I recently wrote about the excessive difficulty of moving the Google Pixel phone’s excellent pictures through a Lightroom workflow. It turns out that Lightroom has a solution; herewith details, upsides, downsides, and alternatives. Also, cautionary words for Adobe on Lightroom Classic
To start with, Adobe has a page telling you how to Sync Lightroom Classic with Lightroom ecosystem.
Sidebar: “Lightroom Classic” · If you’re not sure what “Lightroom Classic” means, they also have a page whose URL suggests it’s about Lightroom Classic vs Lightroom CC — but the “CC” designation has apparently been lost, so the cloud-centric version is just Lightroom. For those of us with cameras that aren’t phones and produce huge raw files, Classic is the place to be.
Now, anyone who’s software-savvy has to be nervous about using a product with “Classic” in its name because that usually means “we don’t care about this, won’t invest in it, and will probably discontinue it.” For the moment I’m not going to worry because I suspect the Lightroom customer based is overweighted with people carrying serious cameras that really need the disk-based workflow, and Adobe just can’t afford to blow us off.
Having said that, I owe thanks to someone with an @adobe.com address who wrote me an email beginning “You are working too hard.” and outlined the How-To. But later in our exchange, they said “I do recommend the CC version, I believe that's where most of the energy is being focused.” That makes me nervous. Hey Adobe, you got a huge percentage of the world’s serious photogs to sign up for a monthly subscription; you had better treat us and our big cameras and our monster DNG files nice.
How-To: Details · That how-to-sync page is accurate as far as it goes, but I got stuck for the longest time because it says “After signing in, click your user name that now appears at the upper-left corner and ensure that the Sync With Lightroom option is turned on.” Only my Lightroom screen doesn’t have my name on it. That’s because (like many other, I bet) I run in full-screen mode. So drop out of full-screen; or just push your mouse up to the top left corner and your name will appear. Hey Adobe, why in the freaking hell is that preference hidden there instead of placed under the “Lightroom Sync” tab in the, you know, Preferences? But I digress.
The other important thing they don’t tell you is that after you’ve taken the photos, you need to wake up the Lightroom app on your Pixel and it’ll auto-magically notice the new pix and sync ’em. I’m OK with this because it lets me control when the sync happens, normally when I’m in the warm glow of home WiFi.
I used to use the Lightroom camera app (which presumably does this itself) because it had better ergonomics than Google’s, but then Google’s got the computational-photography magic where it shoots 50 times a second and combines them to produce unnaturally great pictures.
Deletion · Deleting these synced photos gets a little weird. If you do it when you’re in the “All Synced Photos” folder, you get a message about how they’re going to be deleted from Lightroom but retained in the Catalog. Near as I can tell, that’s just wrong, they vanish from your phone and lightroom.adobe.com and your desktop Lightroom. If you’ve moved them into a regular working directory you just get the normal Lightroom “Deleted Selected Master Photo” dialog, but it still takes care of cleaning up the online and on-phone versions.
Alternatives · If you go check out the comments on my last piece, there are a bunch of interesting-sounding suggestions of other ways to move stuff in general and pictures in particular between your phone and your computer. I’m not going to check them out because the Lightroom process described here works for me. If you’re interested, I’d pay particular attention to one of the Sync apps from MetaCtrl because they’re by Trun Duc Tran, one of the best developers I ever worked with.
Downsides · This whole investigation got started because, as Stephen Shankland noted, when you do this auto-syncing you no longer go through Lightroom’s “Import” process, which allows you to rename, add metadata, apply develop presets, and so on. Not an issue for me but it might be for you.