Photos are the foundation of any scrapbook, but the low cost and ease of taking pictures today has introduced new challenges. The hundreds of photo prints that could be filed away in a snap has morphed into thousands of digital files on multiple devices.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help automate and simplify how you handle your pictures. In this post I’m sharing how I use Adobe Lightroom, both on my phone and on my computer, to streamline photo management. However, you don’t have to use this software to adopt a similar workflow*.
* A workflow is the series of steps you take from the beginning to the end of a task, similar to a routine.
Step 1: Shoot
I recently upgraded my older iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Reviews of the camera were the deciding factor for me, despite feeling nervous about the operating system. I absolutely love it so far.
I’m using the the native camera, almost always entering through the icon on the lock screen (just as I did with the iPhone). Side-button shooting is helpful in certain scenarios and I’ve found the ability to shoot with voice commands helpful.
No matter what camera I’m using, I always pay attention to the light. Are there harsh shadows? Is my subject dark due to backlighting? Do I have enough light to freeze the motion? I certainly take a lot of not-so-great pictures, but awareness of light means more of them are good.
I also make sure to clean my lens often. My favorite tool is a microfiber pad that I use for both my glasses and my phone. Nothing saddens me more than seeing a lovely picture blurred by a smudgy phone lens.
I love my big camera, but let’s be honest here… my phone is the camera I always have on me!
Step 2: Curate
One of the reasons I’m writing this post is a recent change I made to my workflow. I noticed that photos were piling up in a staging area on my computer, a picture purgatory if you will. The automatic systems I set up were working fine, but the human component (i.e. me) wasn’t keeping pace.
So I began to look at exactly what was causing the pile-up: deleting photos. I don’t want my photo library full of random pictures of the brand of cat food we buy and 30 versions of the same selfie, so I delete liberally. But, this takes time.
In this season of life I’m spending more time outside of the home and office, including significant waiting-for-the-kid scenarios. More of my personal “computer” time is actually on my phone. However, because my photos were being automatically uploaded to Dropbox (see box in Step 3 below), there was little I could do from my phone.
Then, I decided to give Lightroom for mobile another try. Using the app (iPhone | iPad | Android), I can spend free moments picking photos with a swipe up and rejecting photos with a swipe down. It’s like Tinder for my pictures, and it has substantially reduced the backlog I face on the computer.
I will often use the filtered view to limit the photos I see to only those which are “unflagged”. These are the images that have not yet been touched and it’s oh-so-gratifying to bring that number down to zero with simple decision-making.
Step 3: Sync
Lightroom for mobile devices is a useful app on its own, but the automatic sync of images to my computer was the clincher. Now that everything is downloadable from the cloud, I rarely connect my phone to my computer. It’s a manual step that requires time and having the cable on hand at the right time, which I never do.
As you might have heard me mention, I’m a lazy scrapbooker. I don’t want to work any harder than I need to, which is why the Internet is just so magical for photo lovers like us! Lightroom sends each photo, including copies that I’ve edited in A Color Story, VSCO, or Instagram, to my computer. There’s only one small catch.
Lightroom for mobile import photos from your device to the app’s catalog when the app is open. Since I’m doing regular curation (see Step 2 above), that’s not a big deal at all. However, it’s important to understand how it works. If the app hasn’t been opened, new images won’t sync to your computer.
Step 4: Organize
Lightroom Mobile automatically creates a destination folder for your synced device that appears in Lightroom. I regularly move photos from that default location into my month folders, but the sync connection remains. In other words, any flagging, starring, or editing you perform in Lightroom on your computer will be synced back to Lightroom Mobile on your device.
With photos on my computer, I will complete any reject flagging (see Step 2) and delete all of the rejected images. Between Step 2 and Step 4, selecting the best images and deleting the rest represents the bulk of time I spend on photo management. At this stage I will also add stars to note images that particularly stand out. I tend to use 2 for “to scrapbook” and 4 for “to frame”. These will be changed to 3 and 5 stars, respectively, once edited.
