Lightroom mobile sync has progressed over the past few years to a point that I’ve been hoping for forever! Adobe has finally given us a way to automatically move our phone photos to our desktop computers for storage in a location of our choosing.
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This is big news! Since I began my photography journey and started blogging about it 11 years ago, I’ve written from time to time about my latest efforts to automate the transfer of photos from my phone to my computer. My fingers are crossed that this is the last article I ever need to write about it!
What I like about Lightroom’s recent releases is that, while you do have to subscribe to one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud products, you now have the option to download your photos from the cloud to your hard drive automatically. Before, you could see your mobile photos in your desktop Lightroom installation, but it was a manual process to move them from the cloud to the desktop.
Follow the steps below to enable this syncing. Or watch this Lightroom Mobile Sync video if you’d rather.
Lightroom Mobile Sync: Initial Configuration
Of course, the first step is to make sure you have a subscription to a Creative Cloud plan. The best value is the $9.99 a month/$119.88 a year Photography Plan, which gives you:
- Lightroom CC Classic (for desktop use)
- Lightroom CC (for mobile & desktop use)
- Photoshop (yes, the full Photoshop CC, for desktop use)
After installing Lightroom Classic on your desktop and Lightroom CC on your phone, you need to set up each installation to allow for syncing with the other.
If you’re already a subscriber to these programs, make sure to check for updates before you begin this process. It’s only been about 3 months since Adobe released support of HEIC files on Lightroom Classic. You want to make sure you have this update installed!
What are HEICs? Good question. HEIC is a file format that recent iPhones use. HEICs hold higher-quality images that take up less space than JPGs. iPhones can record images at a color depth of 10-bit, whereas JPGs only support 8 bits. These HEIC files can hold images up to 16 bits, which means that they can replicate all the colors and details that the iPhone can capture, unlike JPGs. Even if you use an Android, you should make sure your software is up-to-date anyway.
Now that your apps are installed and up-to-date, let’s set them up for syncing. Open Lightroom on your phone, and tap the Gear icon at the upper right corner to open Settings.
Tap import, and turn on “Auto Add from Camera Roll.” This brings all photos you take into Lightroom’s catalog, regardless of the app you use to take them.
Next, go to your desktop Lightroom Classic, and hover over the Lightroom identity plate in the upper left corner. Your program might have a Lightroom logo there – I’ve replaced mine with my business logo.
When you hover over this identify plate, a small triangle will appear – click on it.
You might see a prompt to Sign In where mine says Start. If so, you’ll sign in with your Creative Cloud credentials. And then click the Start link.
Lightroom Mobile Sync: Find Your Photos
In the Library module of Lightroom, look in your Catalog panel on the left. You should see “All Synced Photographs” there. Click on it.
If this is your first time to use this feature, you’ll probably see photos populating this area as you watch – anything that you’ve imported into your Lightroom mobile app will sync here. This area is essentially a shortcut to a collection of all the photos you’ve synced using the cloud. Like the other collections you can create in the Library, you can’t delete your photos from “All Synced Photographs.” More on that later.
The initial syncing process can take a while to complete if you have many phone photos.
During this process, Lightroom actually downloads your mobile photos onto your hard drive. To find out where they are downloading to, right click on any photo and select “Show in Finder” or “Show in Explorer,” depending on your operating system. This will open the folder on your hard drive where the photos now live.
To change this location, open your Preferences dialog. On Macs, this is in the Lightroom menu. On PCs, it’s in the Edit menu. Go to the Lightroom Sync tab, and check the box next to “Specify the Location for LR CC Ecosystem’s Images.” Then click the button on this line that says “Choose.” Navigate to the place on your computer where you’d like to store these photos and select it.
You can access your photos in another catalog location as well. After you begin syncing your photos, Lightroom will give you new options in your Folders panel. You can use this view to access photos that you took on a specific mobile device. These device-specific locations take you to the folders on your hard drive where the images are stored.
Lightroom Mobile Sync: How to Delete Photos
Before we get into fine-tuning your synchronization, take a moment to understand what is happening here.
