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    Photo editing with Lightroom Mobile

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    The photo editing with Lightroom Mobile message first appeared on Digital Photography School. It was written by Simon Ringsmuth.

    Lightroom Mobile has been around for many years, with the earliest version going back to 2014. While not as popular as its traditional desktop counterpart, Lightroom Mobile has grown into a capable and versatile editing tool that can stand up to many other programs.

    Editing with Lightroom Mobile is not the same as editing with Lightroom Classic. But if you take the time to learn, you will find that it is almost every task you can perform.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile Windmills Sunset
    Nikon D750 | 200mm | 1 / 4000s | f / 22 | ISO 100

    The first thing to understand when working with Lightroom Mobile is that it’s not just a mobile version of Lightroom Classic. Lightroom Mobile was written from the beginning to work with phones and tablets, which meant Adobe had to rethink the entire user interface.

    Design considerations have also been made for the types of operations that people are likely to perform on a mobile device. Screen size, touch targets, editing and navigation; no stone went unused during the development of Lightroom Mobile.

    As such, using Lightroom Mobile is a shocking transition for people accustomed to the desktop version, but if you have a mobile-first workflow, you might be used to it. Still, understanding some basic tips and editing techniques with Lightroom Mobile can greatly improve your workflow.

    Understand the interface

    The first thing to notice when editing a photo in Lightroom Mobile is that the interface is quite different from Lightroom Classic. Gone are the Library, Development and other modules. You will also not find the traditional panels such as Basic, Detail, Effects, etc. Instead, there is a series of buttons and icons, along with some words to tap.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    The basic editing interface for Lightroom Mobile. Most editing tools are located on the right side and can be activated by touch and tap.

    All of the icons might be a bit overwhelming at first, but if you start at the top left and work clockwise, it starts to make sense. Tap the Edit button to switch between the different modes available.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    Tap the Edit button to switch between modes. This is similar to switching between the traditional library, development, print and other modules in Lightroom Classic. However, these modes in Lightroom Mobile have very different purposes.

    These modes are useful when you want to delete images, assign keywords and otherwise speed up your workflow. They are not very useful for editing, but I recommend that you familiarize yourself with them by experimenting yourself.

    If you go to the top right corner you will see more icons. Tap the question mark for help, the up arrow to share an image, and the cloud to see the sync status of your Lightroom Mobile images. The three dots in a circle are where things start to get interesting and where you can start understanding the depth of Lightroom Mobile.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    The three-dot circle icon gives you access to some advanced features you may recognize from Lightroom Classic.

    It is important to keep your expectations under control; this is not a Lightroom Classic. If you’re looking for a mobile version of Lightroom that replicates the desktop version, you’re in for a big disappointment. But if you want a solid tool that allows you to edit a lot on your mobile device, this is going to get really interesting.

    You can use the three-dot menu to copy / paste settings, create an editing preset, and even specify custom gestures by scrolling down and tapping the Settings button. You can also use the Display Options button to toggle the histogram and show / hide photo information while editing.

    Tablet versus phone

    All screenshots to date have been taken for Lightroom Mobile on a phone. The interface is similar on a tablet, but the added screen real estate puts a lot more information and options at your fingertips.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot iPad
    Lightroom Mobile on a tablet has the same tools and options as on a phone. The added screen real estate allows for more information to be displayed, while editing tools are grouped slightly differently.

    As far as photo editing is concerned, the main difference between a phone and a tablet is that the general edits are grouped into one icon. The three slider icon in the top right corner is what you tap to access common edits like light, color, effects, detail, optics and more. Tap any of these to get a series of sliders you can adjust with your finger and watch your changes immediately apply to the image.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot iPad
    The extra space on a tablet gives you much more information and options on the screen.

    The larger size of a tablet means you can see the whole photo as you apply your edits, with enough room to move sliders and adjust parameters. This is my favorite editing method with Lightroom Mobile, although many people like to use a phone. Either way, it’s fine as long as you find an option that works for you.