My library has a simple structure with top-level folders for years and then month folders underneath. Any flagging, starring, or additional metadata editing takes place in my month folders, where I’m only looking at a few hundred photos at a time. Lightroom catalogs photo files but does not house copies of your images. This is one reason I love Lightroom: my original files are organized exactly how I see them in the software.
Step 5: Edit + Print
Ease of editing, especially in batches, was the original reason I started using Lightroom. A few years ago I attempted to edit every photo I was saving. It quickly became impossible to keep up and I’ve given up on the goal. Instead, I will edit photos with a specific purpose in mind. Usually this is for scrapbooking, but I will also edit batches of photos for framing or sharing with family.
Note: I take a lot of pride in my photography, so it’s worth it to me to add a final polish to images that leave my computer. Your opinion might differ from mine and that’s OK.
With my photos in Lightroom, I have a couple of different options for printing. Sometimes I will export a batch of photos to a folder and use Persnickety Prints to order my prints. Most often I print at home using my Canon PIXMA Pro-100. If I am printing a single image I will use the Canon Print Studio Pro plug-in directly from Lightroom. If I creating a collage of two or more images, I will save that as a JPG and then print from Photoshop using the Print Studio Pro plug-in.
Printing can be a complicated process, especially when you start talking about printer profiles and color spaces. Most importantly, you should continue using the printing approach you’re most comfortable with as long as you are happy with the results. If you’re not happy, then there is quite the array of options to consider for making improvements. That’s beyond the scope of this post, but a topic we can certainly discuss in the comments or on our Facebook page.
The big takeaway here is that I edit only a fraction of my photos and both editing and printing are as-needed tasks.
I’m going to give lightroom mobile a try as I’ve gotten use to using it on my computer. But I don’t use lightroom cc, I have the software loaded on my computer. So will it still sync?
Which version of Lightroom are you using? I can check to make sure. (Just FYI, the software is still installed on your computer when you use the CC version. It just processes payment and checks for updates via the Internet.)
I’m not home right now, but I think it’s lightroom 3.
Amy, I was able to confirm that use of the app and syncing is only available for Creative Cloud subscribers. The most affordable offer is the $9.99/month photography plan that includes Photoshop and Lightroom.
That said, you should still be able to follow this process using Dropbox Camera Upload and setting up an Auto Import folder: https://www.simplescrapper.com/2014/01/how-to-automatically-import-phone-photos-to-lightroom/
This Is exactly where I get bogged down. The photos are organized as I import into my folder structure. But then they just languish waiting for editing and printing.
I have the standalone Lightroom like Amy. Just upgraded from 3 to 6. LR Mobile sounds like a great solution if you use CC.
One thing I’ve had to do, Christi, is reframe how I view photos that are in the folder structure. Maybe they’re not actually “languishing”, but well organized and kept safe? If you can get a handle on the deletion situation, if you haven’t already, the editing and printing can be done as-needed so the entire process doesn’t feel so weighty.
I’m curious to know if using the native camera entered thru the lock screen makes a difference? And what is the difference with side button shooting? Thank you!!!!
Susan, there is no difference beyond convenience.
Opening the camera from the lock screen is a simple swipe compared with swiping or clicking to enter the phone, followed by clicking the camera app to open.
Using the side button to take the picture is helpful when pressing the home button is awkward or unstable. For example, I used it last weekend to take landscape photos from a moving car out the window. Using the side button helped me ensure that I didn’t drop the phone out the window!
Thx Jennifer!! ????????????????
I have tried LR but it seems to take quite a bit of space on my iPhone with all photos uploaded to the app. Maybe I haven’t set up the preferences correctly? Thanks for your input.
Hmm.. the app itself acts like the desktop software in that it serves as a catalog and only maintains smart previews, with the actual files residing in their home. On my phone, the Lightroom app is 278 MB but I have 2.11 GB of photos and videos.