Your photos that are synced from your phone are linked via the Creative Cloud. If you edit one of these photos on your device, your edits will appear on your desktop, and vice versa. This is quite handy. You can start editing a photo on your device and complete the edit, including undoing device edits, on your computer.
Each photo that is synchronized via the cloud has an icon in the upper right corner when you look at it on your desktop – that icon is circled in the screen shot below. (All photos in your Lightroom mobile installation are synchronized.)
You can move your photo to a new folder, as described below, without breaking this connection. It will still have that synchronization icon at the top right corner no matter where it is on your computer. And you can always access it via the “All Synced Photographs” collection in your Catalog panel.
To delete a photo, you have two options. You can remove it from Creative Cloud. This takes it off your mobile version of Lightroom and out of the “All Synced Photographs” collection on your desktop. To do this, right click on a photo (or select a group of photos together and right click on one of them) and select “Remove from All Synced Photographs.”
It’s important to know that this method leaves the photo on your computer. So, if you wanted to free up space on your phone, but keep the photo on your computer, this is the option to choose.
(To add another twist to the story, deleting photos from the Creative Cloud will not delete them from the Photos app on your phone. It only deletes them from the Lightroom app on the phone. That’s a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post.)
If you want to delete this photo from everywhere – your computer, the Creative Cloud, and your mobile device – access the photo from the folders panel using the device name. Or, access the photo from whichever folder you moved it to. Right click on the photo and select “Remove Photo.” You’ll get a message giving you two options.
You have two choices. You can remove it from your catalog but leave it on your hard drive – I’m not sure why you would ever do this but if you want to, choose “Remove.”
Or, if you want to remove it from your catalog, your hard drive, and the Creative Cloud (a complete deletion), select “Delete from Disk.” I use this a lot for deleting screenshots.
Lightroom Mobile Sync: Fine-Tune the Process
Want to fine-tune the process a little more? Here are the techniques you need.
Add Photos to Your Lightroom Mobile Catalog
Earlier in this tutorial, I mentioned that you should turn on the Auto Add from Camera Roll feature in Lightroom mobile. If you hadn’t done this already, odds are that there are photos on your phone that haven’t made it into Lightroom.
To add these photos, click on the blue “Add a Photo” icon that you can see at the lower right corner of the next screenshot. Tap the 3 horizontal dots at the top right corner and select “Select All” if you’d like to add all of the photos on your phone to Lightroom.
If you’d like to pick and choose, tap “Select” and begin tapping each photo you’d like to add. Images with the small Lightroom icon in the upper left corner are already in your Lightroom mobile catalog. Tap on each photo without that icon that you’d like to add and then tap “Add Photos” at the bottom of the screen.
By default, Lightroom puts all your mobile photos into one big folder. However, you can rearrange them to wherever you’d like. I organize my photos into folders for Year/Month/Event. It’s easy to filter my mobile photos by month or date and then move them into the appropriate folder in that organization structure.
To filter the photos by date, in the All Synced Photos view from the Library, type G to make sure you are in Grid mode. Then choose Metadata from the Library Filter bar at the top. Use the Date panel to filter out the photos that you’d like to move.
Type Command/Control A to select all of the photos in your filter. Next, locate the folder where you’d like to move these photos to in your Folders panel. Right click on it, and choose “Move Selected Photos to this Folder.”
You can move any photo or group of photos you’d like by selecting it and then right-clicking on the destination folder. No need to use the Filter if you don’t need it.
Note that this process will take the photo out of the device-specific folder that you can see in your Folders panel. If you later wanted to find a photo taken with a specific device, you would use your Library Filter panel to find it.
Lightroom Mobile Sync Wrap Up
So, you’ve just learned how to synchronize your mobile photos with your computer by using Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. Once the photos are on your desktop, you can store them wherever you’d like. You can delete them, organize them, edit them, and do anything else that you would do to a non-mobile photo with them.
Have you gotten this process working with your photos yet? How did it go? Post in the comments if you have any questions at all!