Lightroom on the move – biting the bullet

This post has been a long time in the writing, it’s taken a long time to bite the bullet (previously grasp the nettle) and see just how I could incorporate Lightroom (or web-enabled Lightroom as I shall call it), into my workflow when my main editing and organising activity is centred around using the desktop version of Lightroom – now called Lightroom Classic. Of course, I’ve written about my Workflow using Lightroom on more than one occasion  🙂

There are two use cases I want to consider:

Firstly, getting images from my iPhone into Lightroom and secondly, getting images from my camera (either from the SD-card, by using a USB-C cable, or by WiFi). I want to do this for both cases using web-enabled  Lightroom on my iPad Mini 4 – and if it works, I may then look at getting an iPad Pro (perhaps replacing my ageing MacBook Pro with a folio keyboard and Apple Pencil, etc etc.) – and syncing to Lightroom Classic on my iMac.

I do want to do a little bit of off-line editing, reviewing and sharing to social media platforms (ie flickr, instagram, blog) of images, but I don’t want syncing of every image to take place as I don’t want to have to invest in more than the 20Gb of cloud storage that Adobe includes in my Photography Plan.

So therefore I would like to back-up the images from the card/camera to an external disk connected to the iPad, and to that end I have determined NOT to format my SD-cards until I’m confident the images on them have been backed-up (as well as the re-organised catalog) on my desktop machine (the iMac) after they have been synced from web-enabled Lightroom to Lightroom Classic when I’ve returned home.

I am not concerned about getting images from Lightroom Classic into web-enabled Lightroom.

The main reason for wanting to do this is weight when travelling; I’d much prefer to carry another lens (or two) on to the plane rather than lug 2kg+++ of MacBook Pro. If I could reduce the weight of computing gear down to something close to the 330gm of my iPad Mini 4, that would be a huge saving and it would reduce the bulk of my carry-on camera bag as well.

I’ve played around with syncing Collections and Albums in the former Lightroom CC without really knowing what I was doing and with ZERO commitment to making it part of my workflow until I came across this article written by Nicole Young which ticked all the boxes and answered a lot of my questions and doubts, and persuaded me, in the first instance – before shelling out the dosh for a new iPad Pro – to try and work out a suitable workflow using my iPad Mini 4 running iPadOS.

So (as in the earlier article) I’m going to follow much of the organisation and structure of Nicole’s article and use a lot of her original text, with my local variations, and a few additions to clarify for myself what it is I’m actually doing, and enable me to remember how I was setting my gear up, and why … sort of documentation for self!

Here’s what’s covered in this article

  • Some critical notes about web-enabled Lightroom and how it works, and how you can set up both it and Lightroom Classic to work happily together.
  • Using Lightroom Classic as the primary photo catalog, while also using web-enabled Lightroom while traveling.
  • Describing the workflow I will follow whilst travelling to import, sort and edit my images.
  • Incorporating images taken from my iPhone 6s into the workflow so that the ones I choose also appear in my Lightroom Classic catalog.
  • Importing and syncing the images you want to sync from the iPad into Lightroom Classic without losing any edits or metadata, and into the organisational structure of your Lightroom Classic catalog.

But first, what IT gear am I using

I subscribe to the Adobe Photography Plan – it costs me £9.98 a month so that gives me Lightroom Classic and web-enabled Lightroom – both of which are kept up to the current releases. With this plan, I only have 20Gb of cloud storage with Adobe.

I have Apple’s Lightning to SD Card Reader for the iPad, but I will also test connecting my Sony A7r III using its USB-C Cable connected to the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter, and also WiFi, to the iPad.

My iPad Mini 4 is modest in storage capacity at 128Gb, but should be ample for the number of photos I expect to take on a short trip. [I’ve calculated that if I have 64Gb of “free” storage in the iPad, and I shoot  at 42Mp RAW images, I should be able to store c.1000 images on the iPad.]

With iPadOS (and iOS 13) Apple introduced the capability of connecting an external hard drive to the iPad (and iPhone). This makes purchasing an iPad Pro even more appealing as not only will you be able to move files both ways but it will also be able to support an external mouse or trackpad, as well as Apple Pencil. This will mean that there will be another way to get images from the latest iPads other than WiFi and sync to Adobe Creative Cloud, although I’m not sure how this will work for images stored in Creative Cloud and not in Photos. For the iPad Mini 4, I should be able to transfer files using the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter as long as its powered with the iPad’s USB  power adapter.

