Sorting Smartphone Photos by App


Today’s Question: I recently purchased the iPhone 14 Pro Max and have been shooting raw (DNG) files using both the native iPhone camera and the Lightroom app. After I have imported my photos into Lightroom Classic, is there a way to filter for all photos captured with the Lightroom camera versus the Apple native iPhone camera? I can sort all photos by filename because the photos captured with the Lightroom camera have filenames that start with “APC” and the photos captured with the iPhone native camera have filenames that start with “IMG”. But I see no way to filter for one of the categories.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Sort of, but not with great reliability. The app used to capture the photos is not recorded in metadata, though there are some ways you could keep track of which app was used on your smartphone.

More Detail: When you capture a photo using a smartphone the specific app you used to capture the photo is not recorded in metadata. However, the software used to edit the photo is recorded, which in the case of a photo captured with the Lightroom mobile app means there will be an indication of the Lightroom app in metadata. This is found in the Software field, which will indicate “Adobe Lightroom” along with the version number and operating system (such as “iOS” for an Apple iPhone).

The Software field isn’t one you can filter exclusively, but you could search for unique text using the “Any Searchable Field” option on the Text tab of the Library Filter bar. For example, in this case searching for “iOS” would work, whereas searching for “Lightroom” would not because many other photos will include Lightroom Classic in this field.

Using the Software field is frankly not much more helpful or reliable than using the starting characters of the filename. I therefore recommend that you instead create a different workflow to keep track of which app had been used to capture the photos.

For example, you could use two different approaches to importing the photos captured with different apps. I recommend not importing photos captured with the native camera app on your smartphone into Lightroom mobile. You can then import the Lightroom mobile captures into Lightroom Classic using the synchronization feature, and separately download and import the photos captured with the native camera app as you would when importing photos from the media card taken from a camera. By importing these two types of photos in different ways you could then add information to metadata to indicate which app had been used for each.

You could use a color label to indicate the different capture apps, for example, or add a keyword for the photos based on the app that was used to capture them. This would provide a much more dependable option for later reviewing which app was used for a particular photo or searching for photos based on which app had been used to capture them.

Note, by the way, that I provided details on a recommended workflow for getting your photos from the Lightroom mobile app into your Lightroom Classic catalog in the August 2022 issue of my Pixology magazine for photographers. I also covered my recommended approach to importing photos captured with the native camera app on a smartphone into Lightroom Classic in the April 2022 issue. If you don’t already subscribe to Pixology magazine you can sign up now and get access to the back issues at no extra cost. Details can be found on the GreyLearning website here: