The end goal for your photos will determine the export settings that you choose in Adobe Lightroom. This Lightroom exporting guide will walk you through the various settings in the Lightroom export dialog box.
NOTE: Lightroom will remember your export settings from the last time you exported.
If you are new to exporting photos from Lightroom, I recommend watching the video below.
The first section of the export dialog is the Export Location tab. This is where you will tell Lightroom where to save your photos on your hard drive. First, you will want to click on Export To:. More than likely you will want to choose Specific Folder. When this option is chosen you will see a Choose… button appear to the right. Click on the Choose… button to choose a folder to export you images to.
Once you have chosen a folder, you have the option to check the Put in Subfolder box. This feature is useful if you want keep your newly exported folders separate from the other files in your destination. I use this option when I choose to export files to my desktop.
You also have the option to add the exported images back to your Lightroom catalog. I suggest leaving this box unchecked unless you have a specific reason for creating duplicates in you Library.
The last field in the Export Location tab will tell Lightroom what to do if there is already a duplicate image where you are trying to export to. I suggest leaving this set to Ask what to do. This will allow you to rename, skip or overwrite files on the spot.
The File renaming section is for those who want to change the name of their files as they export them. This section is really useful for portrait and wedding photographers who might want to change the file names to their clients last name. There are many different scenarios when you might want to change the name of you files during export and Lightroom has many different options for those times. By checking the Rename To: box you will unlock the dropdown renaming menu.
By default you can choose between the following options.
• Custom Name • Custom Name – Original FileNumber • Custom Name – Sequence • Custom Name (x of y) • Date – File Name • Filename • Filename – Sequence
I use the Custom Name – Sequence option quite often in my workflow when I’m exporting a series of images for a third party website. This option allows me to change the name of the files to the area where the images were taken and then simply attach a number after that name. For example San Francisco – 1, San Francisco – 2, ect…
The default options are just the beginning though. The sky is the limit when it comes to renaming you photos. You can attach copyright info, camera info and just about any type of meta data that you can think of. To create a custom file name check the Rename to: Box and open the file renaming drop down menu. At the bottom of the menu, you will see edit… Click on edit… and you will see the Filename Template Editor.
This editor is where you can create your custom file name settings. Once you have chosen the attributes that you want to use, you can save them as a preset by clicking on the Preset Dropdown menu at the top of the dialog box and choosing Save Current Settings as New Preset…
If you selected videos and would like to include those videos in your export, simply click the Include Video Files box before choosing the export format and quality that you desire. H.264 is the most common format for high quality video.
The File Settings tab is one of the most important dialogs to pay attention to when exporting your photos. It is important to know the end use for your photos in order to make the right choices here. An image saved for the web might be a different file type than a an image saved for print or further editing.
The most common image format is JPEG. These images are compressed so their file size is smaller which makes them the perfect choice for the web. If you’re saving for the web, it’s a good idea to drag the quality slider to the left in order to shorten the loading time for your images. A good compromise on the quality is usually between 70 and 80. You probably will not notice any image degradation using these settings. You can also limit the max file size to a specific number by clicking the Limit File Size To: box.
IMPORTANT: All images saved for web use should be saved in the sRGB color space. Using any other colorspace could cause inaccurate color reproduction on screen.
Some print labs prefer JPEG files over Tiff images. If you are sending you image off to print, make sure that the quality slider is set to 100%. This will ensure that you get the best possible results. Check with your printer to see what color space they prefer. Most will use the Adobe RGB color space.
Tiff files are highly universal image files that are uncompressed and capable of storing Photoshop layers. This is a great format to choose if you want to continue editing your images in a non RAW editor such as Photoshop or the DXO Nik Collection.
When saving files to be edited again you’ll want to make sure to preserve as much data as possible. To do this, make sure that Compression is set to none and the Bit Depth is set to 16 bits/component. The color space you choose will depend on your workflow. Some photographers prefer Adobe RGB while others prefer ProPhoto RGB. ProPhoto RBG is the largest color space but most devices and printers cannot reproduce all of the colors it contains which will result in some colors being out of gamut. (Color Space deserves its own article so I will not cover it in great depth here.)
