With the release of Lightroom mobile, I’ve been experimenting more with a mobile workflow. Most of my exploration has used Lightroom mobile on my iPad while connected to a network, though, so I thought I would see what happened when I disconnected. Why? Because there are still some places on the planet that don’t have WiFi or cell coverage. I can’t think of any, but I’m certain there must be some. Oh wait! There is no WiFi on United Airlines. And in some national parks. I think that’s it.
Anyway, when you synchronize a collection with Lightroom mobile, the collection is shared through the cloud to your iPad. What is initially shared in the collection is just a thumbnail of the image so that it can be displayed as part of the collection.
When you select and image to process, Lightroom mobile will download the smart preview for the image from the cloud that it will use for editing. Magic! But if you’re not connected to a network and Lightroom mobile can’t access the smart preview, it will instead show an expanded version of the thumbnail for the image and disable the editing options.
If you expect to find yourself without access to the cloud, don’t panic! Lightroom mobile provides a way to download the smart previews to your iPad while you are connected to the network so that you can process your images while you are disconnected by enabling a collection for offline editing.
To access this option in Lightroom mobile, tap the 3-circle icon on the bottom right of the collection cover to bring up the options, then tap Enable Offline Editing.
Lightroom mobile will prompt you with a warning about how much space the collection will take on your iPad.
If you click Download, Lightroom mobile will download the smart previews for the images. You can see the status to the right of the collection.
Once the process completes, selecting an image to process will now show the higher resolution smart preview for the image, and the edit controls will be enabled.
Any changes you make to your images while you are disconnected will be pushed back through the cloud once you reconnect to the network.
To take advantage of offline editing, you need to enable the collection for offline editing and download the smart previews while you are connected to a network. If you just synchronize your collection but forget to enable offline editing, you’ll be stuck with the low quality previews and no ability to edit.
From what I can tell, offline editing doesn’t affect images that originate on your iPad. In an iPad-driven workflow where the original JPGs are uploaded to the iPad, you can edit those images while disconnected even with the offline editing setting disabled. Also, if you’ve already pulled down the smart preview for an image and then disconnect, even with enable offline editing disabled, Lightroom mobile will allow you to edit the image, probably because it caches the smart preview. How many of them and for how long, I don’t know. So it’s probably best if you’re going offline to go ahead and enable your collection for offline editing if you want to do work on that flight. Or in a national park. But personally, if I was there, I’d rather be taking pictures than processing them.