an iPhone launch hopefully later this year. Adobe does have plans for an Android client eventually with no specific timeline in mind yet; expect the iPhone version next.

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About the Author

Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created