A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Exporting Digital Photos From Adobe Lightroom

October 3 2012

by Philip Northeast

The export popup menu  in Adobe’s Lightroom does more than create copies of the selected photos.

Lightroom has a number of options for photographers to adapt the exported photos to suit their purpose or use.  These uses include web display, outside printer, photo book or publication high resolution copy for a client.

Lightroom menu

Lightroom popup export menu

Adobe Lightroom creates copies of the original photo incorporating the adjustments made in the Develop module. The new photos can be in a range of sizes and file formats. Lightroom can export single photos or a number of photos in one operation.

One of the keys to Lightroom’s productivity is the preset. These can be created in the export operation by saving the settings in the export dialog box as named presets. Then using the preset from the export dialog box recalls all the saved settings associated with the preset.

This article deals with commonly used options for exporting photos from Lightroom. The Adobe software is very flexible with settings for more specialised uses and these are mentioned, but not described in detail.  The theme is for typical uses such as producing JPEG photos sized for use on web sites and photo galleries, for emailing, or for standard commercial printing. Fine art specialist printing, or for glossy magazines, often have specific requirements and the Lightroom output photo file is usually only the first step in a complex process.


Original Photo Remains Untouched

A strength of Lightroom is the originals of the imported photos are not altered, instead all the exposure and cropping adjustments from the Develop module are applied to the exported copy of the original photo.  This allows different versions to be produced without compromising the quality of the master copy.


The first choice for photographers in the export popup menu is the folder for storing the new photo files.  Lightroom offers photographers flexible storage options for these photos.

The options include a combination of saved folder destinations and creating new sub folders for each operation. If photographers save combinations as named presets it is easy to create a range of options to suit different photo size and formats.

Lightroom menu

Setting where to export the new photo files in Lightroom

The basic options include:

• Specific Folder with the ability to use a sub folder with a field to easily specify a new one, or use the last one.
• Choose folder later – intended for presets where the folder is specified each time.
• Standard folders such as documents, pictures and desktop.
• Same folder as original

One strategy is to create a range of presets with photo size, file format and destinations folders for common uses. For special uses it is easy to create a sub folder during the export process to store these photos in their own folder.

Lightroom also exports files to external applications that have a Lightroom plugin, such as High Dynamic Range application Photomatix.  Lightroom opens Photomatix and loads the selected photos of an HDR set straight into Photomatix. This bypasses the need to create intermediate files.

File Renaming

Photographers can export photos from Lightroom with different file names.  Lightroom offers a number of ways to name the new photo files, including adding custom text in front of the existing file name, or using a sequence number instead of the number allocated by the camera. Part of any renaming strategy should still contain a reference the original master photo to help refer to the original version of the photo.

file naming export lightroom

File naming in the Lightroom export menu

A new name helps identify the photo files outside Lightroom. The custom text could be an event name or the photographer’s name.  Providing a more meaningful name helps photos destined for the web from a Search Engine Optimisation point of view.

File Settings

The settings in this section are for matching the photo to the way it is going to be used. Common uses are displaying photos on a computer monitor in a blog or sharing photos on flikr, or making a photo book.

The file format is often set as JPEG because the smaller files are easier to use wherever storage space or download speeds are important. Photographers can also specify TIFF, PSD or DNG file formats for higher quality, but much larger file sizes.

Photographers choose the quality, or amount of compression applied, for JPEGs and there is a handy limit on file size because some web sites have a file size limit as well as a dimensional maximum.

File settings

File settings while exporting from Lightroom

The colour space choice is because devices reproduce different ranges of colours. Lightroom allows photographers to produce a version of the photo to suit the colour capabilities of the display device or printer. SRGB is the most common for monitors and commercial printers.

Image Sizing

Lightroom does not change the size of the original photo file so it is possible to keep producing different  size versions without losing image quality.

Lightroom uses the aspect ratio of the photo set in the develop module, so the dimensions in their popup export menu are maximums and not a precise specification of the size of the new versions of the photos.

File sizing while exporting from Lightroom

There is a check box to tell Lightroom not to resize the photos if full-size versions are required.  The trap is the default resolution that Lightroom uses is 72 Pixels Per Inch. This is fine for displaying a JPEG on a computer monitor but for other printing and graphics uses it needs to be set to 300 PPI or higher.

Photographers need to consider the landscape or portrait orientations of photos when setting the dimensions for output versions, particularly when doing a batch of photos with mixed orientation. The width controls the size of landscape oriented photos as this is the longest side and the height controls the size of portrait aspect photos. This is because Lightroom preserves the aspect ratio of the photo.

There is a check box that says, “Don’t Enlarge” indicating Lightroom can create a photo file larger than the original, and does this by an interpolation process where it creates extra pixels similar to its neighbours throughout the photo.

Output Sharpening

All digital photos need some amount of sharpening or edge contrast adjustment. This is normally applied last to an image and the amount depends on the intended use of the output version.

Lightroom offers a couple of drop menus in this section to choose a range of uses, such as screen or variations for the type of paper, glossy or matt, for printing the photos. The second drop down menu gives photographers further control over the amount of sharpening applied.

Often professional photos submitted to publications or stock libraries are not sharpened, the end user applies the amount of sharpening required to suit their own printing process.

Preset list

Lightroom export menu preset list with options

Meta Data

Digital photo files contain camera setting information and photographers can add details such as captions, descriptions and keywords.

Where the size of a photo is important, much of this detail can be omitted, and Lightroom only retains the photographer’s copyright information.


Photographers can add a variety of watermark styles to batches of photos with little more than a mouse click. The size, position, opacity and the wording of the watermark can be saved as presets, allowing a number of different styles to readily available for easy application. Lightroom has watermark styles ranging from a discrete but solid notice in a corner, to a large but shadowy notice in the middle of the photo.


This is similar to the plugin option where Lightroom opens an external application with the new version of the photo already loaded. The difference is that this time Lightroom has created a new version of the photo file.


Creating a Lightroom export preset is easy.  Once the photographer has configured the settings in the popup menu to their satisfaction they use the ad button below the list of presets to save these settings using a unique name.

Photographers can change their existing User Presets by right clicking on the preset name in the preset list. The options include renaming the existing preset or updating with the current settings.

The flexibility of export presets allows photographers to create a range of general presets and use different settings for special occasions.

 Close all the Panels 

Each of the settings panels can be expanded to change the settings, but when they are collapsed they include a summary of the settings in their header bars. This makes it easy to see at a quick glance what settings are active.

Export summary

Lightroom export menu with panels closed



Share this article on Pinterest  



Leave a Reply

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