    Tap to edit

    The true depth of Lightroom Mobile is further revealed with the vertical column of icons on the right. Here you can dive deep into the editing tools and make all kinds of complicated adjustments similar to those in Lightroom Classic.

    (Note that the same icons appear in a horizontal row at the bottom of your screen when you hold your phone in portrait mode.)

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot

    You can already start by seeing the huge number of editing options available to you in Lightroom Mobile, but that’s not all. Tap and scroll on the vertical row of icons to reveal even more.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot

    If the icons seem confusing, a trick you can use is to simply rotate your mobile device from landscape to portrait mode. This shows short descriptions under each icon, which will help if you ever start to feel overwhelmed.

    The easiest way to learn more about these tools is to tap and experiment. In true Lightroom mode, none of your edits are permanent; You can always go back to your previous edit with the Undo button. The Reset button completely erases all your changes and you can even go back in time to a specific version of your photo by using the clock icon just above the Reset button.

    Selective and global editing

    There are two basic types of operations in Lightroom Mobile: selective and global. Selective edits are adjustments applied to specific parts of an image. Global edits are applied to the entire image. If you were to compare it to Lightroom Classic, selective edits are tools like the graduated filter, the radial filter, and the adjustment brush. Global editing includes all the adjustments of the base panel, along with features such as detail, color, effects, the tone curve, etc.

    To illustrate the touch-based workflow inherent in Lightroom Mobile, my favorite example is the Selective Edit tool. Tap the round point icon at the top of the panel on the right to enter the selective editing interface.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    Tap the blue ‘plus’ icon in the top left corner to create a new brush or filter adjustment.

    At this point, you might think you can start tapping the photo. But if you try, nothing will happen. Tapping the icons on the right does nothing either.

    Why? Because before you can start editing, you need to create a new selective edit, which you can do by tapping the blue “plus” icon in the top left corner. It allows you to choose from three types of brushes: Adjustments, Radial Filter and Graduated Filter. Tap to select one of these options.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    After choosing a specific type of selective editing, tap and drag to apply it to your image.

    Now you are ready to start editing! Tap and drag your finger across the screen to instantly see your brush or filter with buttery softness. After your adjustment or filter is applied, tap one of the icons on the right to add a specific edit: white balance, sharpness, etc. You may be surprised at how quickly you can edit with Lightroom Mobile if you’re used to are the desktop interface, which can be a bit slow at times.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot
    Use the icons on the right to choose which parameters will be adjusted in the operation: white balance, exposure, etc.

    At this point, you may see a common theme with all the images in this article: they are in landscape orientation. Lightroom Mobile lets you edit both portrait and landscape, and the interface automatically adjusts to the position of your phone.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile screenshot portrait orientation
    Editing can be done horizontally or vertically, and the interface automatically adjusts based on how you hold your device.

    After applying a selective edit, you will see a blue diamond on your image. Tap to open the selective edit and also to see a red overlay indicating where the edit was applied. As with Lightroom Classic, your selective edits can be changed at any time or completely removed.

    The most important thing to remember about editing with Lightroom Mobile is that you can’t ruin anything permanently. Like the standard desktop version of Lightroom, all of your edits are non-destructive, meaning you can revert to a previous state of your image at any time.

    The Selective Edit tool is a great example of how the standard Lightroom Mobile workflow works: you tap an editing tool, then tap to implement the operation or change its parameters. Global edits work the same way, except they are applied to the whole photo and not just specific parts. It’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it, which is just a matter of minutes for most people.

    Edit with Lightroom Mobile Sunset
    Fuji X100F | 23mm | 242s | f / 16 | ISO 200

    If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, Lightroom Mobile is included in the price and I recommend giving it a try. Even if you just use it to speed up your workflow rather than in-depth editing, it’s still a powerful arrow to have in your photography tube. Editing with Lightroom Mobile is a fun process that, while not quite comparable to the in-depth options in Lightroom Classic, is definitely worth checking out. Or a second look if it’s been a while since you last checked it out.

    The photo editing with Lightroom Mobile message first appeared on Digital Photography School. It was written by Simon Ringsmuth.

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