Lightroom Mobile First Impressions

I’ve been dreaming of Lightroom Mobile since it was first previewed on The Grid almost a year ago. The idea of importing my photos to my computer, editing them on my iPad, then having them automatically sync back to my computer is very appealing. Adobe finally released this product earlier this week. These are my initial thoughts on using it after a day of shooting.

The Good

What it does, it does well… Really well. Lightroom Mobile does not feel like a 1.0 application. All the major sliders are there (exposure, highlights/shadows, blacks/whites, vibrance, the beloved clarity, etc.) and function extremely well. And, since you’re working with Smart Previews (lossy DNGs) you get all the flexibility you’d expect from RAW editing, as well as the juicy dynamic range captured by your camera. You also get access to all the pre-installed Lightroom Presets. The syncing is very fast once you’re past that initial batch of uploads from your computer.

The Bad

Unfortunately, this probably won’t make it into my daily workflow. As of right now, it’s as much a novelty as a useful tool. I say that because you’re limited to little more than the sliders and presets. While these are executed perfectly, the missing features are the ones that keep Lightroom Mobile from being the app I’ve been lusting after.

The tone curve is not present. I never touch the contrast slider because I prefer the fine control of the tone curve.

Camera and lens calibration aren’t there, which are a fairly regular part of my workflow.

The biggest disappointment is that there is no brush tool. In my opinion, the bush tool is the #1 reason to use a touch-based interface. The ability to draw on the picture, rather than by proxy via a cursor would really put this app over the top.

Using this app also made me realize how much I rely on Photoshop for compositing and erasing things. I can’t hold that against Adobe while writing this review, as Lightroom doesn’t do those things either. Still, I found myself going back and forth between the iPad and the computer, which kinda kicks the convenience factor to the curb.

My list of disappointments is long, but don’t let that fool you. It really is a fantastic app. My workflow is probably a little more specialized than yours. I can think of several photographers who could get by in Lightroom Mobile without a hitch. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Adobe takes this product. I’m confident I’ll see a tone curve and a brush within the next year or so.

Below are a few shots I got today and edited in Lightroom Mobile. The barn went through Photoshop for some erasing and the sunken home was a combination of multiple exposures.

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