Adobe is becoming quite the nimble services company, bundling its top-selling products into a single $9.99/month subscription called Creative Cloud. Those who choose to spend the money for access to cloud-optimized versions of photo-editing powerhouse Lightroom and jack-of-all-trades Photoshop CC (the CC is for “Creative Cloud” edition, get it?) now have another tool at their disposal.
Lightroom for iPad is not exactly a paired-down version of Lightroom 5 for OS X or Windows; it doesn’t pretend to be the final step in your workflow. Instead, it’s a way to synchronize photos and editing metadata between the two platforms, so one can start, or continue, edits that will be finished on the bigger screen. More of a companion app than a fully-fledged photo editor, Lightroom does have plenty of capacity for doing good, solid editing work.
RAW files can be transferred over the cloud without taking up much space on the iPad itself thanks to a feature called Smart Previews, which compresses the full-size photo while maintaining all the relevant editing data one would expect. The app automatically synchronizes photo edits between the iPad and Lightroom proper, which makes it relatively easy to use iCloud to deliver photos taken from an iPhone to the iPad and subsequently to Lightroom. If that was already your workflow, this just saves some time. It also cuts out the need for iPhoto, which uses Photo Stream to do the same thing; here, a user can import Photo Stream photos directly into Lightroom for iPad, save them to Adobe’s cloud storage and edit them later on Lightroom for OS X.
Like the recently launched Office for iPad suite, the interface has not been merely downsized for the tablet, but reworked to take advantage of transparencies, Retina displays and larger touch areas. Saying that not all features from Lightroom for OS X or Windows are available is doing the iPad version a disservice: this is still a very capable image editor on its own, missing only a few esoteric features like third-party Presets.
If you’re already a Creative Cloud subscriber and an iPad owner, downloading and using Lightroom for iPad is a no-brainer. If you’re an iPad owner and a Lightroom for desktop owner, the $9.99 subscription fee may not seem worth it unless you spend a lot of time on your tablet, but it may be worth giving the app a try. Adobe says it is also bringing an iPhone version to market soon, and will eventually release an Android equivalent.