How can Photos and Lightroom be friends?

I’m hoping other people who have more experience Lightroom and Photos can give me some ideas.

With the advent of my iPhone 13, I’m taking a lot of photos on it. Most of what I shot is RAW files (30MB a time), which I import into Lightroom. (The easy part).

I use Lightroom:

  • Because it much better key wording tools
  • Better Digital Asset management
  • Fantastic editing tools for RAW files

Photos does have a few nice features that Lightroom doesn’t:

  • Widgets for iPhone and iPad that display fun memories at random moments
  • Clever lookup in the info section for names of landmarks and plants.

The question is then what to do with the picture in Photos?

  • Just keep them there? (Which means storing them twice)
  • Delete them from Photos and loose access to the cool features?
  • Delete them from Photos and export them out of Lightroom?
  • … some better solution which I have imagined yet?

Thanks, that approach works well when the camera is an external one like my Olympus. My challenge is the iPhone is often the camera. So I end up with 30mb files in photos and Lightroom. This feels like overkill. In addition the developed photos are often better having straightened etc.

Do you often get RAW photos out of your iPhone that you can develop into a JPG better in Lightroom than the iPhone does?

I found it was not worth the effort for me.

My Nikon RAW photos go to Capture One and Affinity Photo. My iPhone photos stay on the iPhone and in the Photos app. :slightly_smiling_face:

Huh, I didn’t even realize the iPhone could store Raw, but I see it in settings as Apple ProRAW. I understand why you might want this for a pro DSLR camera, but why on an iPhone? The lens and sensor are so tiny in comparison to a real camera.

I use each app (Lightroom and Photos) a bit differently. Photos is my “personal life” repository for family photos and other similar events. Lightroom is my “hobby” repository for when I’m using my mirrorless camera for fun and to learn photography. If I use the mirrorless camera for a family event, I still import into Lightroom first and then select the best ones to export into Photos (I shoot way more photos when I have my camera, then I do when using my iPhone).

So all my iPhone photos start and end in Photos, and my mirrorless camera photos start and end in Lightroom, with some also ending up in Photos.

This saves my iCloud storage from filling up too fast. If my Lightroom storage fills up, I can cull much of that without losing any memories.

Also, macOS does not yet support RAW format for my specific camera (Sony A7IV), so they appear blank in the Photos app unless I export from Lightroom as JPG.


I store everything in Lightroom (Classic edition) for the reasons you mentioned. I use my phone just as a capture device. I do no editing or culling there.

A couple times a year, I export everything since my last export into an “Incoming” folder on my computer. Then I do my culling, rating, and keywording in Lightroom and move everything out of “Incoming” and onto my archive drive (which is backed up both onsite and offsite).

I used to delete everything from my iPhone then, but since I have iCloud storage space, I just keep it all there, too, in case I ever want to pull something up that I shot recently while I’m out, or so I can get those fun memories at random moments. But that’s not my “real” archive.

Tip: Since not every feature from the iPhone shows up in Lightroom when you export originals, Lighroom’s Smart Folders come in handy. Like, I made one to find All images where “Has Depth” is “True” to locate all my Portrait Mode images.

I don’t use Photos for anything other than a place to put the images I’ve carefully edited and processed so that I can show them to or share them with others, and of course, scroll through myself.

I only shoot raw on my two mirrorless bodies and proRaw on my iPhone. I import everything into Lightroom, which is where I manage my catalogue.

When I say “manage my catalogue” I mean, among other things, getting the photos imported into the correct Finder folders. I access those Finder photos from apps other than Lightroom—e.g., DXO Photolab. Via Lightroom I can get my photos into the Finder folders where they belong and add additional metadata such as keywords and whatnot via an import preset.

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Evan, I really like this approach. I find it much easier to share family photos in Photos vs Lightroom due to my family being in the Apple ecosystem. I have debated bringing all of my photos from Apple into Lightroom so I can have everything in one place, but I don’t think I see the need. As Photos has improved their editing capabilities I rarely need to bring them to Lightroom for editing.

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I have taken a very similar approach to @Evan , but have lately added the “Raw” shortcut to the Camera app for the times I am shooting more deliberately with the iPhone. There are certainly situations in which the iPhone is capable of producing true “pro” level files, and I’d like the added flexibility that the RAW file affords me.

However, the majority of iPhone shots I take does NOT warrant a 30 MB file in my library, so I only activate it when I intend to later import the photos to Lightroom.

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The trouble you are having is down to Apple treating “the camera” and “the library” as the same thing. As far as I am aware it is not possible to take a photo on any iPhone without that photo ending up in Photos.

I do not have a RAW-capable iPhone and probably wouldn’t bother if I did, but if I wanted to, I would the approach of “out and back”.

Photos is, for me, a repository that I have handy on all my devices. This comprises any photos taken with the phone, and any taken with my “real camera” that are stored and processed elsewhere, then exported as JPEGs for sharing & showing.

In the case of RAW on the iPhone, if I wanted to process elsewhere, I would set up a smart album that included only the RAW images and then copy those originals out to the other software and delete them from Photos. Then, once processed, the results can go back to Photos as JPEGs. I don’t see the point of leaving the RAW images in Photos if you’re going to process them elsewhere, as you’ll just end up with the dull original alongside the ‘primped’ JPEG.


Will do my best to reply to everyone:

@SpivR - I think we have roughly the same plan for different reasons. In my case many years of history with Lightroom just means that it is the default. Also I don’t trust Apple not to screw up my photo library.

@karlnyhus Today it’s hard to better than the initial Apple interpretation of the file. The beauty is that maybe in 5-10 yrs time, better will happen. That has happened with my D70 with Adobe able to pull out shadow details easily now.

@jcarucci as above, I assume the future version of lightroom will do something better than can be done today.

@Evan Thanks I can see how that works. It isn’t the approach I’m taking, but it is cool. (I managed to get serious images from my iPhone in both Alhambra and the Real Alcazar - Seville).

@IronicSans - intreresting suggestion, I haven’t played with Portrait mode enough yet to encounter this.

@krocnyc Thanks I think you and @SpivR seem to have a similar approach.

@Herb - sharing with my wife who’s only apple product is an iPhone is one question still on my mind. Probably we just stick to Dropbox which has worked for a decade.

@airwhale The biggest challenge I find with this approach is two fold. I can’t easily tell in advance if something will be RAW worthy. There is also the cognitive load of remembering to enable/disable.

@zkarj you have hit the nail on the head with: “The trouble you are having is down to Apple treating “the camera” and “the library” as the same thing.”. As usual Apple has a strong opinion about the workflow. (which granted for most people is a good choice).

Thanks to all for helping me think this through.