Raw workflow goes mobile: Hands-on with Adobe Lightroom for Android 2.0
Unlike iOS, Android supports the capture and processing of Raw photos. While not all Android smartphones have that capability, chances are that if you own a late model mobile device running either Lollipop or Marshmallow, you should now be able to use the Adobe DNG Raw format, the headline feature in the updated Lightroom for Android 2.0, released last week.
This is a notable advancement because Adobe expands mobile Raw processing to make possible a complete round-trip workflow – syncing from phone to desktop (or Web) and back – provided you have a Creative Cloud subscription. I tried this workflow using a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, and all advertised features were available. Here’s the lowdown on getting started with Lightroom for Android — and a few things to watch out for.
First, download the app from the Google Play store, launch it, and sign in with your Adobe ID. Anyone can use the free Lightroom for Android as a standalone app, but an Adobe ID enables syncing and round-trip editing.
At the screen’s bottom right, you will notice something new: A camera icon. Tap it to reveal a choice of two formats: JPEG and Raw. I chose Raw for this example. If you do not see a Raw badge, it means your phone does not support the format.
Now go ahead and start shooting with some of the new features introduced in version 2. Note that surprisingly, this camera app has no focus or exposure lock. After you shoot photos with your phone, you can edit them in mobile Lightroom on the spot.
Lightroom for Android uses well-known gestures such as the two-finger and three-finger tap, swipe up and down and vertical and horizontal pinch-in and pinch-out to gather information and make image adjustments. You can view and shoot in either portrait or landscape orientation with the interface shifting elegantly.
Once you choose a photo to edit, a range of new options emerges.
First, tap to enable the camera and choose the Preset button at the bottom right to try out the new Shoot Through Presets (which require support for OpenGL ES 3.0 or later). Five non-destructive presets — High Contrast, Flat, Warm Shadows, High Contrast B&W and Flat B&W — give you a real-time preview of what your image will look like. Lightroom mobile offers six major options in the Adjustment panel: Basic, Tone Curve, Split Toning, Color/B&W and Dehaze.
Split Toning adds color to shadows and/or highlights to impart special effects, tints, or tones to your photos. With split toning, you choose different colors for the highlights and shadows and adjust their hue, saturation, and balance.
Atmospheric haze is everywhere, even if it’s not obvious. And that’s the reason the Dehaze filter, recently added to Photoshop, is so popular. It’s like wiping off a filmy layer to reveal the true tones of the underlying scene. You can also use the filter for creative effects by adding haze to a photo.
The new Targeted Adjustment tool, part of the Color/B&W tool, lets you single out hue, saturation and luminance for specific color adjustments. Here, I targeted Luminance and tweaked the blue and purple color range in order to enhance the blue sky and contrasting clouds as well as cool down the gray stone building.
The Tone Curve tool now sports a nifty Point Curve, providing full curve control and direct access to each color channel — something that was previously available only in the desktop app. The Point Curve lets you make tonal adjustments to any part of the image. Just click on points along the tone line and pull those points up or down for a brighter or darker result.
Sync with Lightroom on the desktop
Part of the excitement around the new mobile Lightroom is how it syncs with desktop and web versions for round-trip editing and sharing. First, sign into your Adobe Creative Cloud account on all your devices. Then, launch Lightroom on the desktop and click the activity center to switch on Lightroom Mobile sync.
I ran into some trouble with this partly because various of my photo collections were associated with different platforms. Adobe is aware of the issue for multiple libraries and is working on a fix.
Collections are designed to make it easier to access Lightroom’s desktop files both online and on your phone. However, if you have all components enabled and capable of speaking to each other, your phone images should appear on the desktop automatically as you shoot.
As impressive as the new in-camera features are, performance of this new version leaves room for improvement. Compared to shooting Raw images with the Galaxy S6 edge+ native Camera app, Lightroom for Android seemed a tad sluggish. When tapping the screen to focus, for example, I observed a discernible on-screen effect as the app did its work. Likewise, gathering all the DNG shots together into a collection, and scrolling through some 250 new Raw images, involved a slight lag time in waiting for the photos to appear.
When creating a collection, each DNG shot populated the grid one at a time. Sometimes I had to tap more than once to checkmark an image to add to the collection. Often, swipe selecting across a whole row did not register immediately. These issues are not deal breakers by any means, and I expect Adobe will work on optimizing Lightroom for Android's response time in future updates.
Creative Cloud link
As we have come to expect with Adobe, almost all creative apps have some kind of hook into the Creative Cloud subscription program. In this case, you will need a Creative Cloud account to take advantage of the round-trip syncing action. You can sign up for Adobe’s $9.99 per month Creative Cloud Photography plan or obtain an Adobe ID by signing up for a 30-day trial version that affords 2GB of storage space on Adobe’s server.
If you choose not to subscribe to Creative Cloud after the trial period expires, you can still continue to use the free app.
This latest update of the mobile Lightroom not only delivers feature parity to Android, but shoots past the iOS version with a gratifying advanced Raw capability. If you intend to use Lightroom for Android in a roundtrip Raw workflow, it's worthwhile to make sure that you first have your desktop and web space properly set up, and if necessary, consult Adobe's documentation before starting your Raw shoot. Aside from a syncing bug and some sluggish performance, the Lightroom for Android update is a good one.
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