Today’s Question: With the latest update to the mobile version of Lightroom, you can download RAW captures to your mobile device. That potentially means it would be possible to travel without a laptop, but does this really provide a reliable workflow for photography using RAW captures?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The latest update to the mobile version of Lightroom does indeed enable a RAW capture workflow while traveling without a laptop. To me, the key considerations to think about here are overall storage capacity and a good backup solution.
More Detail: First off, let’s consider overall storage capacity for downloading your RAW captures. The internal storage is somewhat limited with most mobile devices capable of running the mobile version of Lightroom. While there are mobile devices that provide up to around 256GB of storage, I find that many photographers are still using mobile devices limited to something closer to 64GB of storage. The key question is, will you have enough available storage space on your device to download the number of photos you capture on a typical trip?
External storage devices can obviously provide a degree of help here. If you connect an external hard drive to your mobile device, for example, you can solve your storage limitations very easily. But then you need to consider how much benefit you’re really getting from using a mobile device compared to a small laptop computer. Adding external storage drives may eliminate much of the benefit you would otherwise derive. Keep in mind, however, that some mobile devices enable you to expand capacity by inserting storage cards, rather than by connecting an external storage device.
I think it is also worthwhile to consider what your actual space savings (in terms of overall hardware) will be compared to the utility of the hardware you’re bringing along. While things are changing fast on this front, a laptop will generally be capable of better performance than a mobile device. In addition, if you’re bringing along external storage, a wireless keyboard, and other accessories, the mobile device might not save you all that much space compared to a small laptop.
It is also important to think about backing up your photos during your travels. In theory using Lightroom mobile solves this problem for you, because your captures will be synchronized to your desktop computer back at home using the Adobe Creative Cloud. However, if you have limited (or non-existent) Internet access, this may not provide an adequate solution. Once again, supplemental storage devices can be employed in many cases. You might also consider bringing along enough storage cards for your camera that you never need to reformat them. With this approach you can keep your backup copies of photos on your storage cards, with the copies downloaded via Lightroom mobile representing the new “master” versions of your photos.
The bottom line is that the latest updates to the mobile version of Lightroom most certainly improve the potential for an efficient workflow while traveling that doesn’t require you to bring a laptop computer with you. Instead, a smaller and lighter mobile device can provide the workflow solution you need while photographing on the go.