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Best export settings for Lightroom

  • Tutorials
  • 28/08/20

In this video we will discuss the best export settings in Adobe Lightroom from a professional point of view. This is to avoid sending unsuitable size or file format as an email attachment or a highly compressed JPEG for print.

You can find the export function in the Library module. This is compared to the logistics centre of a big company where you control what goes in and what goes out. Here you can see the exports and the import function in the lower left hand corner. Keep in mind that you will export all the images that you have selected. Depending on how many you have selected will depend on how many will export. If you have only selected one image, you will only export one and if you have selected 10 images, you will export those 10.

We will look at three critical elements: file naming, file settings and image size.

You can see at the top of the window the “Export to” in Lightroom. Here I will select the right destination location from the “Choose” drop down menu.

This is how I organise my files: I have got one Lightroom Catalog folder. I have one folder for the Raw files and another one for the files that are going to be exported.

The next feature I would like to discuss is file naming, here you can choose to rename your file. You can either choose renaming templates from the dropdown menu or create your own. I like to create my own templates as it allows me to add custom text to the file name.

Select “Edit” from the drop down menu which opens the file name template editor. At the top, you can see the text box where you can insert different file name elements. This is a text box and I am going to delete everything just to start from scratch. I like to keep things simple, insert fine name (that’s really important, as I think it always allows me to trace back which raw file the images are based on), then I’m going to give it one space with the space bar. Then custom text: I use custom text a lot as it allows me to name the files according to their usage. For example: “high res”, “1500 pixels for web page” or file resize for a particular magazine.

From the drop-down menu, select “Save current settings as a new preset”.

This allows me to add my own custom text to the files, this a really useful feature.

File Settings: There are lots of different file formats for us to choose from but the two most relevant for photographers to export images in Lightroom are JPEG and TIFF.

Let’s look at JPEG’s first. A JPEG is a compressed file format that you would typically use when image quality is less important than file size such as an email attachment or to show images on a Web page. That means that you should not use JPEG’s as your working file format but only to export images.

Next select a colour space: sRGB and JPEG are really good friends as sRGB stands for small RGB and is a colour space that is so small that it can be reproduced on almost any device, it is like the smallest common denominator. And it is perfect for JPEG as you often don’t know how your images are being viewed or who uses them.

The next setting is “Quality”. Using the “Quality” slider, you control the relationship between the image quality and the file size, the sweet spot is between 60 and 80. I choose 70 to export all my JPEG’s.  Don’t tick the “Limit file size”  box as a file size should be a result of the image dimensions and the quality setting and you do not want to limit it artificially.

The next option is TIFF.
TIFF is a high-quality file format that you would choose if the image quality is more important than the file size as TIFF files are roughly 10 times larger than JPG’s of the same pixel dimension. It’s by nature a lossless file format that can be used as a working file.

Typical uses would be to submit files to clients, export them for use in other applications like Photoshop or whenever you require the best image quality like gallery printing. The next option is colour space. TIFF and Adobe RGB are really good friends. Adobe RGB is a large colour space that is used for high end applications.

The next option is compression: choose “LZW Compression” whenever possible. Keep in mind that this is only available if you export your images as 8-bit files. Set the file depth to 8 bits if this is the final file and doesn’t require any further grading or 16 bits if you want to export the file to Photoshop for further editing work.

The last option is image size and that’s the technical bit. First of all, if someone requests a high-resolution image, then that means that they want to receive a file with the original file resolution. In this case, you would untick the “Resized to fit” box. If you want to resize your files, then in general we have two options. Either you resize the images for use for screen or to be printed.

If the images are being used for screen then the units should be pixels and the resolution doesn’t matter for the screen. Find out what pixel dimensions are required for your web page or a social media platform.  This information should be readily available. For example, Squarespace requires images that are 2500 pixels wide.

If you want to control the images by width and height, then select this option from the drop-down menu. This would be the case if the images need to fit into a box with a particular orientation and fixed dimensions. For example, my web page contains a box for the images with an orientation of 1000 pixels wide and 650 pixels high. This means that images in portrait form will fill out the height first and the width is a consequence of the aspect ratio. Whereas images with a landscape format will fill out the width first. Remember, this option does not crop your images to these dimensions. It rather defines a box with these dimensions that the image is then fitted into. That also means if the width and the height are not the same and the box is rectangular, then portrait and landscape formats are exported at different sizes.

If both portrait and landscape format are supposed to be exported to the same size, then you choose “Long Edge”. In this case, the long edge, no matter if it is the heights in portrait format or the width in landscape form, it will be the same. This would be used if you want to export the images for an exhibition where the images are supposed to be of identical size, but just with different orientations.

If the images are exported to be printed, then you need to define the physical size in inches or centimeters and the resolution.

Let’s begin with the resolution. The standard resolution for print is 300 pixels per inch, short “PPI”, as it is the resolution threshold of the human eye and will result in photorealistic prints.

For example, if you intend to resize the image to be printed as an A4, then you should select width & height.  The dimensions of A4 are 21 centimeters for the width and of 29.7 centimeters for the height and a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.

You should create a preset on the left-hand side if you repeatedly export images for the same purposes. A preset is nothing other than a record of the right panel group. You can see that I have created and named presets for my most common uses, like “Export for my web page” or “Print portfolios”. You create a preset by clicking on the add button and name it accordingly. These presets should be saved under “User presets”.

That’s pretty much it and you click the export button. You can see the progress bar in the upper left corner of the Library Module and the images are going to be exported to the location that you have selected.