Lightroom CC for iPad – An Unfortunate Compromise

I recently started traveling full time, so I purchased an iPad Pro to accompany my MacBook Pro. I’m going to be spending a lot of time writing in coffee shops around the world over the next few months, so I don’t want to carry my MacBook Pro around unless I absolutely have to.

A few weeks ago, I started using the JPEG film emulation presets on my Fujifilm X-Pro2 because I was getting burnt out from processing hundreds of RAW images per day. This meant I no longer needed all the resources of my MacBook Pro and Lightroom’s RAW editing features to process my photos.

I’ve used Lightroom Mobile in the past, so I downloaded the latest version for my iPad Pro – Lightroom CC. Unfortunately, my expectations were completely shattered when I ran into a few workflow issues. Here’s what I found.

Selective JPEG/RAW Import

I’m not sure if this is a bug with the current version of Lightroom CC for iPad, but it doesn’t seem to be possible to only import JPEGs if you choose to store both JPEG and RAW files on your memory card. Lately, I’ve been primarily using JPEGs from my Fujifilm X-Pro2, but I store a RAW file as well in case I want to do heavy editing on an image.

Here’s my usual workflow.

  1. Import photos into iOS’ Photo app via a Lightning to SD card adapter. The Photo app doesn’t allow for selective filtering either, so both the JPEG and RAW files are imported.
  2. Import photos into Lightroom CC. The strange thing is Lightroom has an option to check JPEG or RAW, but RAW files are still imported even if JPEG is the only option that’s checked.

I’m going to give Adobe the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this is just a bug. However, I’ve seen quite a few discussion threads about this exact topic online, so this bug might actually be a “feature”.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof in Leipzig, Germany.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof. Photo edited with Lightroom CC on iPad Pro.

Regardless, this needs to change. Right now, there are two solutions (compromises) to this problem. Depending on your exact situation, these may not work for you.

  1. My Fujifilm X-Pro2 has two SD card slots. Right now, I shoot JPEG and RAW to both cards. I prefer this method because it allows me to backup both file formats to a second SD card. If I shoot JPEG to one card and RAW to the other, importing the JPEG-only card to my iPad would be a simple RAW-less process. I’d rather not do this for obvious reasons – no backup in case of card failure.
  2. Use my MacBook Pro to delete all the RAWs I don’t need before importing the JPEGs to my iPad. This is a nonstarter because not having to carry around my heavy MacBook Pro is the whole point of this iPad workflow. I suppose I could purchase some sort of small file management device to delete the RAWs, but I don’t want to carry around another piece of gear for such a usefully useless purpose.

Until Adobe does something about this, I’ve opted for Option 1. For the time being, I’m shooting JPEG to Slot 1 and RAW to Slot 2. I haven’t run into card failure yet, but it’s only a matter of time. If Adobe doesn’t address this issue within the next few months, I’ll need to take a serious look at potential alternative workflows.

Export Settings & Process

I can’t believe I’m even writing about this. Customizable export settings are a necessity for a professional photo cataloging and manipulation app.

I’ll keep it simple. Lightroom CC should support different export formats, compression settings, and file name syntax rules. In other words, it’s not possible to export a JPEG with the following parameters…

  • 4096px on the long side.
  • 82% JPEG quality.
  • Filename syntax – YYYYMMDD_IMAGENAME

In the professional world, photographers need to deliver their images in certain formats at certain resolutions. I’m not a professional photographer, but even I have certain image format, compression, and resolution preferences for this website.


At the moment, Lightroom CC for iPad seems to be going through an identity crisis of sorts. On one hand, it offers fairly professional tools such as curve adjustments and selective editing. At the same time, it’s severely handicapped with its lack of JPEG/RAW filtering on import, custom file renaming on export, and adjustable image compression and format settings.

Adobe needs to decide if Lightroom CC for iPad is a hobbyist or professional app. If it’s a hobbyist app, then remove the professional tools. If it’s a professional app, then add those few missing features that make it so.

Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany.

Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany. Photo edited with Lightroom CC on iPad Pro.

The truth is iPad adoption is growing everyday. With the introduction of the iPad Pro with it’s powerful GPU, Apple has created the first true laptop replacement for creatives. I hope Adobe sees this opportunity to capitalize on the photo cataloging and editing market. It’s not a good idea to artificially limit the iPad app when so many of your customers enjoy using iPads and are SCREAMING for a truly professional Lightroom CC app.

As for me, I’m going to try this iPad workflow for a few more months. It’s definitely a compromise, but I really enjoy not having to carry my MacBook Pro around if I’m just doing basic exposure, contrast, saturation, and cropping adjustments. If you’re also a Lightroom CC user, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the app and any potential workarounds you’ve found to the issues above.

Mar 9, 2018 by Brian Li

In Photography

# # #

Leave a Reply