The Lightroom Mobile RAW workflow

Lightroom Mobile Galore!

Traveling light as a passionate photographer is a constant challenge. There is the nagging balance between bringing our beloved gear and keeping the overall weight of the luggage at an acceptable level. That is one of the reasons why I ditched my huge and heavy Nikon equipment and went with the versatile and lightweight Fuji X system. But regardless of the camera equipment, a key weight contributor is typically the computer. I personally really enjoy editing photos on vacations as this is the occasion where I can actually spend quality time on it. But I have always found it cumbersome to bring my Macbook Pro – the charge cable, external hard drive (where I store my RAW files) and the actual Mac do add a bit of weight and space. And then there is battery life: The 2014 Macbook Pro 15″ battery lasts around 1-2hrs when doing heavy editing. It’s restrictive.

Enter Lightroom Mobile & the iPad Pro

Thanks to my family, I recently looked into Lightroom Mobile and the iPad Pro combo. You can upload RAW files to the iPad and then sync it to your computer via Adobe Creative Cloud. Pure genius. I had played with Lightroom Mobile before but wasn’t all that excited about the app beyond showing photos to friends and colleagues. But the latest update has changed that: working with your RAW files is swift and easy. Plus you have the most important controls from the desktop version available to you. There are also various presets.

Lightroom Mobile iPad
The most important adjustments are available on the iPad

Lightroom Mobile RAW workflow

Let’s get started with the workflow. It’s fairly simple

  • Import RAW files via the Lightening adaptor to the iPad
  • Open Lightroom Mobile and import these RAW files. Important note: Lightroom Mobile copies the RAW files and stores them in a separate file container. (At this point, there will be two set of RAW files on your iPad.)
  • Delete the RAW files in iPad Photos – unless you want to have duplicate files on the tablet. However, I do keep the originals on the SD Card until I come home and do a full backup
  • Edit photos in Lightroom mobile
  • Sync Lightroom Mobile on fast Wifi whenever possible – I do this to ensure that the RAW files are uploaded to the Adobe Creative Cloud in a timely manner. This does two things: Backup of your files while on the road. Plus it reduces the backlog of the enormous amount of data that needs to be uploaded.

Upon returning home:

  • Get a coffee, open Lightroom CC on your desktop, sit and watch: all the files are being downloaded to your hard drive.
    Lightroom Mobile
    The photos from Lightroom Mobile are being downloaded into your collection section

    This process is surprisingly fast – I have decent Wifi at home and 1200 RAW files from my Fuji X-T2 downloaded in less then 2hrs. However, I did have to close & open Lightroom CC twice as the download process stalled for some reason. All photos along with the edits and ratings came through without a flaw. Pretty cool!

  • Once everything has been downloaded, copy the files from the LR Mobile folder to the final destination on your desired hard drive. Dragging and dropping works well.
  • Last but not least, I delete the RAW files in Lightroom Mobile to save space. Not quite sure, yet, if this step is necessary. I did not see Lightroom Mobile clear out the space after moving the files. But deleting did. More testing will show how this works.

Editing Comfort on the iPad

Working with the RAW files on the iPad is awesome. The latest iPad Pro is lightening fast and refining your image is actually a lot of fun. I use the Apple pencil to make adjustments. It’s accurate, it’s intuitive and also somewhat immersive. The included controls are more than sufficient, IMHO. The way the iPad handles selective edits is amazing. Sharpening the photos works well, too. Last but not least editing photos on your iPad is comfortable. On our last vacation, I would get up early, sit in a cafe and work on my images for a few hours. No cables, no chargers. Just me, coffee and the photos. The Macbook Pro with external hard drive usually fizzles away after 1-2hrs.

Lightroom Mobile iPad
Working with selective edits and the Apple Pencil is super easy and fast


Film simulation

One current short-coming of the Lightroom Mobile app is the lack of Fuji Film simulations. But there is an easy workaround that I learned in a forum:

Prepare on your desktop – Lighroom CC

  • Create a Lightroom Mobile collection on your computer
  • Add a few images that are virgin RAW files
  • Apply the Fuji film simulations to each photo
  • Rename the photos to reflect the specific simulation

In Lightroom Mobile:

  • Navigate to the Film Simulation collection
  • Open the image of your desired simulation
  • Copy the settings (I uncheck white balance)
  • Go to your current working collection and past the simulation settings to your specific images

It’s as simple as that. Works like a charm. And Lightroom CC actually notices that these are the actual Camera calibration settings


Lightroom Mobile Fuji Film Simulation
Just copy the settings and apply them to specific photos


The perfect Lightroom Mobile workflow?

Is this workflow perfect? Well, it actually is pure awesomeness for me. But there are some things that would make a great thing even better:

  • Provide native support for the camera calibration, i.e. no copying and pasting
  • Support for adding keywords – this would be an awesome application for the iPad
  • Add basic retouching – you can use another Adobe app for that but that creates a file copy. I therefore wait with retouching until I get home

In summary: I love the Lightroom Mobile RAW workflow. The app works like a charm and it is fun editing photos. The RAW sync works extremely well. This is a game changer.

Bad luck for my well-traveled Macbook Pro. It won’t be leaving for another trip anytime soon…. 😉


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9 Comments The Lightroom Mobile RAW workflow

  1. DR October 16, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    The next day, when you repeat this workflow with newly shot images, how do you avoid re-importing the first import files you deleted from the IPad photos post LR mobile import if you still keep them on your SD card?

    1. cpapenfuss November 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. This comment slipped through. I do leave the photos on the SD card and simply select the ones that I want to import (i.e. no import all).

  2. Dr November 21, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Have you found a way to remove raw files from the creative cloud once they have been copied to local hard drive at home? The size of my cloud storage jumped after the workflow on holiday but it never came down even after I extracted raw files into my local folder structure. Adobe help on the matter is of no use.

    1. cpapenfuss November 21, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Hmmm..I noticed that, too. Let me look into that.

  3. Dr November 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I believe I have this workflow a good go and I strongly advise against it. At best it’s a poorly thought through beta by adobe. You will most likely not back up raw to creative cloud until you get home because you will not get good enough upload speeds anywhere on holiday. After upload to iCloud and then download from cloud (use internet for both as no P2P) to local drive it is still hogging cloud storage space and there is no way to free it up. The only worthwhile thing was doing processing on holiday on lightroom mobile when you lots more time and remember what pictures where about but it eventually lost all my edits anyway. I will now be deleting and reimporting from local drive. If your aim is backup just back it up through Apple iCloud after photos import.

    1. cpapenfuss November 24, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      So, the workflow worked great for me in August. Zero problems. However, last weekend it was a disaster. Uploaded 40 photos via the iPad app and non appeared on my Mac. Ended up moving the files from folder to folder in LR mobile and also deleted a bunch of cache files on my Mac. The photos eventually arrived after an hr of fiddling around. Could it be that the new Classic vs CC update has broken things? Would be a huge bummer. I love editing on the iPad.

  4. Dr November 24, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Editing on iPad or even iPhone is great. It’s a shame they can’t get the import right through mobile.

  5. ben January 31, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Imports are fine for me. I am having an issue pasting the presets I make on to new images I import from my ST card to my ipad. The pasting presets work for all the other raw files I have in lightroom, just not the ones i Import directly from my SD card to my ipad. Could this be a DNG issue?

    1. cpapenfuss January 31, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      No idea. That seems strange. Have you tried copying the presets after you import? I have found that the settings ‘get lost’ sometimes, i.e. I need to copy them again.


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