Making the most of Lightroom Mobile while on vacation

June 17, 2021

Boys jumping in the ocean

I just couldn’t rouse myself out of bed at 4 a.m. I just couldn’t.

I know I know. What kind of photographer am I when my commitment is more to sleep than it is to getting up predawn to capture images during blue and golden hours?

Can I even consider myself a photographer now?

My family vacationed near Duck, N.C., a village-like place on the naturally beautiful, laid back Outer Banks. This was our second visit in less than eight months, and it’s quickly becoming our happy place.

The water rolled against the beach like glass in tones of sea green, sand, and blue. We spotted dolphins leaping out of the water about 50 yards away and osprey hunting fish to take back to their nests. The weather, near perfect. Photo opportunities ripe.

How could I possibly keep my Canon EOS 6D and all those lenses I packed in my bag?

Actually, it wasn’t all that hard, and I still came away with some images I consider keepers. Magazine-worthy? Probably not. But these are images I took on-the-go thanks to a specific iPhone app, and I’m kinda proud of them.

It’s one of the lessons I took away from our week at the Outer Banks. And yes, I still consider myself a photographer.

First, let me say, I decided while on vacation I wouldn’t go chasing landscape and other photo opportunities. After the year we’ve all had, the top priority was to be Dad/husband first, to be present, to relax.

However …

While perusing my YouTube subscriptions during the week in the Outer Banks, I came across this one from SLR Lounge:

There’s a lot in this video, and I’ve been a loyal Lightroom Mobile user for years. But what I learned and didn’t know before was how to create a widget (start at 1:12 in the above video).

QUICK NOTE: I refer to the app as “Lightroom Mobile,” but Adobe calls it just straight up “Lightroom.” The desktop and mobile apps have gone through years of evolution, and many of us began with the fabulous desktop version and got used to calling the iPhone app “Lightroom Mobile.”

Lightroom Mobile through its camera feature allows you to shoot RAW images on your iPhone instead of JPG. For those who don’t know, RAW images are larger files which capture more detail and data.

That’s great and all, but it was a minor pain in the *** to open the app and find Lightroom’s camera when it’s much easier (and quicker) to just open the iPhone’s native camera without ever leaving the lock screen.

The idea of creating a widget that allows access to the Lightroom camera in one easy step? Mind ****ing blown.

When you shoot with the Lightroom Mobile camera, the RAW images are automatically uploaded to your Lightroom Mobile library and … wait for it … to your Lightroom desktop app if you are an Adobe subscriber. So those RAW images are waiting for you when you get home.

The Lightroom Mobile camera has several options you can customize (like ultra wide, wide or telephoto zoom, ISO, white balance, and so on).

Is it perfect? Not by any measure. It won’t beat a good quality camera and lens in your hands. Low light photos still look like they were taken by your kids’ toy camera.

But on family vacations, if you don’t feel like hauling your expensive gear to the beach and risk sand all-but-ruining your gear, if you don’t feel like taking all that image-making stuff to a restaurant and risk losing it to a thief, the Lightroom Mobile camera gets the job done.

First thing to know is it’s free, but yeah, there are in-app purchases. For about $10 a month, you get 20 gigs of space and cross-platform utilization, which means you can take or upload an image on your iPhone and it will appear in the same Lightroom Mobile app on your iPad.

I love that because my iPad provides a much larger image to edit. I’ve had times when an image looks fine on the iPhone but when blown up on a 12-inch iPad I can see flaws that need fixin’.

The $10-a-month subscription also gives you Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and PhotoShop on your desktop, if that’s something you’d want. Most parents taking pics on vacation probably don’t, but if you’re looking to step up your photo editing game into the pro realm, those are where you start.

Do I lament not running out at 4:30 a.m. to take landscape and travel photos? Maybe a little. Probably more and more as the weeks go by and it’s unclear when I’ll be back on the Carolina coast.

But by choosing to focus instead exclusively on my family this last vacation opened a photo door I’ll be taking advantage of for the foreseeable future. And that has me really excited about the possibilities for family vacation pics.

Dave Pidgeon hauls way too much photography gear on vacation and is a writer/photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He and his wife, Alison, have three sons. You can contact him at

More about Dave Pidgeon

Dave is the author of and lives in Lancaster, Pa., with his wife and their three sons.

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