Lightroom is available both as a mobile app for iOS and Android devices, and as desktop software. The mobile app is free, but can also be upgraded to a paid-for premium version, so the question is whether the extras you get are worth the cost.
Desktop Lightroom users
If you’re interested in the Lightroom desktop software (Lightroom and Lightroom Classic) you’ll see straight away that these are not free, and you can only get them by purchasing one of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plans. There is a trial version, but it only works for a short time.
- How to use Lightroom: Lightroom tutorials
- Download Lightroom
- Lightroom and Photography Plans explained
Mobile Lightroom users
With the Lightroom mobile app for iOS and Android, it’s a little more complicated. This app is free to download and install, and you can use it to capture, organise and share photos on your device without an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
For mobile users, this might be their route into the Lightroom ecosystem rather than the desktop version, and Lightroom mobile can be used as free software.
However, if you want to get the full range of editing tools, the ability to synchronise images with the desktop versions of Lightroom and a range of other benefits, you will need to subscribe to one of Adobe’s Photography Plans.
What the Lightroom free version can do
This information comes from the Adobe Lightroom for Mobile FAQ:
You can use all the capture, organization, and sharing features in Lightroom for mobile for free, and most of the editing features are available too.
Lightroom mobile has a built in camera app with much more control than the regular camera app, and it saves the images you take to its own internal catalog, where you can carry out various editing and photo fixing tasks, and share them to social media accounts.
Essentially, though, the free Lightroom app is like any other camera app, where the images are captured and kept on your phone. Upgrading to a Creative Cloud Photography Plan adds premium features to the Lightroom mobile app.
Lightroom mobile premium and what you get
There are three main advantages to the premium version – which is what you get when you join an Adobe Photography Plan.
- Your images now synchronise with the Adobe Creative Cloud service so that they are available on other devices, and to Lightroom on desktop. You can now see, organize and edit your pictures everywhere.
- Adobe offers other free mobile apps, including Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Fix, Adobe Spark Page, Adobe Spark Video, and more, but you’ll need a Photography Plan subscription to directly access your Lightroom photos with these.
- Lightroom mobile, the full version, offers useful additional editing tools:
- You can synchronise profiles and presets with Lightroom on desktop
- You get a Healing Brush for removing sensor spots and other unwanted objects
- You can make Selective Adjustments, such as adding a gradient filter to darken a bright sky
- You get Geometry tools for correcting converging verticals and other perspective problems
- You can edit RAW images, including those shot by the Lightroom camera or imported for a separate camera
- You get Adobe’s AI-powered Sensei search tool for finding pictures using object recognition
- You can share web galleries with others
- You can sort your photos according to who is in them
- You can carry out batch editing on multiple photos at the same time
Is it worth upgrading to a Photography Plan?
Adobe is clearly using Lightroom for mobile as a bit of a teaser to get people to subscribe to a Photography Plan. There’s nothing sinister about this; it’s something most software companies do. And the fact is, the ‘free’ features are worth having on their own.
But it’s also worth considering subscribing to a Photography Plan anyway. Many people object in principle to subscription software, but the Adobe’s Photography Plans are a pretty good deal.
Which Adobe Photography Plan is best?
Photography Plan (20GB)
The best choice for most photographers will be the Photography Plan, which includes both versions of Lightroom, Photoshop CC, Lightroom for mobile and web and 20GB of storage – though if you want to use Lightroom CC and its cloud storage, you’ll really need one of the 1TB plans.
Photography Plan (1TB)
If you decide you want the best of both worlds, it’s going to cost more. With this plan you get both versions of Lightroom, Lightroom for mobile and web, Photoshop CC, Adobe Spark with premium features, Adobe Portfolio and 1TB of cloud storage (you can upgrade this later).
Lightroom Plan (1TB)
This looks a good deal at the same price as the regular Photography Plan but there’s a sting in the tail – you get Lightroom CC, Lightroom for mobile and web, Adobe Spark with premium features, Adobe Portfolio and 1TB cloud storage, but you do not get Photoshop or Lightroom Classic.
• Read more: Adobe Photography Plans, what they include and how to get them
If you’re starting your journey as a Lightroom user from a mobile device, then the Lightroom plan could be the best choice. You don’t get Photoshop or Lightroom Classic, but you do get Lightroom mobile, Lightroom CC on desktop and 1TB of cloud storage for your photos.
If you’re a desktop user interested in moving into mobile photography and editing, the regular Photography Plan could be the best choice, as you get both versions of Lightroom (read Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic) and Photoshop too, and Lightroom mobile premium. If you really like the cloud-based storage, however, you will need to upgrade your Photography Plan to add 1TB storage, which will double the monthly price.