Organizing and Editing Photos in the Lightroom Mobile App - dummies

Organizing and Editing Photos in the Lightroom Mobile App

By Rob Sylvan

Here are the top things you need to know about using Lightroom for mobile to organize and edit your photos. You can use Lightroom for mobile to import photos from a memory card while in the field. No matter where your photos are coming from, you can leverage all the key editing tools in Lightroom Classic’s Develop module to edit those photos and have it all sync back to your Lightroom Classic catalog.

All these functions are available on mobile tablet devices as well as mobile phones, but the interface for tablet screens may look slightly different from the phone screen captures shown.

Help & Support

You can get some help in the form of FAQs, access to the Adobe support forum, and guided tutorials right from within the app itself. Tap the Settings icon in the upper-right corner of the Home screen to enter the app Settings. On the Settings screen, you find the menu for Help & Support along with a great deal of other useful settings to help you get the most out of the app. Take a moment to explore each option to see what’s available. Check out the What’s New section after each app update to see what was added.

All Photos and filtering

The All Photos album that appears at the top of the Home screen gives you single-tap access to all photographs that have been synced with Lightroom. This includes all photos that were synced from Lightroom Classic and all photos you’ve captured in the app or imported from your camera roll.

You can filter what is displayed by tapping the Funnel icon at the top of the screen. Filter what is displayed when viewing All Photos, but the feature works the same in any album you are viewing. Tapping the Funnel icon displays the following (and growing) list of criteria you can use to filter your photos:

  • Rating: Star ratings applied here or in Lightroom Classic can be used to refine what is visible.
  • Flags: As with ratings, flags applied in either app can be used here.
  • Media: Can filter by photo or video.
  • Camera: Filter by the camera used to create the photo.
  • People: If you’ve used the face recognition functionality within the cloud-based Lightroom, you can filter on those results. Note that people tags do not sync between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.
  • Location: Photos can be filtered based on their geolocation data.
  • Keywords: If you’ve applied keywords in the cloud-based Lightroom app, imported photos that had keywords applied to them previously, or migrated a Lightroom Classic catalog, you can filter on those keywords. Note that keywords don’t sync between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.
  • Edited: Filter based on whether a photo has been edited.

Segmentation and View Options

Tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner of the screen to access the menus for changing how the photos are segmented (grouped), change the sort option, and access additional view options. When used together, they are a set of powerful tools for displaying just the photos you want to see and how they are shown.

Adobe Sensei search

Due to the fact that all photos in Lightroom are stored in the cloud (even if just a smart preview), Adobe employs their proprietary technology that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (referred to as Adobe Sensei) to identify the contents of your photos and automatically tag them with relevant keywords that we can use to search within Lightroom. Note that this functionality does not exist in Lightroom Classic.

Using Adobe Sensei, you can search your library in the cloud-based Lightroom without having to manually add any keywords at all. Just tap the Search icon (it looks like a magnifying glass) when viewing the source you want to search (start in All Photos to search everything) and then enter the words you want to search on. As you type you’ll see a list of facets ranging from keywords, locations, camera metadata, and more that you can tap to see the results (or just keep typing to enter your criteria). You can enter multiple terms (facets) to further refine the results, as shown). Tapping the x on any search facet will remove it from the results.

Adobe Sensei
Explore your library using Adobe Sensei.

Adding photos from camera roll

If you’re like me, you’re bound to have a multitude of other photo editing and camera apps on your mobile device, and you’ve probably got more than a few photos already on the camera roll. You can certainly keep using any other apps, but consider importing everything on your camera roll into Lightroom to copy those photos to your computer and back them up. Here’s how:

  1. Tap the blue Add Photos icon on the bottom-right of the screen.
    The left side of the blue button is for adding new photos, and the right side opens the Camera module.
  2. Choose the source where your photos reside.
    Your device’s camera roll will be the default location, but you can tap that drop-down menu and choose a different folder if needed.
  3. Select the photos you want to add.
    You can single-tap any photo to select it, or tap-drag across a range of photos. The three-dot menu in the upper-right gives you access to commands for selecting all and even filtering by photos, videos, or raw. Any photos that had previously been added to Lightroom display a Lr logo in their upper-left corner, as shown. You can deselect photos by tapping them a second time.
  4. Tap the Add button that appears at the bottom of the screen to complete the process.

You can add photos to a specific album by first entering that album and then tapping the Add Photos icon to start the process. You can import photos from a memory card from any camera in the same fashion. (You may need an adapter with a card reader, depending on your device.)

adding photos in Adobe Lightroom
Adding photos from the camera roll.

Apply during import

While you can’t do as much from cloud-based Lightroom as from the Import window in Lightroom Classic, you can automatically add a few things to photos as part of the import process. Tap the Settings icon on the Home screen to go to the Settings screen. From there, tap Import to access its options, as shown. Here you can enable and disable the automatic adding of photos and videos from your camera roll (disable both of these right away to avoid your entire camera roll getting dumped into Lightroom), have a simple copyright statement applied to photos, and enable/disable lens profiles being automatically applied (turn this on for all files).

Lightroom import settings
Import settings you can configure.

Creating Albums and Folders

As you add more photos to Lightroom, you may want to organize them using albums and folders. Albums and folders map back to what you use in Lightroom Classic for organization in the Collections panel. The key thing to know here is that albums hold photos and folders hold albums.

Here’s how to create a new album:

  1. Tap the Create New Albums and Folders icon (+) to the right of the Albums header on the Home screen.
    This reveals the options for creating a new album or folder.
  2. Tap the Create New Album icon.
    This reveals the Create Album pop-up window.
  3. In the Create Album pop-up window, enter a meaningful name, and tap OK.
    This adds the new album.

