Since Adobe released Lightroom Mobile 2.4, which includes support for editing RAW files, I have been experimenting with using my iPad Pro as part of my photography workflow as I wanted to find a way to use the iPad as a desktop replacement for when I'm away from home. I wanted to share with you my experience, which has been mostly successful so far.
The workflow allows me to use my iPad Pro to make edits of RAW images (.cr2) captured with my digital camera for editing and sharing directly from the iPad, or for editing on Lightroom Desktop on the PC when I'm back home.
Firstly, for this test the following was used:
- iPad Pro 9.7" running iOS10 Beta 3, iCloud Photo Library enabled
- Lightroom Mobile 2.4 with Creative Cloud subscription
- Lightroom CC 15.6.1 on Windows 10 PC.
- Lightning to SD Card reader (2016 version)
- SanDisk Extreme SDHC-I SD Card
- iCloud account with 50Gb storage plan
- 50Mb fibre broadband connection
For the test I had taken 216 photos using my Canon G7X in RAW and JPEG mode. I then realised that I had to delete the JPEG copies as the iPad will only read the JPEGs where there is a RAW and JPEG under the same file name.The workflow is as follows:
- Insert SD card into Lightning to SD Card reader and insert to iPad.
- The iPad will bring up the Import dialog and the thumbnails of your RAW images will start to load. Choose Select All and Import Photos (you do not have to wait for the thumbnails to load). It took 2 mins 45 secs to download 213 RAW files to the iPad, which are about 19Mb each; this is about 1.3 seconds per photo. Provided you are connected to WiFi and have enough iCloud storage space, the original RAW images will start to be backed up to iCloud instantly - you can check this by going to www.icloud.com.
- From the Photos app, select Albums > Last Import > Select > Select All > Add To > New Album (name new album).
- With the photos now in an album, you can go through and cull the images that you don't want (note: deleting them only sends them to the Recently Deleted folder, which permanently deletes the photos after 30 days).
- Open Lightroom Mobile. Either import the images into Lightroom by creating a new Collection: Add Photos (my preferred method), or by choosing Camera Roll > (drop down) > Select Album (choose album or open Recently Deleted).
- You will notice a small RAW symbol in the middle of the thumbnails indicating that they are RAW files. Click ... > Select All > Add Photos.
- The images will be added to Lightroom Mobile and you can start to make edits on the iPad. The original RAW images (not Smart Previews) are then synced to Lightroom Desktop via Creative Cloud and will appear in your organised folders as if you have imported them directly to the PC. (It is important to note that the original RAW file will now be backed up on your PC in the same folder organisational structure as you would expect if you were to import directly to Lightroom Desktop). Any edits you have made on LR Mobile will be synced over to LR Desktop.
- Once the photos have synced to Creative Cloud severs, you can then delete them from your iPad's Camera Roll to free up storage space (or, if you have enough iCloud Storage, you can free up storage by letting iCloud automatically manage your device storage so you never run out of space).
Overall I found the process to be very straightforward and the new iPad has more than enough processing power to be able to handle RAW image editing. It also has a very nice high resolution screen. In fact, during operation it feels significantly faster than my HP laptop running Windows 10. Also, unlike the desktop version, LR Mobile makes full use of screen real estate on the iPad in editing mode, which makes it easier to use than running the full Lightroom on smaller laptops.
The main limitation for me is that I still need to switch to LR Desktop to do some advanced editing such as HDR merge and panorama, but because LR Mobile syncs across the original RAW images over the Cloud, the transition between the mobile and desktop applications is seamless.
I hope that some people will find this useful. It's great to finally have almost full desktop capability on the iPad and I think it's going to really transform my photography workflow.