Also it is important to remember, and different to the time that Nicole wrote her article, that Adobe have now (with iPadOS in place) managed to by-pass the Camera Roll and import images directly into Lightroom.

My iMac (27-inch, Late 2013) is running MacOs (Mojave) has 16Gb RAM, and the catalog and latest images for the current year are stored on an external 500Gb Rugged SSD Drive from Lacie  while older images are stored on a WD My Passport 2Tb external HDD drive. I use TimeMachine to backup my iMac, and the external drives when connected. A change in strategy to using web-enabled Lightroom and the iPad might obviate the need for this external SSD and so further reduce weight and space taken-up in the camera bag. 

Lastly, whilst I will try to use the Lightroom Camera for any images that I want to consider seriously as worth post-processing in Lightroom Classic; I will also use the Camera app on my iPhone to take quick snaps – some of which I might wish to Import into Lightroom Classic for posterity! My workflow needs to take account of this.

What needs to be done before I start

A few edits need to be done to the preferences on my iMac. Because I primarily use Lightroom Classic, I want to make sure that the photos I import (sync) will be added to a location that I can work with easily. I’ve chosen this at the moment to be a Folder on my Google Drive. I’ve chosen NOT to sync to a folder on the external drives, or a Folder on the iMac, because I want to control the organisational structure of the images and associated Collections manually from within Lightroom Classic – NOT from Apple’s Finder of course – and also have the flexibility of accessing them, in the short-term, from my MacBook Pro as well. In other words in a shared neutral area.

Step 1 – Change the default Lightroom sync import folder

By default the images synced from Lightroom on the tablet  are automatically synced to a folder within my main HD – I want to change that to a different location.

  1. Go to Lightroom Classic > Preferences > Lightroom Sync
  2. Change the location of the default folder to wherever you want the photos stored. In my case, I created a new folder called “Synced Images” in my Google Drive>Lightroom folder in sub-folders by capture date.

Note: You can also do this quickly by locating a folder within your Folders panel, right-click it, and then select “Set as downloads location for Lightroom Images synced with Creative Cloud”.

Once I get home, I will still need to move within Lightroom the photos into a different folder to organise my files properly. 

Step 2 – Turn off iCloud Photo Sync on the iPad

I checked to make sure that the iCloud photo sync is turned off on my iPad to avoid the images syncing over to my iPhone as well, as this would happen automatically given a decent WiFi network, not to mention the extra network activity!

To turn off iCloud photo sync, first go here …

 

Then make sure that the toggle for iCloud Photos is turned off, I’ve left My Photo Stream switched on because that doesn’t impact on iPad storage capacity and it does allow me to see any images taken on my iPhone on the iPad.

I also checked to see whether Backup and Sync was set to High Quality (and therefore “free”) even though there’s really no purpose in keeping the “Free size” ones anyway.

Potentially you’ll have three sets of network activity – Creative Cloud Upload, Photos upload to iCloud and Backup and Sync for Google Photos – this is reduced to two if you’re on Android of course 🙂

STEP 3 – Switch off Sync on your iPad

I’ve added this important step because it occurred to me that you don’t necessarily want the syncing to Creative Cloud to start automatically when you return to the WiFi in your hotel room. Immediately an image is uploaded to Creative Cloud it counts against that 20Gb of storage – so it’s important you only Upload what you want to keep! Not only that, but the upload will probably be quite slow, and it might cost you money if you haven’t got Free WiFi. So go to the Cloud icon in the app and Pause Syncing. When you’re ready to sync, go back to the Cloud icon and Resume Syncing.

STEP 4— Set up an “Import Album” for your iPhone Camera pictures

  1. First, open web-enabled Lightroom on your tablet.
  2. You need to create an Album and give it a title. I’ve named mine  – From iPhone Camera Roll.
  3. Then click on the  to the right of this album name (to open up the options) and turn on the “Auto Import from Camera Roll” option. Now when you take a picture with your iPhone Camera app it will appear in this Album on both your iPhone and iPad. Whether you want to sync it to Lightroom Classic is another matter which we will deal with later.

