iPhoto vs Lightroom Mobile

With the recent release of Lightroom mobile for iPad, Adobe has consolidated its commitment to iOS - adding to a suite of apps that includes Photoshop Touch, Adobe Ideas and Photoshop Express. Users of the desktop package, which closely integrates with the mobile version, will recognise the value of having a professional set of editing tools on an iPad.

At first glance, though, many of the features you'll find in Lightroom mobile seem to match up to iPhoto iOS, Apple's own photo-management app for iPad & iPhone. You can edit images, create collections, synchronise edits to the cloud and prepare photos for print in both apps. So, which of the two would suit you best?

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iPhoto vs Lightroom Mobile: Organisation

Lightroom on the desktop  is more of an editing tool for photographic projects than a curation tool. The mobile version is more basic than its desktop cosuin, lacking in support for Smart Collections, which are automatically generated groups of images your can create in the desktop version.

The first time you start Lightroom mobile you may even be forgiven for wondering how you get images into the app at all, so minimal is the interface. You’ll soon discover that you can create new collections and add images from your Camera Roll or import them from attached storage or devices (including WiFi enabled cameras) by clicking on the “Add Collection” icon.

If you’ve synchronised the desktop version of Lightroom with Adobe’s Creative Cloud storage, any collections you’ve uploaded there will also appear.

iPhoto begins organising your photos from the moment you install it, sucking in images from your Camera Roll and iCloud Photo Stream with minimal prompting. It will divide those up further, creating albums from flagged photos, favourites, automatically making collections based on date information and, of course, preserving any albums you may have created yourself. So far, iPhoto nudges ahead in the collection creation category.

Read:

Lightroom mobile lacks support for Smart Collections, but you can manually create sets and sync collections from Creative Cloud.

iPhoto automatically creates albums based on the month you shot images and offers a number of smart ways to sort images.

iPhoto vs Lightroom Mobile: Editing

In direct comparison with iPhoto, Lightroom’s editing features seem quite similar. There are more ways to correct colour and light in both packages - but Lightroom uses the language of digital photography to name those features. Notably, you can adjust white balance, exposure, contrast, temperature, clarity and vibrance. There are also presets for applying quick photo effects; black-and-white, colour filters and vignettes. The crop tools allows you to straighten or rotate images as well as crop to preset aspect ratios.

There are no tools for direct retouching, though - which iPhoto has a slight lead on, with red eye removal, brushes for repair, light correction, blur and sharpen.

The big attraction is that Lightroom mobile supports raw image formats (in both desktop and mobile versions). Raw images are mapped in a different way to other image formats. While a JPEG image is stored as a series of pixels with fixed colour information and should look the same in any app, raw images contain all the information gathered by a DSLR camera’s sensor, uncompressed and unadulterated. This gives you much more power to affect the look of the image in post-production - and that’s exactly what Lightroom is developed for.

Crucially, editing in Lightroom is non-destructive. Rather than applying filters and adjustments to the raw file, the edit is saved as a separate configuration file in XML.

You won’t find any raw images in your Camera Roll, because iOS devices take JPEG images. So, although Lightroom’s editing tools seem quite basic, the level of control in gives you over raw images is actually far greater - and essential at professional levels. In iPhoto, when you save files, the changes overwrite the original (unless you save to a separate file).

Lightroom uses traditional darkroom metaphors for image correction, giving you lots of control over colour, contrast, light and shadow.

iPhoto’s editing tools include rudimentary retouching and masking capabilities.

iPhoto vs Lightroom Mobile: Cloud and Sync

iPhoto uses Apple’s iCloud service and Photo Stream to make your images available across all devices. If your iCloud settings are configured to automatically upload changes, this will happen behind the scenes and your image updates will appear on Mac or iOS whenever you access your photos from any package. Synchronisation isn’t instantaneous though as the entire image is uploaded to the cloud.

Lightroom mobile uses Creative Cloud storage to save changes - and it’s much faster. It does this by creating a Smart Preview or low resolution version of an image that occupies less storage space. This isn’t the original raw file, but any changes you do make will be applied to it on export. That’s the wonder of of XML again. As for speed, Lightroom shares changes between mobile and desktop versions fast, because only the XML file detailing those changes has to be synchronised - and it’s a text file with a file size in kilobytes rather than gigabytes.

iPhoto vs Lightroom Mobile: Sharing and Showing

In its desktop version, Lightroom isn’t known for sharing options. It’s a corrective tool first and foremost. Lightroom mobile changes that slightly with sharing features that enable you to access any of iOS supported services, including Messages, Mail, Twitter, Facebook, and AirDrop. Of course, iPhoto supports all the same options - with the tasty addition of sharing via iCloud and Flickr too.

After that, iPhoto pulls ahead further with app-specific import and album display features that Lightroom can’t match. iPhoto enables you to organise your albums into layouts for print, using built in templates. Lightroom doesn’t have anything similar. However, both apps have slideshow features, which means you can easily use your iPad to show off a collection of images whether you’re using Lightroom or iPhoto.

Lightroom uses basic iOS support for sharing services, enabling you to post to Twitter and Facebook - but not directly open images in other apps on your iPad.

As is typical with Apple, iPhoto integrates very well with other Apple apps - but sharing is confined to iOS core supported services.

We also have a number of other articles about sharing photos. Read the following:

OUR VERDICT

You can download the Lightroom app for free but you’ll need a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud to use it. There are a few options but the least expensive for keen photographers is the Photoshop Photography Program, which at £8.78 per month includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, and Lightroom mobile synchronsing. iPhoto is free with new devices or £2.99 from the App Store. With Lightroom mobile Adobe is offering a tool that enables photographers to bring the iPad into their professional workflows (seamlessly import to Lightroom for correction, then on to Photoshop for retouching). Retina display equipped models are already finding their way into studios as laptop alternatives or second screens, so this is timely. For serious photographers using DSLR cameras and shooting raw, there’s no contest. You need Lightroom mobile. Support for raw image formats makes the extra expense of a subscription worth it. But iPhoto is still has very capable. If you’re an enthusiast with a point and shoot camera or an iPhoneographer, Lightroom mobile offers less of what you need - retouching, sharing and organisation - and more of what you don’t. Though powerful, Lightroom mobile is overkill for anything but professional photography.

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