What I’m looking for in Lightroom. 

Lightroom is my bread & butter. Every image with whatever camera I shoot gets imported, be it a Nikon D5, an iPhone 7 Plus, or even a UAV, a GoPro or a Hasselblad. I have amassed over a quarter of a million images now, with most of them containing their individual information like GPS coordinates, tags and edits. It’s great, but it’s not very mobile. All of them reside on a 16 TB Promise Pegasus 2 R6, driven by my Mac Pro.

When I’m shooting at an event or festival, I have to start a new library on my MacBook Pro, edit on the go, and import that library later on into my main library.

Through Symlinks and Dropbox I have managed to keep my import, develop and export presets in sync between my desktop devices. But those don’t sync back to mobile or whatever. Especially with the updated Lightroom Mobile app, I can do a lot of work on my iPad Pro, faster than my Mac Pro can follow!

So, what’s new?

After apps like Affinity Photo have shown that you can have desktop class applications on iOS, Lightroom Mobile has been updated with a much more effective way of editing, with a persistent sidebar with sliders. The only thing that frustrated me to no end, is that you can have only one pane open, a behaviour that is completely opposing the way we work on desktop. In fact, I wouldn’t mind some of the app logic syncing back to the desktop Lightroom. The design is simple and clear, and the white lines in the sliders show you exactly how far you are from the base values, something that is very valuable in values like White Balance.

At the moment, some missing features include the Spot Removal, the Red Eye Correction (not that I ever used that one), Upright and color labels. But with Adobe updating their suite of applications constantly, I’m sure we can expect those. Just like we saw the addition of Sharpening and Noise Reduction in this update.

So, what’s my workflow? 

First of all, I create Collection for each projects that need to be culled and edited, and sync those with Lightroom Mobile. I have a lot of Smart Collections as well for reoccurring clients and projects, but those don’t sync over unfortunately. I open Lightroom Mobile on my iPad Pro, and there I can Enable Offline Editing. This means I can edit all the smart previews wherever I am, and do full RAW edits just as I can on desktop. With my Apple Pencil, I can work very quickly, and even can do local adjustment brushes.

Another missing thing is the syncing and saving of presets on Mobile. Especially with the Preset button being one of the most prominent buttons in the app. The workaround I use is to apply my custom made presets to every image in the collection on my desktop. This means that every of those edits sync to Lightroom Mobile, making further adjustments a breeze.

To cull a selection, it’s the exact same as I would do on desktop, but faster. I move the arrows on my Smart Keyboard (a whole lot of Smart going on, don’t you agree?), and press P/U/X and 1-5 to select a flag and star rating. You can easily filter items as well. The only difference is that on my iPad Pro doesn’t ever stutter or needs loading: all that data is just there. Very impressive! (I do miss the Speed Flagging option of just swiping up or down, but with a Magic Keyboard, it’s every bit as fast)

It has even come so far in the past days that I prefer to cull and edit on my iPad Pro, even if I’m at home. This is a total game changer. 

But there is one thing that makes it all difficult and hard for me:

File Management

In my pocket is my second most used camera of the moment. And I’m jealous of my girlfriend and friends. Everything they create gets imported in iCloud Photo Library. Pictures and edits show up on all their devices, and for €9.99 they get 2TB storage in the cloud. I however have to create a bandwidth eating contraption with exports, imports, uploads and downloads to get iPhone images in my Lightroom (with Hazel filtering out any files without the word iPhone in its meta), and exported JPG versions in my iCloud Photo Library (minus anything with the word iPhone in its meta).

But, that is just a jerryrigged semi-automated way of working. Also, it seems that many iOS applications have issues with an image library of over 250.000 pictures. Go figure.

It would be much more interesting to have a robust Lightroom Cloud platform. Imagine having all your presets and data synced over Lightroom Creative Cloud.

Ideally, it would have the option of hosting all your files on local storage, a Master Library. When on the go, you can import images on local drives on a Notebook, having them sync over external or internal network. Just like all of your edits.

Pictures shot on either signed in device would be added to your master library (renamed and sorted to your preference). It would generate smart previews (DNG) for all pictures taken, making those available on request on all devices. Like iCloud and Google Photos. At the moment, you can only sync one desktop library to the Creative Cloud.

You could shoot an event, import on your notebook, edit and instantly share those images to Instagram on your phone, and make final edits later at home on your master library, without having to move files and drives all over the place. Laptop stolen? All your RAW files are already in the cloud. Or perhaps you haven’t transferred all your RAW files, but at least you still have your Smart Previews, which are still good enough for most uses.

But Kris, why not just use Photos for all your photos? 

Well, first of all, all of my photos in their original format occupy around 10 TB, way over the largest 2 TB iCloud storage plan. Also, despite Photos.app getting a significant update for High Sierra, it still can’t soar to the level of Lightroom. Heck, not even to the level of Aperture 3. It’s still not a ‘real’ editing app like Lightroom has become. In fact, 99% of my images never even touch Photoshop.

So, what would need to happen for me to be a happy camper:

Feasible requests: 

Sync settings between desktop apps

With Adobe’s Creative Cloud, you can already host smart previews to mobile. Extend this syncing between desktop en notebooks, first of all with presets and settings. There already is a robust cloud storage platform active. It would just need an update of the desktop app.

Sync settings & presets to mobile apps

If you already have your own workflow on point with your own presets, it’s rather frustrating not to be able to access them. Especially when you’re working on a series of photos. There is a workaround applying your preset to all, and sync that to mobile.

‘Not very likely to happen’ requests:

Create a Publish / Sync with Photos.app

It would be quite amazing to have all edited pictures show up in Photos.app. Sync photos (as in: import new pictures from Photos.app, and send new pictures from Lightroom to Photos.app).

Far Fetched requests:

Sync files between desktop apps

A very interesting part of this that there are no limits of storing pictures in Creative Cloud!

“Despite including at least 20GB of storage in the Photography plan, syncing images to LR Mobile does not consume online storage. In other words, there is no storage limitation associated with LR mobile. The actual 20GB storage is used for other CC services like syncing settings, sharing files through CC, etc. So there would not be a need to increase this storage when working with LR Mobile.”

So, in theory, you could upload every smart preview your massive Lightroom library, and just access all that information wherever you have WiFi. The only thing left to do is access that information among other catalogs and have a way to transfer RAWs to your Master Library.

Become a core service

What would solve a lot of issues is that all mobile photos would be saved in Lightroom instead of the standard camera roll. This would mean other apps would also be able to tap into Lightroom, offering loads of potential to smart albums, tags and ratings. Something that is very different in Photos, which only offers Favourites. Also importing directly to Lightroom from an SD card would be quite handy.

But this would be a decision that both Apple and Google have to make to include on their mobile OS-es, and Adobe has to jump on as well.

Then again, Affinity is working on a “Digital Asset Manager” .. so we’ll see how that goes. And you can’t underestimate how Lightroom is amazing at handling RAW files. Because that was the reason I switched from Aperture 3 to Lightroom 5: image quality. But whatever comes next for me, it has to work hard, work on mobile and make my images look pretty damn good.

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