Lightroom for Mobile gets new RAW features; but here's what non-pro mobile workflow looks like

The mobile workflow for amateur and enthusiast photographers can be different from the workflow offered by professional products such as Lightroom.


Lightroom for Mobile (LRM) has just announced two major updates to both its iOS as well as Android apps.

The LRM for iOS app now lets you import RAW files and edit those RAW files when you are on the move. You can adjust white balance, highlights or get colour information. You can later sync these edits and pick off from where you’d left off when you get on the laptop or desktop. You can now also do local adjustments with linear and radial selections on iOS.

The LRM for Android on the other hand has added the Pro mode which has manual controls such as shutter speed, ISO, WB and focus.

These features are interesting additions, and certainly add some value to the LRM app specially for professional photographers, who shoot in RAW. The ability to make quick edits in RAW while you are on the move, or during downtime, on your iPad or iPhone is a welcome move, for professionals. The LRM Android feature addition though seems like Adobe is playing catch-up, as a lot of smartphones these days come with the RAW photo capture ability baked into its settings.

 Lightroom for Mobile gets new RAW features; but heres what non-pro mobile workflow looks like

RAW image editing gives you a lot more leeway to play around with edits as compared to JPEG files, for the simple reason that RAW captures all the available data whereas JPEG is a lossy format. This is due to the simple reason that RAW files end up capturing images with a wider dynamic range for the same exposure than a JPEG file ever could. But at the same time RAW image size is almost 3-4 times that of a regular JPEG file, so syncing or dumping RAW images onto your iPhone or iPad will certainly take longer, not to mention how quickly your phone storage will fill up in case you think of dumping your entire trip’s content on the iPad thinking you will do some work on the flight back.

Professional photographers have a set workflow which starts from before the first shot is clicked to the final images are printed for their clients - there are a lot of steps involved in between. But there is a majority of photography enthusiasts, who do not have the budgets or the time to set up such a workflow, for the simple reason that photography is still at the hobby / passion stage. Nowadays mobile phone cameras are capable enough to give you images worthy of taking prints of. So unlike a few years back, now you have images from DSLR and the multiple smartphones to deal with after you return from a vacation.

There are people who prefer sharing photos while they are travelling from the place itself, whereas others prefer working on them before sharing. There is nothing right or wrong about either approaches. But for the latter, many times photos just end up getting dumped on smartphones or your DSLR’s SD cards and never see the light of the day. That romantic notion of, ‘I will edit these images, maybe watermark them, and then upload them on social media or on image sharing websites’ goes on the back burner once you get back to your busy life at home.

Desktop-free approach to image editing for a hobbyist

I am talking from experience of being the latter type of traveller. There used to be many folders which would just be populated after I came back from a vacation. But that ritual of sitting on the desk and opening Lightroom to edit those photos, was hardly a regular thing. Over the last couple of vacations, I have developed a sort of non-professional work flow for both my smartphone as well as DSLR images. And a lot of it can be done when you are on the move - during that boring train ride home or when waiting for your always-late friends to show up for that meet or (in my case) waiting for press conferences to begin.

Photos

Smartphone photos are the easiest to deal with. The first thing I do is ensure that which ever phone I am currently testing, has Google Photos activated and the ‘Backup on Wi-fi’ option selected. This is really the first stage of backing up images and it is a relief to see the ‘Backup complete’ card in the Photos Assistant. I do backup the keepers later on my desktop.

Next on the agenda is shortlisting the images that I am really concerned about. With smartphones there are loads of images which you are just not going to use, ever. Just makes sense to get rid of them, at least from your local storage. Many smartphones give you the option to make albums or Favourite images. I have been using this feature and have realised that it really helps with photo management on your phone. It also lets you separate the comparatively better images from the non-shareworthy ones.

vsco-cam
Once the shortlisting is done, editing is the next step. Now here, it is a matter of personal preference as to which app you want to use - there are tonnes of photo-editing apps on both Android and iOS stores. You can take your pick. Personally, I prefer using in-camera photo editing features, Snapseed and VSCO Cam app for image editing, but you can use whatever you prefer. VSCO Cam also lets you do batch processing, which certainly gives it an edge over other photo editing apps I’ve used.

Do not think about post processing an entire album, that is just not possible on the go. Unless you have decided to take time off just to do that. The idea is to take a small number of images and work on them - say 5 images a day or 10 images a day. Over a week’s or month’s time - that number adds up and you are saved from the set-in of creative fatigue you face when you are doing says 100s of edits in a single day.

Always store edited images in a separate folder - that ways you just need to dump that folder on your desktop / laptop when you get home. Or in the case of Lightroom, you can sync it to different folders.

A lot of point and shoot and DSLRs these days come with a Wi-fi feature. Make use of that to transfer images that you really are keen to edit. Here you will have to take a call as to whether you want to dump the entire SD card on your phone or want to do it in batches. For those who do not have Wi-fi on their cameras, going via the desktop is the only option unless you have accessories to transfer SD card images to your phones.

Mobile editing apps can be used to make your final edits, or you can further work on the images that have gone through a first round of basic edits, in your down time, later on your desktop. I find the control offered by Adobe Lightroom desktop app to be much more convenient to post process images. For social media uploads, I have begun to rely on mobile editing exclusively, which also gives me enough time to work on images that I would like to keep for posterity or images I would like to make a physical album out of.

We would love to hear your non-professional work flow tips. Any apps that speed up the post-processing pace are always good to know. I have recently discovered SKRWT, which helps with perspective correction, something I do a lot on Lightroom during edits. Maybe I will add it in my always-developing workflow for mobile and see how it helps.


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