NOTE: Check the Save Transparency Box if you’d like to retain transparent layers in your Tiff file. (This will only pertain to images that were already edited in software other than Lightroom)
If your print lab accepts Tiff images, I recommend sending them a Tiff because it will give them more data to work with in the event that they need to color correct or adjust the brightness of your image. Most printers will want to work with a colorspace of Adobe RGB. Make sure that your files do not contain any layers when you send them out to your printer.
PSD stands for Photoshop Document. Today, there is little reason to use the PSD file format because Tiff images are more universal and are just as capable of retaining layer information.
PNG files are useful for people who want to save their images to the web but still retain the files transparency. Any transparent area of a jpeg file becomes white, while transparent areas in a PNG remain transparent when posted to the web. If you are saving a PNG for the web it is best to choose a bit depth of 8 and an sRGB color space. If you’re going to continue editing you PNG further, choose 16 bits and an Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB color space.
DNG stands for Digital Negative and is Adobe’s version of a RAW file. These files can be handled by any raw editor which makes this format a great choice if you want to share a partially edited photo with someone who uses the same editing software as you. For example, I often have my clients send over DNG files that they have already processed in Lightroom. When I open that file in Lightroom I can pick up right where they left off and them send them the file back with my addition edits and meta data.
NOTE: When choosing DNG or Original, most of the export window settings will be turned off.
Choosing original will export the file in whatever file format it is within Lightroom. If you are exporting a RAW file it will export in your camera’s original Raw file format and any edits will be exported as a separate XMP file that will be placed next to the raw image. If I know that I do not need to be working with my camera’s original raw file, I will usually opt for a DNG file to avoid having a bunch of XMP files what take up visual space.
In addition to the file settings tab, it is very important to pay attention to the Image Sizing dialog. This is where you’ll set the image resolution. If you’re saving you images for the web, you’ll more than likely want to save them at 72 pixels per inch. This is the standard resolution for the internet. (Although this will probably change in the not too distant future as new high resolution monitors and and ultra fast internet service becomes abundant everywhere.)
You’ll want to shrink large images to a much smaller size when saving for the web. The first reason is to help with loading time. The second reason is to prevent someone from stealing a high quality version of one of your photos. Your output size will vary depending on what type of webpage you are saving for. If you’re saving for social media somewhere around 1080 x 566 pixels is probably good. If you’re saving for a your personal website and want to display your images large I suggest exporting at 1,400 to 1850 pixels on the long edge of the photo. To resize your photos, check the Resize to Fit box and choose one off the options from the drop down menu. I usually choose the long edge option.
If you are saving you images to for print or further editing, you’ll want to save your files at 240 or 300 PPI. 300 PPI (DPI) is the industry standard for print. It is best to check with your print lab to find out what resolution they prefer.
NOTE: I choose to do my sharpening in Photoshop because it gives me much greater control and I can see what it will look like before committing.
The Output Sharpening dialog box allows you to apply additional sharpening during export. You can choose the images final destination such as screen, matte paper or glossy paper. (Matte paper requires more sharpening than glossy paper) In addition you can choose the amount of sharpening that you want to apply. (Low, Standard, High).
Lightroom gives you the option to choose how much of your meta data you share with the world. I do not want my GPS data attached to my files and personally, I don’t want most of my metadata available to the public so I simply choose Copyright Only.
The Watermarking tab is a very convenient way to place a watermark on your images. This method of watermarking is a little limited though and I often want my water mark to be placed in different locations depending on the image at hand. For this reason, I think Photoshop is better tool for watermarking.
Lightroom gives you the ability to open up another editor or window upon export. This could be useful if you want to edit the images you just exported in some sort of external editor such as focus stacking software. In most cases you will leave the settings set to Do Nothing.
If there are export settings that you think that you’ll use again in the future, you can create an export preset. Creating a preset is easy. Simply fill out all of the export dialog boxes like you normally would. Once you have completed that task, navigate to the left hand side of the export dialog box. Here you will see the preset panel. Click the Add button and give your preset a name. I will often include the file type, color space and image dimensions in the preset name.
Once your preset is made, you’ll be able to easily apply those export settings to any job in the future by clicking on the preset name.
If you click the check box next to the preset name, some fields will be locked in the export tabs preventing further customizations.