In my last article I went over exporting from Photoshop. Photoshop's Save for Web is probably the best way to export images for the web to give you the most control over your output.
There are many photographers, especially those just starting out, that are only using Lightroom. I'm going to side track for a second. I don't understand why you're not using both Lightroom and Photoshop. I mean it's $9.99 a month for both of them and you will always have the most up to date version. I wrote about this over on The Business of Boudoir. Ok, let's move on now that I have convinced you to go sign up 🙂
Now everyone knows that Lightroom doesn't make changes to your RAW files. It simply keeps track of your adjustments in it's database and only applies them when you export. There are two ways to export out of Lightroom, the Print section and the Export function. Out of the two the Print section gives you very little control. You can do a few cool things in this area, like making a collage, but it is not super intuitive and there are much easier ways to do it.
So the Export function is where we will turn our focus.
What is your end result?
Before we can even talk about the Export options in Lightroom, you need to know what your end result is going to be. Is it an image for the web? Is it going to print? Where is it going to be printed? What kind of paper? Most importantly, WHAT SIZE?
Yes you need to know the final size first. If your final size is an 8×10 then you need to do some cropping in Lightroom before you export. The Export dialog is not going to allow you to change the aspect ratio. Remember your cameras are shooting in 35mm format (unless you are special and shooting medium format) and 35mm is a 3:2 aspect ratio. so without cropping you can print to 4×6, 8×12, 16×24, 20×30 etc. Now the other most common ratio is the 4×5, or large format. This is why 8×10 is such a standard print size. You end up with 4×5, 8×10, 16×20, 24×30. I would say that these sizes are becoming less common and we are starting to see more frames in the 3:2 ratio.
Let's talk crop
The keystroke for the Crop tool in Lightroom is R. Makes sense right? Not really. But it is what it is. So hit the R key and you are given a nice grid showing the Thirds. You can drag the handles around to crop your image, or you can select from the dropdown where it lists Original. You can also enter in custom sizes.
This is great for locking in your composition, but did you know there are different Crop Guide Overlays. If you go to the Tools menu under Crop Guide Overlays you will see the list. You can select it here or toggle through by hitting the O key.
Select the Aspect Ratios and you now have an awesome overlay that will let you see how your image looks under different ratios. Shift-O will rotate the Overlay. This is really only helpful if you also change the crop orientation by hitting the X key.
You will notice there are some additional ratios that are typically not needed for print. Back under the Tools menu you can control which ratios are shown. Unless you are processing stills for video there is probably no need for the 16×9 or 16×10.
So now that you have properly cropped your image for your final print size, we can now move on to Export.
Let's go on an E-Ticket ride. By that I mean Command-E(Mac) or Control-E(PC) to open up the Export dialog box.
We'll go through the relevant sections here.
That allows me to make a choice each time I export. The other options are choosing a Specific folder or The Same Folder as Original. Again since I like to build these as Presets I use Choose Folder Later. Next is File Naming.
This can be an entire article just on naming and of course you can build Presets here as well. If these are going on the web, make sure you are naming for SEO and use a dash in between keywords.
File Settings is where we choose the type of file to export and some quality/compression settings
As you can see here I have JPEG as the type, 80 as the Quality and sRGB for the Color Space. This is probably my most common settings and give be the best quality for posting images on Facebook. I have not found much use for the Limit File Size function as you really have no control what it will look like. If you really need to get a handle on the final file size, Photoshop's Save For Web is a much better tool.
This is where most people get tripped up. Below you see the 4 settings for Image Sizing. Lets start with the first setting Width & Height. As you can see I have put in 1000 x 1000. So I'm going to get a square image right? WRONG. This dialog box does not change an images aspect ratio (see Cropping section above). Setting this limits the image to be 1000 pixels on whichever side is the longest. If your image is 4000×6000 and you export with this setting, your final image will 666 x 1000. It's simple math. 6000 will be limited to 1000. 6000/1000=6. 4000/6=666. It doesn't matter if the longest edge of your image is the width or the height, it will be limited to the size in the boxes here and the remaining side will be adjusted according to aspect ratio.
Next up is Long Edge. This will limit the longest edge to 1000 pixels and the short side will be adjusted appropriately. I probably use this setting more than any other.
Short Edge will adjust the shortest side of your image to 1000 and adjust the long side. I should mention the Don't Enlarge checkbox. While it probably isn't very common, this would keep an image from being interpolated larger which would probably result in a fuzzy image. There are much better tools if you need to size an image larger.
This last option I don't use. It is kind of like the Limit Size in the File Settings we looked at earlier. You really have no control over what its going to do.
NOTE: In these images I have left the resolution at 72. If you are creating these files for Print then you will probably need to change it to 300. THIS DOES NOT AFFECT THE FILE SIZE. Don't believe me? Try it, export once at 72 and once at 300 and then go check the file. The pixel count and physical file size will be identical. This is a tough one for many to get past. The Resolution is simply a meta tag within the file for a printer to use to calculate print size. Reference:http://thebusinessofboudoir.com/size-matters/
Set it and Forget it
Now that we have our settings dialed in, let's make a Preset. At the bottom left corner click the ADD button. Give your Preset an appropriate name, select a folder for it to live in and you're done.