Lightroom Workflow: How To Use The Export Function

Posted by: In: Full Versions, Post Processing, Software, Techniques 14 Mar 2011 Comments: 0 Tags: , , , , ,

One of the most efficient aspects of Lightroom is to be able to export your image for different uses.

Do you have a particularly prized photograph that you want to show on the web? Perhaps put on your website? Or maybe stick it in a book, or send it off to the printers?

With one click, you can do these things, and organise your images so that you don’t get confused.

So let’s start by looking at the different formats?

An image has two properties of importance. It’s size, and its resolution.

An image, for example that was 6×4 inches in size, but had a resolution of 1 pixel per inch, would result in a terrible quality image. So therefore, a rule of thumb might be to imagine that “more ppi” (pixels per inch) would be reasonable. However…

A computer screen cannot display more than 72ppi, so there is no point in uploading an image to your favourite image hosting site at 320ppi. What’s worse, is that if you did do this, you’d be putting your image up on the web in a quality that could be downloaded and printed in a magazine.

The filesize of an image is also important. A full size image could be anywhere upwards of 8-10Mb which would not only take a while to load on the page, but would also eat up any “limited bandwidth” options your image hoster may have. Likewise, if you own your own website, most hosting companies have limits on your “bandwidth” (the amount of data the server will “download” to browsers, usually on a per/month scale). An image set to 72ppi (or dpi – “dots” per inch from the days if ink printing) with a limit of 800 pixels on its widest side could weigh in at 200k, which is around 50x lighter than the full size image. It would also be useless to anyone wanting to copy it and put it on anything other than a postage stamp, or rebrand it on the web.

However, if you want to print an image out to paper (or in a book), you’d want anywhere from 320 – 400dpi, and want the size to be reasonable (at least look good on a 6x4in print).

I’m not going to go into optimum sizes right now, but you can see that there may be multiple ways to display your image, and each method involves resizing the picture.

Adobe Lightroom does it for you!

All you need to do, is set up a few presets, and save them, and you’re done.

Here’s how I do it. I’m not suggesting this is the best method, but it’s fast, and it works well for me.

Most image printers/hosts ask you for a folder when it comes to uploading your images for the web, or to print. So I have set up (on my desktop) five folders for the different Exports I need to do.

1. To Print. These images need to be full size, and at 320dpi in jpeg format

2. For Web. These images need to be max width 800pixels, and 72dpi in jpeg format

3. For a book. These images need to be full size, 320dpi and in tiff format (better quality than compressed jpeg)

4. For Photoshop. When I work on an image in photoshop, I export it in there. This allows me to keep the original completely safe, and in Photoshop, I’m only working from one folder.

5. For Photomatix. I’ve already discussed HDR in my HDR tutorial, but my HDR software asks for a particular folder when importing images, so by exporting from Lightroom into one location, I never have to keep searching for the right photo. Again, my original is untouched.

Now, when I need to send an image to print, I “Export to Print”. Exporting leaves your original image untouched, and sends a “copy” to the relevant folder. When I go to my printer, and they ask for the folder where my prints are, I don’t need to hunt through “My Pictures”, I can just direct it to the “To Print” folder and we’re done.

To set these export functions up, select an image and right click. You’ll see a menu come up and within that is an “Export” choice.

This should open the following screen:

Lightroom export window

Each section of the export function is well laid out. It’s just a matter of making your choice, then moving to the next section.

Export Location

This is where you specify the location you want to export your images to. This could be a folder on your desktop (for printing, or further work) or it could be a remotely mapped location. For example, Dropbox or online backup location. As you can see, you can rename your exported image and/or put it into a subfolder.

File Settings

This is a key entry that requests the type of file you want to export (export as a jpeg, tiff, raw file etc) as well as any quality settings (such as limiting the file size).

Image Sizing

This section allows you to specify the size of the image. It’s more useful when you’re exporting for a web display, as some sites have size restrictions. It’s important to note, that Lightroom will size to the shortest side. In the example above, 800px is set as the width & height limit. What this means, is that 1a 1600×400 panorama (for example) would be resized to 800×200. The original dimensions are kept safely bound. A 1600 x 3200 image would see the 3200 size reduced to 800, and the 1600 reduced accordingly (making the image 400 x 800 when exported)

Other Settings

The other settings, File naming, sharpening, metadata, watermarking, post processing etc, can all be altered to taste. I generally leave everything default. I’m not precious about hiding the metadata, or adding a watermark, and all my renaming occurs usually once everything is exported.

Once you’ve finished entering your settings, click “add” (bottom left). This allows you to rename your Export template to something memorable (see my list of examples above). These appear not only in this box, but you’ll also see them appear under the right click menu in Lightroom. So multiple image selection and export can be done very very quickly. Creating variants of an Export Template are extremely easy. Just select the one you want to create a variant of, make the changes, then click “add” and give it a new name. Setting up different web sized images as in the example above (600, 800 & 1000 pixel size) is a very swift job.

So that’t that! And if you don’t use Lightroom because you think it’s too expensive, then you may qualify for a Student edition. Have a read of my “Buying Lightroom or Photoshop as a Student” post, or pay a visit to the Adobe UK Education Store.

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