The steps for creating a new folder are the same, except that you tap the icon for Create New Folder instead. Once you create a few albums you can add (or move) photos between albums. Here’s how:

  1. Start in All Photos so that you have access to your entire library of synced photos.
  2. Select a photo you want to add to an album.
    A long press on a photo selects it and puts you in the mode for selecting more.
  3. Tap any additional photos you want to include.
    You can tap-slide your finger over multiple photos to select them faster.
  4. Tap the Add To icon at the bottom of the screen.
    A list of your existing albums appears.
  5. Tap the check box to the left of the album to which you want to add the selected photos and then tap Add.
    The photos you selected are added to that album.

The albums you create here sync to Lightroom Classic and appear in the Collections panel within a collection set named From Lightroom. Remember that folders in the cloud-based Lightroom do not sync (nor do collection sets from Lightroom Classic).

Applying ratings and flags

One of the first uses for the Lightroom on mobile workflow was a way to apply ratings, flags, or both to your photos while on the go. One scenario might be to import a shoot into Lightroom Classic while in the field and then add those photos to a synced collection/album. After the sync is complete, you can leave Lightroom Classic, and while on the flight/ride home pull out your phone, open Lightroom, and review the photos to start the flagging and rating process. Note that data charges may apply when not on Wi-Fi.

To start applying ratings or flags, you need to switch to Rate & Review view. Single-tap a photo to have it fill the screen, tap the drop-down menu in the upper-left corner of the screen, and choose Rate & Review. Quickly apply a star rating by tap-dragging up or down on the left side of the image and stopping when you reach the desired star rating that appears onscreen. You can quickly change the flag state by tap-dragging up or down the right side of the photo to access the flagging options. Then swipe left or right to move to the next photo. With a little practice, the process moves along pretty quickly. Those settings are then automatically synced back to Lightroom Classic. There are also star and flag icons below the photo that you can tap to apply ratings and flags that way as well.

Edit photos anywhere with the Lightroom mobile app

With each update to Lightroom, Adobe has brought it closer to feature parity with the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. I don’t have enough room in this book to delve into each of the options, but I can provide a map of the tools in Lightroom for mobile back to the relevant descriptions of the same tools from when I covered them as being part of the Develop module. Remember, everything you can do in Lightroom Classic can be rendered correctly in Lightroom for mobile and vice versa. The differences in the interface are largely due to using a touch-based device as opposed to a keyboard and mouse, but Adobe did also rename and regroup some adjustments with the move to the cloud-based Lightroom. As a Lightroom Classic user, I think you’ll find the tools to be intuitive and familiar once I get you oriented.

To enter editing mode, tap the drop-down menu in the upper-left and tap Edit. If you hold your device in portrait orientation, the editing tools appear along the bottom of the screen. If you rotate your device to landscape orientation, the editing tools appear along the right side of the screen (remember that the larger screens on a tablet will look slightly different than on a phone). Whichever way you hold your device, Lightroom has more tools than can appear in one screen, so be sure to swipe the toolstrip to the left or right to see them all. I recommend starting in portrait orientation, as it displays a name under each tool’s icon to help you get to know them. Most of the tools are a straightforward match to what you know in the Develop module, but I want to point out a few that are less obvious:

  • Selective: Tap this icon to access the brush, radial, and graduated (or linear) adjustments. If you have a photo selected that contains a depth map, you can also find the Depth Mask Adjustment tool.
  • Light: Tap the icon labeled Light to access the tonal value adjustments found in the Basic panel as well as the tone curve.
  • Color: Under Color, you find the white-balance adjustment tools, the Vibrance and Saturation sliders, and the B&W and HSL controls.
  • Effects: Clarity, Dehaze, Vignette, Grain, and Split Toning are all nested under here.
  • Geometry: This contains the controls found under the Transform panel in the Develop module.

The best way to learn here is to play. All your edits are nondestructive, and at the far right of the Toolstrip, you find the Reset button, which you can use to get back to where you started. Be sure to check out the guided tutorials inside the app.

Lightroom editing tools
Get familiar with the editing tools in Lightroom for mobile.

Export copies

After doing all the work to get your photos into the app, sort them, rate them, and edit them, you’re probably ready to share them with the world. Sure, you can wait until it all syncs back to Lightroom Classic and use the Export function, but there’s no need to wait. You can select photos inside Lightroom and share edited copies to your favorite social media platforms, other photo editors, email, text messaging, or even your camera roll. In fact, this is the best way to share photos to social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram, which make it hard to share from the desktop.

If you are looking at thumbnails, do a long press on the photo you want to select (just like when adding photos to albums), and you’ll see the Share icon appear along the bottom of the screen (look for the Share label). If you are viewing a single photo (such as when you apply ratings or editing), a Share icon (a square with an upward pointing arrow) appears in the upper-right corner of the screen. Tapping either Share icon reveals options for sharing to other apps, opening in other apps, editing in other Adobe apps, or just saving to your device’s camera roll, as shown.

The available options depend on your device’s operating system and what other apps you have installed on that device. Once you choose an option for sharing, Lightroom presents a choice for image size, where you can choose either a small size (good for most social media sharing) or maximum available (good for editing). Note that if the selected photo was synced from Lightroom Classic, you’ll only be working with a Smart Preview, which is limited to 2560 pixels on the long edge, so you won’t be able to export anything larger than that.

Lightroom output options
Output options available after tapping the Share icon.

This is only the tip of the Lightroom for mobile iceberg, so explore, check out the resources I’ve shared, and have fun.