Although Adobe doesn’t explain how to do it, they have provided a simple method to transfer original photos imported to a cloud-based version of Lightroom (Desktop, Mobile, iPad, etc.) to Lightroom Classic-it’s as easy as moving the images to a new folder in Lightroom Classic (LrC)-but there is a major gotcha if not done properly.
With the October 2021 update and the addition of the advanced masking tools in Lightroom Mobile (i.e., on the iPad), Adobe has brought the editing capabilities of Lightroom Mobile (LrM) nearly on par with the desktop version. For those of us using an iPad, it is now even more convenient to directly import photos and start editing on the iPad right away, especially when traveling. But without a streamlined process to transfer those originals to the desktop image catalog, the convenience of editing originals on the iPad can create a lot of additional headaches and frustration. For example, if you have made edits in LrM then subsequently re-import the original image files from the camera to the LrC catalog, all of the edits have to be synced from the LrM copies to the new LrC copies of the images one at a time. Fortunately that’s not necessary.
When images are imported to LrM (on any device), the originals are uploaded to the cloud and the album containing those photos will appear in Lightroom wherever you use it; in LrC the album appears as a new collection. To move these images into your LrC catalog and have the originals downloaded to a local hard drive, simply move the collection of images to a folder on your hard drive. LrC will download the original files from the cloud into the selected folder on the hard drive, and the images will become part of the LrC catalog with all of the previous edits intact.
At this point, the original image files are now stored locally and appear to be no different than any other folder of images. However, Lightroom still knows that those images came from a cloud-based version and will continue to treat those files as cloud files-that is, completely managed by Lightroom. Specifically, Lightroom may decide at some point to to move those files to a new location on the desktop computer and will do so without notifying you. I have experienced this on several occasions without realizing what was happening. Fortunately I did notice that I had an empty folder where my raw files had previously been.
Deleting the original images in Lightroom Mobile on iPad.
The unobvious step to break the connection to the cloud and take full control of managing this group of files is to remove the photos from the cloud after they have been downloaded to the desktop. Simply go into a cloud version of Lightroom and remove the album with the option to delete the cloud copies of the images selected. This step completely removes the images from the cloud but will not affect the images that are now part of your LrC catalog. (And don’t worry about losing the originals-Adobe stores deleted cloud files for 30 days before permanently deleting them. But it is recommended that you verify that the originals have been fully downloaded and backed up locally before removing the cloud copies.) Without this step, a change to the Lightroom Sync folder location (by you or by Adobe) can result in the original files being moved on the local hard drive without your knowledge or consent.
If you still want to have the images available on LrM, simply re-create a synced collection in LrC once the images have been removed from the cloud. This will upload the images as smart previews rather than originals (with the additional benefit of freeing up storage in your cloud account since smart previews do not count against the storage limit). If you want to sync the full-size original images back to your cloud account, see my post here.
Migrating Original Images from Lightroom Cloud to Lightroom Classic
- In Lightroom Classic, select all images in the collection and move to a local folder.
- Wait for all original files to download (and backup), then remove the photos and album in a cloud-based version of Lightroom.
- (Optional) Create a new synced collection in Lightroom Classic to make the images available in Lightroom Mobile (syncs smart previews to your cloud account).