How Viable Is Lightroom's New Raw Editing Capability

How Viable Is Lightroom's New Raw Editing Capability

I know that all of the iPhone 7 hype is on the portrait mode and DNG file capture that the new camera has, but I was particularly interested in another aspect of iOS's photo capability. Having been stuck on a Nexus 6 for the past year and a half, I missed out on a lot of the new tricks that the iPhones were offering. Specifically, Lightroom Mobile's new raw file support, giving it similar editing capability as the desktop version of Lightroom. 

Sean Molin posted an article not long ago with Elia Locardi's experiences with the app as a piece of a larger, Adobe based workflow. The way Elia uses it is brilliant and goes to show how much smartphones and tablets have integrated into our photography, but I want to look at using the app as a start to finish editing and delivery system for quick and simple social media editing. Late last year, I reviewed three of the most popular editing apps available for mobile devices and found Lightroom Mobile to be a worthy option. Snapseed, however, being the first of the three that I reviewed (VSCO, Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile) to offer raw compatibility with the files from your phone camera, gained a clear lead as it offered much more editing power. The caveat is that Snapseed only supports the raw files from your phone and not raw files from other cameras. This is where Lightroom Mobile really has the competition beat. With the newest version of the app, Lightroom Mobile supports all of the same raw files as the desktop version. 

Even better, Apple makes an SD card reader that allows you to offload images from your camera directly to your photos app on iOS. Don't expect to get anything done in a hurry though as the card reader is incredibly slow. It takes around five to ten minutes to show all of the photos for you to select which ones you want to import. Sadly, there's no other option at the moment, short of uploading files to Google Drive on your desktop and importing them on the mobile app. Once you do have them imported, they're marked as raw files when you open the import dialogue in Lightroom Mobile.

From here, there are most of the usual develop module tabs including basic adjustments, tone curve, split toning, and black and white level adjustments. Lens corrections are available as well, but the lens info must be embedded into the file as there is now way to select which lens profile to use. This is a little frustrating for me as I often use my Rokinon 12mm for landscapes and interiors, and have no way to apply the correction that the desktop version has as the lens has no electronic communication with the camera. This aside, the rest of the app functions smoothly and never feels cluttered or clunky. The cover image for this article illustrates just why I love this app so much. I really don't think there is any limit on what you can do with Lightroom Mobile aside from spot healing and lens corrections. The raw files are just as flexible and the highlight and shadow recovery shows no noticeable difference in the way that Lightroom Mobile processes raw files.  

What I Liked

-Simple workflow

-A lot of power

-Good organization

What Could Be Improved

-Lens Corrections for Manual Lenses

-More Functionality (We have the famous dehaze and local adjustments, but it would be great to see more desktop features spill over to mobile)


I've included a few portrait images in this review just to show what the app can do, though I wouldn't use the app to finish and deliver studio portraits because of it's lack of retouching capability. I see Lightroom Mobile being hugely popular with travel photographers, bloggers, and Instagrammers as a way to vastly improve the quality of their content. This will now be my go to photo editor when I'm on the go. As much as I appreciate manufacturers putting WiFi transfer capability in cameras, this is too good to ignore and carrying around the small SD reader places no extra burden on me. For those of you on iOS, I highly recommend the newest version of Lightroom Mobile as a start to finish editor for your social media. 

Log in or register to post comments


Connor Emery's picture

Sharpening would be nice >:(

Danny MacRostie's picture

In the Android version of the app you can sharpen an image by selecting 'Detail' from within the Presets. You don't have any control over how much sharpening is applied but it will sharpen the image.

Patrick Schmitz's picture

The Android version of Lightroom Mobile had DNG support since early 2016 on devices capable of shooting RAW. This also includes the Nexus 6 you my mentioned.

Anonymous's picture

And Google/Nik's Snapseed app for Android has had it since October of 2015 and to me is the better of the two apps in terms of pure editing on a phone goes.

Edward Porter's picture

Shhh! Don't ruin the article. Apple is so hot right now. They do everything first ;-)

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

As far as I'm aware, those apps don't support ARW, RAF, NEF, CR2, etc, raw files from cameras. Plenty of apps have supported DNG raw from phones for a while now. And it has nothing to do with Apple, the android version of this update hasn't been released yet. You can blame Adobe for that!

Spy Black's picture

Right, 'cause it's just so awesome to edit your 24-50 meg files on your iPhone...

Trevor Gerzen's picture

I believe the 9.7" iPad Pro is the only one that actually uses USB 3 speeds over the lightning port. I was just thinking about this same thing recently. I'm guessing everyone can smell what's coming. I'm hoping for new Macs this month, but if they update the iPad Pro line I could be going that way. Everything you mentioned is the only reason I'm currently not. Using the Apple Pencil a little makes me think that it would be rad to use for retouch on the iPad.

Petr Kulda's picture

USB 3 for 12 inch model, smaller one uses USB2 only, check the link

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I think this is a really great tool. I really like the fact that these RAW conversions sync back to the desktop version of Lightroom. At this point though, I just can't see making RAW adjustments on a tablet or phone until they integrate monitor calibration into the mix.

I use the X-Rite i1 Display Pro calibration system and It would be really cool to see adobe work with the ColorTrue app on mobile devices. Unfortunately, calibrating a phone or tablet doesn't work system wide at this point. It's dependent on the app. The app only works with other specific apps to display a calibrated monitor.

Other than that, I love LR Mobile. It's great

Mark Davidson's picture

I download cards to external drives in the field for back up. Not PP.

Frankly, I have zero interest in jumping on a tiny screen to start working in an uncomfortable environment when I could be resting or traveling.
If I have been shooting all day, that is the last thing I want to do.

The day I have clients that are so demanding that I have to do this, I will fire them.

David Faulkner's picture

I would hate editing on a phone, but didn't mind editing on my iPad while on holiday. That said, you're right about the Apple Lightning to SD card importer. Not only is it painfully slow, you have to keep the iPad screen on for it to continue its geriatric speed of importing. If the screen goes off, you have to start again.

Spy Black's picture

You're holding it wrong...

Andrew Griswold's picture

This is awesome so far but had to mention before I finish the article while its fresh on my mind. Wifi capability in cameras today, even in the past with EyeFi cards is top notch. I have done this for years and its been a great way to shoot, edit, and provide clients with a sold look into a photos final production even before leaving the shoot day all from your iPhone.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Strongly agree it does have a few major things missing though its SUPER complex, almost too complex in my mind. I dont want to end up editing for longer than an hour with sliders and functions on mobile. SUre its not to have the power on the go but might be a bit much. Simplifying from here and adding in features in the future that the users strongly want like slective color would be killer