One other thing to note is that when I first tried the app more than a year ago, I wasn’t all that impressed. They’ve likely optimized it since then.
I realize this response is to a fairly aged post/comment but I wanted to reply because I had the same issue and this may help someone else reading this 🙂 I was experiencing the same: seeing the LR iOS app using upwards of 5GB. I did some googling and came across this thread: https://forums.adobe.com/thread/2299810 which DID fix the issue. On my phone, I went into the upper left LR menu, chose “Local Storage” and saw that my Cached Files were at like 4.5 GB. I chose the “Clear Cache” option at the bottom and wah-la! Cached Files went to .70 GB.
Sarah – you’re so awesome 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
I am not a fan of putting my photos on another server or in the clouds. Thank you for offering tips that rely on your own computer. I still get photos from my phone to my computer the old fashioned way with a cord. I’ve also had my phone for 5 or 7 years. It is also a Samsung Rugby and the operating system is Gingerbread. It still works amazingly well so I won’t be updating to a newer phone anytime soon.
I am a big fan of making things work for you.
I think this is funny: this week I spent an hour with a “Genius” at the Apple Store who is also a hobby photographer. I asked him the best way to get photos from my iphone to my new Mac. He pulled a cord out of a drawer in the Apple Store and opened up Image Capture, an application on the Mac (use the Search spotlight at the top right of the Mac menu bar to find it.) He plugged my phone in and showed me how to drag and drop the photos to my Year/Quarter file structure.
I switched from Photoshop Elements to Lightroom in March. I am a CC subscriber, so I’ll look this over and see if this will help smooth out the “gather all photos” process for me. I sorta miss the days when I only had one camera and just dropped the film off at the drugstore! No tagging, editing, backing up, managing. I just got an envelope of photos and started scrapping them.
Using Image Capture is a very solid strategy and I imagine the Genius Bar techs are training to offer the approach that doesn’t require anything extra. However I’ve been grateful to discover solutions that make up for my own laziness!
Brooke—– I’m indebted to you forever!!!! You will never know what i go thru on my Mac to get pictures from my phone!!!! This method the “genius” told you is the answer to my prayers!!! Thank you sooooo much for sharing!!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ (I’m just a wee bit happy!!!!)
It was a gift to me as well. All of these “in the cloud,” “automatic” options fill up fast with data and want more money, leave me with duplicates, and I often don’t know where exactly my photo files are. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll be plugging my phone into my laptop once a month. And I’ll be able to stop searching for the perfect high tech way to do what I’ve been doing just fine with my digital photos for years until “the cloud” came along.
With Image Capture does this avoid using the Photos progam on the Mac? I used to love the old iphoto program but I do not like the newer version that I’m now stuck with after the OS upgrade. Can I use Imagecapture for my nonphone camera downloads too? I’m looking for a new photo organization plan for the new year.
Susan, I am thrilled for you!
Thank you so much for this, Jennifer! I need to get sorted on how to get my photos from phone to computer, and I keep getting overwhelmed and putting it off. Having your step-by-step process will give me a good place to start. Does this system delete unwanted photos off your phone? Or move photos actually off your phone and on to your computer? I am assuming it does one of these things but having not used Lightroom Mobile much I don’t know when in the process that would take place.
Do you happen to know anything about integrating this system with the Project Life phone app? One of my lingering photo flow questions has been how to edit some of these photos in Lightroom on my computer and then have them available to use in the Project Life app. I’m guessing I can sync from Lightroom to Lightroom Mobile, then probably save photos from Lightroom Mobile to my Camera Roll (which can then be accessed by the PL app), but I’m not sure how annoying it would be to do it that way.
Violet, you have pointed out a gap in my discussion as this process does not remove photos from your phone. It makes copies. However, I’ve found that automatically the copying makes it less stressful to occasionally delete the photos on my phone, because I know they have been safely stored elsewhere.
As for using the Project Life app, what you’ve described would be the process. You can create a specific collection in Lightroom and sync that to the mobile app. And yes, you would then need to export to your Camera Roll where you can manually create an album to only see those images.
One thing to consider, which may not appeal at all, is that you can create Project Life pages in Lightroom. Here’s a video tutorial I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSfFjgZV8pI
I’m still working to make my photo workflow more efficient…and I’ve been at it a while- haha! So, I was excited to see your recommendation. I just downloaded Lightroom mobile to my iPhone but it doesn’t allow me to swipe up or down to do anything with the photos. Is there something I need to change in settings or special steps to take to do this? Perhaps I need to have CC in order to have access to this function?
Either way, I have been using Flic (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flic-delete-manage-camera/id918263212?mt=8) to quickly scan and delete photos. It works well for your Step 2, the app is free and doesn’t require a monthly subscription. It doesn’t offer the same streamlining capabilities that Lightroom does but it might be something for users who don’t have Lightroom desktop.
Obviously, there’s still the workflow issue with Dropbox (as all photos you take are already synced to your camera roll). So, it’s a trade-off for using your cable to connect and transfer photos to a PC.
This seems like such a pervasive issue for users- it seems it should have a straightforward solution already! Argh!
Thanks for sharing!
Thank YOU so much for the Flic recommendation. I imagine that will be helpful for so many people! (Note to Android users: There is an app called Flic in the Google Play store that’s not related.)
Here’s the quick fix for your swipe up/down issue for iPhone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIXHuwKOpSg
Happy to help! Oh, FYI- To search for the iOS Flic app on the iPhone, just search Flic. “Flic App” comes up with everything but the app 😉
Thanks for the video…unfortunately, I’m guessing that since I don’t have CC it’s just not an option for me. I tap and don’t get any options…Oh, well, I’ll stick with Flic for now, since I don’t have Lightroom Desktop or CC.
I also have been using my phone more and more especially since my son started college and we have to share the laptop. My challenge (besides myself of course) is that my phone screen is “small” and my eyes are old. Besides the obvious how do you tell if photo is good? Doesn’t it take longer to zoom into each section and confirm in focus? Or perhaps it’s just me and my not so great Photography skills ( or lack thereof). Though I have LG4 (ironically bought for it’s great camera) so my screen is a bit smaller than the Galaxy 7 Edge.
This is a fair point and I sometimes have trouble too. If there is a series of photos where I’m trying to pick the best I will certainly zoom in if needed to look at the details.
I have a question about Lightroom mobile. One reason I was so excited about LR mobile and Creative Cloud (CC) is that I thought I could access the photos on my computer that are cataloged in LR from anywhere. I want to be able to show someone a favorite photo on my phone that is stored on my computer. But I only seem to be able to see photos from my phone on LR mobile on my phone? Do you know if that is possible and what I need to do? I am new to Lightroom and new to my Mac so I have a lot to learn.
Brooke, you can use collections to sync a selection of your favorite photos back to your phone for that purpose. Here are the instructions: https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/lightroom-mobile-desktop-features.html
Note that this does not yet work with smart collections, but it’s a highly requested featured and I bet it will eventually.
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My problem is all I have is an iPad and and iPhone… no home computer. Where should I file my pictures and back them up
This is a fair question Marty! The main challenges are the limited storage space on devices and changing devices over time. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Automatically back up your devices using iCloud Backup, to protect your files in case of emergency: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203977
2. Choose a photo storage site that stores original size images, such as Flickr, to be your official centralized photo repository. You can upload images from multiple devices and allow others to upload images there. You can use the app to view all your images and even organize them into albums.
sadly I have failed my first, second and third try at lightroom. I’m just not getting it. I may have a round-about way to edit and spiffy up my pictures before printing, but I’m getting them done. I use my canon image garden app and the way its designed makes it so much easier for me to improve the photo.