RAW workflow in Lightroom Mobile for iOS

Adobe just launched version 2.4 of Lightroom Mobile for iOS, and for every RAW-shooter with an iPad, this may prove to be a small revolution. The release includes what Adobe calls “Raw Technology Preview”, which allows you to import and edit RAW-images directly on an iPad or iPhone.

I’ve spent a couple of days testing the new app and would like to share some thoughts on how this may fit into my workflow. All testing is done using an iPad Air, the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji X-Pro1.


The process of importing is similar to JPEG; import the photos onto your iPad and then add them to Lightroom. Alternatively you can set up Lightroom to auto-import any pictures that are added to the device.

Lightroom mobile import window
Adding RAW images is a breeze

After adding my images to a new collection, I quickly browsed through them, rejecting some and adding stars to others. The (preview) RAW-images loaded immediately and the review process felt comparable to using JPEGs, meaning I could swipe from image to image without any slowdowns. I really enjoy the review workflow in Lightroom Mobile;  it’s incredibly efficient to browse through images and using one thumb for flagging (pick, reject) and one thumb for starring (1-5).

Speed Review in Lightroom Mobile
Speed Review in Lightroom Mobile

The main problem I found was that the actual loading of the full RAW-image took quite some time. E.g., in order to be able to check focus, I had to wait for 10-12 seconds. However, seeing as this is on an iPad that’s almost three years old, I’m not surprised.


Editing was a similar experience to using JPEGs, the only difference being the amount of adjustments you are able to make to an image. Again, loading the RAW image for editing took quite some time (10-20 seconds). Once loaded though, making adjustments was surprisingly smooth and responsive; changes appeared to be instantaneous.

Editing blueberry in Adobe Lightroom Mobile
Editing blueberry in Adobe Lightroom Mobile

While I was organizing my images, reviewing them and making edits, Lightroom was uploading the original RAW-files via Creative Sync. This meant that when I came home and turned on my desktop PC, which is where I store my main Lightroom catalog, all the images from my recent trip was automatically downloaded and a new collection appeared. To me, this is getting close to an incredibly convenient workflow, especially when travelling For shorter trips there may no longer be a need to bring a laptop to do “pre-organizing” of images. It also feels like this brings us one step closer to having a shared catalog across multiple desktop/laptops, which is currently my number one feature request for Lightroom!


The previous paragraph summarizes what I believe to be the primary benefit of the new RAW-workflow in Lightroom Mobile. Other good bits are:

  • Both global and local adjustments.
  • Organizing, review and starring.
  • Once imported, all your edited (RAW) images can be shared with any other application on you iOS device.

There are also a few things missing that I hope to see added or improved in a future version:

  • No support for adding or editing metadata.
  • (Metadata and develop) presets on import.
  • Shared presets (metadata and develop), keywords etc. with my desktop catalog.
  • Importing is a 2-step process; first the apple photos app, then add to Lightroom (I have a feeling this is something Apple forces…).
  • Speed… again, this is most likely a limitation of the hardware and not the software itself.

If you’re still reading, I thank you for your interest! For a more thorough walk through of this workflow, please read this blogpost by photographer Elia Locardi.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile supports the same RAW-formats as Adobe Camera Raw.





4 Comment

  1. FYI: if you use the Lightning > USB adapter the import process is faster. Importing actually takes the same time, but that first step, when the iPad is reading the photos, it´s a lot faster.You can check a quick comparison in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rCczPFLi-w

  2. Mats Berglind says: Reply

    Thaks for a great review!
    I have just started to check out on Lightroom mobile and it seems to be perfect. As you mention I miss metadata and I have not found the preset sharpening choices that LR desktop has, but it might be just me missing. I have actually bought a new iPad Pro, 256GB, just for this purpose. I can tell you that the import and loading is quite fast on that device.
    I would love to have the metadata added to the actual RAW-file because I also have a WD Passport Wireless Pro portable hard disk and that makes it possible to back up files in the Camera Roll to a directory on the disk via WiFi and quite fast too. Then it would be possible to import the files directly via USB3 on to the desktop LR with metadata edited on the iPad, surpassing the Creative Cloud and trouble when one are “off grid”.
    Best regards

    1. Thank you for the feedback. I’ve been using Lightroom on a Dell XPS 13 while on the road, and it’s much slower to process images there then on my old iPad Air. A new Pro sounds like an interesting alternative. Do you have the Smart Keyboard as well? Tried using keyboard shortcuts?

      1. Mats Berglind says: Reply

        Hi, Sorry for late answer, i have just returned from a trip to Vilnius. I had only mi iPad and my WD Passport Wireless Pro with me and it worked fine. Since LRM do not have any metadata editing yet I have not purchased the keyboard, the little writing I did when posting to FB was easy to do on the onscreen keyboard, but I always write in a notepad app first, better safe than sorry…
        I did not use keyboard shortcuts, after 35+ years in IT I am still rubbish at that. But I think the Apple pen can be a nice tool editing, 110€ is a bit of expensive. I tried the keyboard at an Apple Store and it felt really good.
        But, I really miss out the metadata editing in LRM!
        My workflow in short:
        – First slipped the SD-card into the slot of the WD Wireless Passport PRO, this gave me a copy of all files to a directory on the disk.
        – Second, imported all files from SD-card to the iPad Pro.
        – Third, deleteded the pictures that was crappy beyond salvage.
        – Fourth, edited the few pictures I would like to post to FB and placed them in a special album.
        – Fifth, attached my iPad Pro to the WD over WiFi and have a configuration that automatically backs my “camera roll” to the disk.
        When I finally returned home all I had to do was to place all pictures into a folder on my NAS, rearrange a bit in one folder per day as I am used to an import them to LR at my PC.
        Since I already had thrown all bad pictures I saved that step in front of my PC. If only metadata have been there all keywords and so on could have been set at the hotel and I would have saved this time at the PC as well.
        Best regards

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