Imagine campervanning through Scotland for two weeks and having to carry a Macbook Pro with you, only to be able to post some Instagram stories. Or imagine not being able to provide a photo to a pilot or display team for their social media because you can only send it after editing on your laptop in the hotel late at night. Situations like these made me appreciate the fine art of mobile editing.
I regularly get asked how I edit my pictures so fast, but the answer is actually simple. The app store is full of good photo editing apps, some of them even as good as what you use on your desktop. Of course you will need built in Wifi in order to get your photos from the camera to your smartphone.
Note that I’ll focus on what to use for your editing rather than how to actually edit.
1. Lightroom CC app
Lightroom CC is the go to app for me. It has a very good built in camera that shoots better quality than the camera app on your iPhone. But more importantly it also allows you to edit any photo the way you would do on your desktop.
How to get it
Lightroom CC is easy to find on the app store where you can download it for free. If you don’t have a Creative Cloud login you won’t be able to use all functions (like selective editing), but you can still edit like a pro.
Lightroom CC offers almost all the same functions as it does on your computer.
You have tools for selective editing, cropping and retouching. The other functions offer complete control over lighting, saturation/colours and effects (like dehaze or vignette).
The difference with other apps is that Lightroom CC allows you to use the same presets you are using on your laptop. This has been the biggest game changer for me cause it allows me to be consistent in my editing. Also when I only have my iPhone around.
How to navigate through the app
Lichtroom CC is the easiest and most straightforward app to navigate through. When you open the app you get the screen below.
You can add photos or take a photo with the built in camera by tapping one of the icons in the lower right corner. To edit you simply tap one of the photos in the library. This will open the editing screen.
The editing screen allows you to swipe through all the editing options. Simply tap an icon to start editing. When you’re finished you click the export icon (the first of the three icons in the upper right corner)
How to edit
This is the tricky part because nobody edits the same way. Everybody has his own way of doing it and that’s fine. Below you can find a video of how I do most of my basic mobile editing.
How to import your presets.
As said before, the possibility to use my own presets in Lightroom Mobile has been a game changer. I can still be consistent in my editing, even when I’m using my iPhone.
You can import your presets easily by following the steps below. You will need your computer to get them on your phone.
1. First of all, make sure you are using the latest versions of all apps, both on your pc and phone.
2. There are two versions of Lightroom for your desktop: Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. It’s important to use the first one. If you don’t have Lightroom CC you can download it from your Creative Cloud.
3. Sync your Lightroom Classic CC with your Lightroom CC.
4. Open Lightroom CC -> click ‘File’ -> click ‘Import Profiles & Presets’ -> select the presets you want to import.
5. Click the little cloud logo in the upper right corner and check if things are syncing.
6. Open the Lightroom app on your phone and go to presets. Your app will show some presets, probably under the ‘color’ category. If so, tap the little arrow next to ‘color’ and scroll down until you see ‘user presets’. Tap it and you will find all your imported presets.
For many the above option will be difficult because either you don’t have the Creative Cloud account or because the Lightroom app is simply to complicated. If you’re the iPhone photographer sticking to snapshots, then VSCO might be your thing.
If you haven’t heard of VSCO you probably lived under a rock the past few years. The app has been popular for a while now and the presets they offer are well known too.
For those that still don’t have a clue: VSCO (the app) offers a range of free presets you can put on your photos as well as basic editing options. You can save the images or upload them to a page or journal. I have been uploading a daily photo on there for the past 4 years.
How to get it
Just like Lightroom VSCO is available for free on the app store. Everything on the app is for free except for a range of filters and a couple of the more advanced editing options.
VSCO is the ideal app for people who are just getting into photography or editing. It offers a broad range of functions, but less than Lightroom and the editing screen is presented in a more straightforward way. Navigating through the app is a whole lot more difficult though! (see further)
The available functions are:
Exposure, contrast, adjust (crop, rotate, …), sharpen, clarity, saturation, tone, white balance, skin tone, vignette, grain, fade, split tone, borders (only for paying members) and HSL (hue, saturation, lightness; also only for paying members)
As you can see it is still a broad range, but it misses some of the functions that can make a real difference like selective editing.
How to navigate through the app
VSCO has 4 major icons to navigate. The left circle with stripes shows photos from people you’re following. For editing it is of no use. The second circle with crossed stripes is an explore page. This page is of no use for editing either. The fourth icon (the smiley) shows your work you’ve published on your VSCO page. But it is the third icon where it happens. The ‘studio’ shows your photos that are made in the app or that you have imported.
The camera icon in the upper left corner is the built in camera. I’m not gonna talk about it here because I basically never use it. To import photos you click the + in the upper right corner.
To edit you select a photo and 4 new icons appear. The photos below show how to navigate further.
To edit you hit the second icon which opens up the screen you see below.
This screen is the preset screen. You can scroll through a series of presets that immediately alter the tone and look of your image. VSCO offers some of these presets for free, but most are sold in packs. (see further in this tutorial). If you found a preset you like you simply tap it to change the image. If your image needs further altering or you want to edit it yourself you tap the second icon which opens the screen you see below.
This screen is the actual editor. You can swipe through the range of functions that VSCO has to offer and you simply tap one to start editing.
If you made an edit you would like to use on other photos (making a preset) you can tap the third icon to save your edit and use it again later.
If you’re done editing you can choose between saving it in your photo library or publishing it on your VSCO profile (upper right corner of the screen).
This I can keep short. VSCO offers a ton of presets, but a lot of them are actually very similar. I used to edit only with VSCO and decided to buy all packs that were available then. In the end I kept using the same presets as before, the free ones… Of course it’s completely up to you if you want to give your money on presets, but in VSCO I wouldn’t do it again and I haven’t bought any new packs that have come out since then.
All in all both apps are good for people who want to have more freedom in editing on a mobile phone. Where most apps offer basic editing options or the basic cliché filters, both Lightroom and VSCO give a wider range of options and the opportunity to apply good working presets.