Now, after you’ve created some photos with your camera …

Use the steps below to import the files onto your tablet. I do this about once per day. The Sony A7rIII has a second SD-slot that stores a copy of the first card – I don’t reformat that card until I’m sure I have a secure copy on my external Photos disk.

STEP 5 — Import the files to your iPad from a SD Card

  1. Just check that you’ve unchecked Sync (STEP 3 above) – so that a sync doesn’t start automatically – the number of times I’ve got caught by that!!!!!
  2. You connect the SD card to the iPad, using the Lightning to SD Card Reader. The iPad should recognise that you have a Device Connected. Press Continue.
  3. A Selection Screen will appear. Click on “Add To” and “New Album” and give it a name. Select the Pictures you wish to Import from the Card. Click on “Import”.
  4. When I’ve finished importing, I select the “Keep” option to retain the photos on the SD card. I do this mainly because I prefer to format the card directly in my camera (always the best choice), but also because at this point it’s also my Backup.
The process with a camera directly connected is exactly the same.

STEP 6 – Open web-enabled Lightroom on your iPad

  1. The photos from your SD-Card/Camera will automatically appear in All Photos.
  2. You could create a new Album where you want to add the photos you just imported.
  3. Open your Import (auto-add) album (or All Photos) and select all of the images that were just imported they will also sync with web-enabled Lightroom on any other device you have web-enabled Lightroom installed (phone, laptop, desktop, etc.) – if its connected to the internet – once you Resume syncing. See Step 3 above!!
  4. Now I can flag, rate, and edit the files and all of these changes will sync with the cloud and those changes will also be synced with the final images imported to Lightroom Classic on my iMac – once you Resume syncing. See Step 3 above!!

Get ready to work on the iMac

Once I get home to my iMac, the photos first need to fully sync to the cloud before going any further. It is this process that requires you to have sufficient cloud storage on Adobe CC – so that’s why it’s important that you don’t sync pictures you don’t want at this stage!

So Step 3 (as above) is equally important in Lightroom Classic. Ensure that Syncing is Paused at all times, otherwise any activity on Creative Cloud will be synced back to Lightroom Classic. As long as you ensure syncing is paused, you can be reasonably confident that nothing will arrive in Lightroom Classic that you don’t want through your Creative Cloud storage.

Getting files from the iPad to the iMac:

  1. First, the files need to fully sync from web-enabled Lightroom on the iPad to Lightroom Classic on the iMac through Creative Cloud. How long this will take will be dependent upon your WiFi Bandwidth, in the first instance (iPad to Cloud), and then the speed of your internet connection of your desktop/laptop that you are using for Lightroom Classic.
  2. Next, unless you’ve created a similar sub-folder structure in your Synced Images location, you will need to manually create a Folder in your normal structure within Lightroom Classic, you do this by clicking on the ‘+’ and choosing “Add Folder …”
  3. However, the Albums you create in web-enabled Lightroom, move across to Lightroom Classic as Collections. I then moved all of the files over from the Synced Images location to the folders in my structure in the Folders Panel. In my case this means moving the images from a Google Drive location to my external Lacie SSD device. So it would look a little like this …

Clearing out the iPad

Once you have the images copied across into your Lightroom Classic you have to make the decision about whether you want to keep the images on the iPad or not. For me there was not likely to be much choice as I was only using the iPad as an intermediate storage device with the ability to do a little reviewing, rating and editing. So deletion was pretty important.

The first thing is to identify the Collections that have been synchronised. This can be done by applying a Filter in the Collections Search Box …

Once applied you will get a list of the Collections that should be synced to your iPad like this …

If you click on the two-way arrow which is against a Collection, then this Warning Message will appear …

That looks a little scary, but as I’m not sharing photos from my Adobe CC storage, it shouldn’t worry me … yet! So I just click on Stop Syncing and the photos will be removed from the iPad. If I ever want to get them back into web-enabled Lightroom on the iPad, I just click on the selection box next to the Collection and it will be synced back.

As an additional note (just for completeness). Should you have photos which were not in Albums (web-enabled Lightroom) / Collections (Lightroom Classic), then you can Delete them from your iOS device by clicking-on More (…), clicking-on Select, selecting the images you want to delete from the device and clicking-on the Trash can. They will be deleted from all synced devices BUT NOT your Lightroom Classic device – phew!!

Another couple of useful articles on cleaning-out your Lightroom Collection are these from Rob Sylvan …

Managing Adobe Cloud Storage Space for Classic Users, and

Using Lightroom CC for Desktop as a Window to Cloud Storage.

He also write about similar Workflow issues in …

Tips for Syncing Lightroom Classic with Lightroom for Mobile. The tip to just see your Synced Collections is very useful.

Also, these two articles from Julieanne Kost are essential reading …

Direct Import to Lightroom on iPadOS and iOS – which very quickly summarises most of what I’ve been writing here, and …

Advanced Export available in Lightroom on iOS and iPadOS – which answers a question in my mind as to how you get the images onto an external hard disk after import to bypass editing on web-enabled Lightroom and to reduce storage requirements on the iPad.

Some observations as I go forward …

The positives

  • All of my images in Albums were added into my Lightroom Classic catalog with all edits and rating synced, the Album structure was replicated as Collections and all were copied across.
  • Setting-up the iPad and getting the workflow sorted out was much easier than I’d imagined it would be.
  • The weight of my luggage has dropped considerably and the number of cables I’ve had to take, plus hard disks has simplified travel a lot.

The negatives

  • If you interfere with the syncing process you can get unpredictable outcomes. Stopping or starting Lightroom Classic, or the iPad mid-sync is not to be recommended.
  • The album and folder structure within web-enabled Lightroom will not sync over to Lightroom Classic, you have to do this as a manual drag and drop task – but it’s not too much of a problem.
  • You’re not able to change the name of the image file at Import which can be a useful way of providing filename information to enable searches for an image outside of Lightroom – but that’s not a deal breaker.
  • You’re not able to Tag the Images at time of import – each one has to be tagged individually (and possibly collectively) after Import – but I haven’t investigated Presets for web-enabled Lightroom so there might be a solution.
  • If you still intend to use Classic and it’s Import it means you have two different processes to remember which could be a recipe for disaster – but weighing things up (sic) – you might be able to remember what you’re doing as long as you only have one setup (ie iPad) to handle when you’re travelling!
  • Most importantly (to me), there is no selective syncing and the control over syncing is the wrong way round. Most of this post would have been written entirely differently, or probably not at all if you were able to selectively sync which pictures you wanted to upload to the cloud and for the default to be Sync Paused (or Off), rather than Sync On. Most mobile devices are now supplied with loads of storage. It’s now possible to backup to an external hard drive. There is not the need to upload everything to the Cloud.

A note on linking the Sony A7r III directly to Lightroom using WiFi

This is an addendum to the original post which I mentioned I might try to write as part of the Travelling with my iPad theme.

Well now I’ve tried it. The setup is reasonably straightforward and how to do that is shown in this video. The new Sony app – Imaging Edge Mobile must be installed on your mobile device (iPhone or iPad in my case); this replaces the earlier and rather strangely named Play Memories app – but the process of connection is the same. The app allows you to control the functions of your camera and take shots remotely (tethering) and they are then downloaded directly to your Camera Roll, from which you can apply a Shortcut (see below) which imports only a JPEG representation into Lightroom – but not a RAW image [Note: this was the case at the time of testing; this may have subsequently changed].

It has to be said the process from that point onwards –  to upload the file to Creative Cloud is painfully slow on the iPad, and sufficient to say I will not be using this as part of my Workflow. I will rely on my SD-Card to Lightning connector cable to import images onto the iPad, and not WiFi, as doing it this way there does not seem to be so much delay in the sync to Creative Cloud afterwards.

I might be doing something wrong, but as there is an easy and “trusted” way of doing the Import – a cable (but I did need to buy yet another cable adapter to make use of the higher speed USB-C port on the camera) – I’ll stick to that but will come back at a later date to see if things have changed any!

A note on using external drives with older Apple equipment (iPad Mini 4 and iPhone 6s)

With the arrival of my Apple Lightning to USB 3 Powered Camera Connection Kit I was keen to see what it could (or in this case could not) do. I fell foul of Power Requirements, I presume, for any of the External Drives that I tried to connect (even when the adapter was powered). I did however manage to connect the A7r III using its USB-C to USB 3 cable (see above) and also managed to connect my Card Reader, and Flash Drive to the iPad – so I’m in business for Exporting (and Importing) Images to (and from) External Storage.

I can only hope and assume that the iPad Pro will support external SSD devices should I go down that route.

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