Lightroom For iPhone Review: A Portable Digital Darkroom For Your Mobile Photos

Adobe has a slew of new updates to its Creative Cloud suite today, and among them is a new version of Lightroom mobile designed for the iPhone. The app turns your iOS-powered smartphone into a pocket powerhouse of a dark room, taking into account the fact that, for a lot of people — including desktop Lightroom users and more casual photography fans — the iPhone is their main camera.

I’m a regular user of Lightroom for OS X, and have been a fan of it on the iPad, too, but on the iPad it didn’t really suit my mobile workflow, because I don’t really pay much attention to collections or my library organization. Generally speaking, I fire up Adobe’s digital darkroom to tweak one or just a few photos that I want for a specific purpose, be it to print, post to a social network (or TechCrunch) or just send around to friends and family. On the iPad, the emphasis is on continuing your desktop experience while on the go.

On the iPhone, that’s still possible, but it’s also much more about bringing the same edit tools you know and love from Lightroom to your mobile photos, so that you can shoot, edit and share them all from the same device. You start off from a collections navigation screen, but you can set a collection to auto-import new photos from your camera roll (and ingest the whole existing roll if you like, too). From there, you can dive in and select individual photos, then use the exposure, contrast, tint and other manual controls you’ll know from Lightroom desktop. You can also quickly apply pre-defined combinations of these tweaks with creative filters, which can then be further tweaked back in the manual manipulations.

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Once you’re happy with an image, you can commit the changes (it’s non-destructive editing, but these will sync via Creative Cloud to your other Lightroom installations) and you can can share to networks, the camera roll and other destinations. You can also use the Open In… dialog to jump right into Instagram or whatever other photography apps you use. It took me a bit of navigating just to find out how to save to your camera roll, however, and I think Adobe would be well-served by placing a one-click button somewhere at the top level of the edit interface to accomplish this.

Already, Lightroom for iPhone has become one of my core photography tools on the go, and it’s a necessary step before heading to Instagram for me even with Instagram’s new, more granular filter and edit controls. Apple is also building these kinds of features into its default Photos app, with more coming in iOS 8, so Adobe will have to continue to work hard to stay ahead of the curve, but this is a solid debut for a long-awaited product.

Lightroom for iPhone is a free update for Creative Cloud Photography subscribers for the universal version of the iOS application.