Lightroom to iPad to Lightroom with Photosmith

UPDATE: This process is now handled natively in Photosmith 2.0.  Check out the new post here


This is a work in progress.  I will update it if I can find the time. Photosmith 2 is out! Please excuse the rough write-up and graphic, it was done in a rush.

Foreword / Cautions:

  • This is a hack, plain and simple, the more time I spend experimenting the more issues I find… but if you are really in need it can work.  If you want true 2 way syncing with Lightroom wait for Photosmith version 2.  It will do it all and more, this approach has a lot of steps and limitation.
  • I do not work for nor am I affiliated in any way with the Photosmith developers.  I have simply experimented with the unsupported process based on Sean McCormack’s article here and am sharing my experiences in the hopes it helps other while the developers work tirelessly in their spare time on version 2 which will provide this functionality and much more natively.
  • Start simple. Start with a single image and work up to a single folder, and then if your feeling brave several folders (this is untested but should work in theory).
  • Don’t do anything you’re not sure of.  This is unsupported and experimental and although I have not had any major negative effects undesired things can happen.
  • My experiences were slightly different (and more limiting in most cases) than Sean’s.  He did not seem to have issues with differently named files.
  • Copyright metadata seems to get overwritten (blanked out) when syncing images with color labels (rated images seem fine) and maybe under other circumstances.
  • Share your experiences in the comments!



  • I am running Lightroom 3.5 on Mac OS X 10.6 using Canon CR2 raw files thus the article is written from that perspective.  The steps outlined here *should* work with other setups but as this procedure is unsupported already there are no guaruntees 😀
  • You will need the Photosmith Lightroom plugin installed

What I used:

  1. SD card (for transferring photos from computer to iPad)
  2. USB card reader (for copying photo from the computer to SD card)
  3. Apple’s camera connection kit (for copying photo from SD to iPad)

What you could use:
There are various other ways to transfer the images from your computer to the iPad which I won’t go into here but they <could> include things like the following…

  • USB stick
  • Compact Flash (CF) card + 3rd party iPad compatible CF reader (they exist)
  • Your camera connected via USB



  1. Ensure the folder structure on your SD card matches the strucuture of the cards formatted in your camera *.  For example Canon’s are setup like this… \DCIM\1234EOS7D\IMG_1234.CR2
  2. Copy the image(s) from their source (your hard drive) to the SD card via Finder or export the originals from Lightroom.
  3. If .xmp sidecar files were copied to the card you may want to delete them to make bulk deleting photos later easier.  **
  4. If the image filenames are non-standard (i.e. not IMG_1234) you will need to rename them back to the standard format. *
    (NOTE: You may also need to rename these in Lightroom later to match.  Again try the procedure with a single image to determine your workflow.)
  5. Using the Apple camera connection kit connect the SD card to your iPad
  6. Import the desired image(s) into your iPad
  7. Open Photosmith and import the photos (should happen automatically when Photosmith opens unless auto-import is turned off)
  8. Do your tagging, metadata tweaking, staring, etc.
  9. Start the LR plugin and choose the collection to sync.
  10. Ensure you set-up the Destination Directory to match the original location of the photos AND ensure the image names match. ***
  11. Run the sync and see if it worked.


* The iPad will not “see” the photos if the folder structure or file names are non-standard (i.e. don’t match the camera manufacturers standards/defaults).

** Images exported from Lightroom (as originals + XMP) are difficult to delete from the iPad in bulk via Image Capture on OS X, it just won’t do it.  Seems the .xmp sidecar files cause a problem, maybe because the iPad knows they are there (proven by the RAW+xmp watermark on the thumbnails in the iPad photo app) but Image Captures does not and they the iPad is silently denying the request to delete them, nothing happens, no errors… nothing.  They just don’t delete.

*** Image path AND image names should been the same between the iPad and Lightroom during sync.  If either one is incorrect during sync they will not be matched and the plugin will think you are importing new photos and will copy them to LR as new photos rather than syncing the metadata with the existing ones.  I use non-standard image names (i.e. I rename on import) so to get around this I have used some rename presets in LR (IMG_<orignal file number>) to rename the images back to their original names before syncing, then rename them back to my standard afterwards (example BV_YYYYMMDD_IMG_1234).


Known issues / limitations:

  • Images must exist on iPad (in the Photo app) when sync is run.  This may be a requirement of the regular sync procedure as well.
  • The process will sometimes stall while syncing certain images. Appears to be ones with keywords but can’t prove it yet.  Some metadata would actually get sync’d (like color label) before the stall.
    Cancelling the sync and removing the stalled image from the Photosmith collection before re-syncing usually solves the problem.
  • You cannot see existing metadata such as ratings, color labels, etc on the iPad.  Keywords seem to work.
  • You cannot see development settings on the iPad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *