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The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: Exporting from Lightroom

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In this excerpt from The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers, Martin Evening shows you how to export single or multiple photos from Lightroom, as well as how to specify whether to incorporate a post-processing action and save export settings as custom presets, making it easy for you to create and use different export routines.
From the book

The Export function lets you export single or multiple photos from Lightroom, allowing you to export copies of the master images as DNGs, flattened TIFFs, flattened PSDs, or JPEGs. But that's not all. You have full control over the exported file settings, such as where the files get saved to. You can also specify whether to incorporate a post-processing action and save export settings as custom presets, making it easy for you to create and use different export routines. To export photos, make a selection and choose File arrow.jpg Export or use cmd_shift-e.jpg (Mac) or ctrl_shift-e.jpg (PC) to open the Export dialog shown in Figure 9.12.

Export presets

The Export dialog has a Preset section that already contains a few preset export options to help you get started. For instance, The For E-mail setting can be used to export Internet-ready JPEG versions of the master catalog images. Other Lightroom presets include Export to DNG and Burn Full-Sized JPEGs. Plus, you can configure your own custom settings and add these to the User Presets list. The settings listed here can then be managed using the contextual menu, which also allows you to update a user preset setting (see Figure 9.10).

Figure 9.10

Figure 9.10 You can right-click to access the contextual menu and manage the export user presets.

Export Location

The Export Location section allows you to export to the same source folder or to a specific folder. When the latter is selected, the folder location is remembered between exports, so you can regularly send your exports to locations such as the My Pictures folder. In the Figure 9.12 example, I had the For E-mail preset selected, which would automatically put the exported photos in a folder called To E-Mail on the Desktop. You can also check the Add to This Catalog option if you want to automatically reimport the exported photos back into the Lightroom catalog. The Existing Files menu (see also Figure 9.11) gives you several options. You can leave it set to "Ask what to do" when an existing file is encountered as an exported image is reimported back to the catalog, or choose from one of the following policies. If you select "Choose a new name for the exported file," this gives you the opportunity to rename the reimported image and create a new master image. You can also choose Overwrite WITHOUT WARNING; although, the use of all caps hints that this is potentially a risky policy to select. Or you can choose Skip, where Lightroom still exports the existing files, but skips reimporting them.

Figure 9.11

Figure 9.11 The Existing Files menu options.

Figure 9.12

Figure 9.12 The File arrow.jpg Export dialog is shown here with the For E-mail preset selected. You can configure your own custom export dialog settings and click the Add button (circled) to add these as new user presets.

Exporting to the same folder

If you select "Same folder as original photo" in the Export To box (Figure 9.13), this allows you to export a derivative version of a catalog photo, such as a full-sized TIFF version from a raw original, export the new photo to the same source folder as the original, and add it to the catalog. When this combination of settings is selected, you also have the option to stack the exported image either before or after the original. The Export dialog, therefore, provides you with a simple one-step solution for creating derivative versions of the raw masters and simultaneously adding them to the catalog.

Figure 9.13

Figure 9.13 This shows the Export Location options used to create derivative versions of master files and reimport them back into the catalog, stacked with the masters.

  1. In this first screen shot, you can see here that I had filtered the photos in the catalog to select just the master raw, 3 stars or higher photos only.
  2. I used the Export command (cmd_shift-e.jpg [Mac] or ctrl_shift-e.jpg [PC]) to export these eight photos with a custom "TIFF reimport" preset that used the same Export Location settings as those shown in Figure 9.13.
  3. Once the Export process was complete, I could see that the exported photos had been added to the catalog and stacked after the raw masters.

File Naming and File Settings

If you want to retain the current naming, you can leave the File Naming section set to Filename, or if you wish to somehow differentiate the export processed images from the original masters, you can add a text string such as _email or _foliocopy. In the File Settings section, images can be exported using the JPEG, PSD, TIFF, DNG, or Original formats, and the file format options will adjust according to the file format you have selected. For example, in Figure 9.12, you can see the File Settings that are available for JPEG exports, and if you select the DNG format, you'll see the DNG options that are shown below in Figure 9.14.

Figure 9.14

Figure 9.14 When DNG is selected in the Format box, you will see the DNG options shown here. These are the same options that you will find in the Camera Raw and DNG Converter Save options.

TIFF options

When setting the TIFF options, I prefer to save uncompressed TIFFs. You can use ZIP or JPEG compression to make TIFFs smaller, but be warned that it can take up to ten times longer to save TIFF files that have been compressed this way.

Original format

Don't overlook the fact that you can export images from Lightroom in their original format. For example, when burning a DVD, it will be a lot quicker to export and burn photos to a disc by keeping them in their original format. After all, if your files are already converted to DNG, there is no point in asking Lightroom to convert them to DNG all over again. Likewise, now that Lightroom 3 supports managing of CMYK images and video files, you can use the Original format option only when exporting these types of files from Lightroom.

Saving non-raw files as DNG

Just as you can convert any supported proprietary raw file to DNG, you can also save non-raw files as DNGs. The only advantage of doing this is that the DNG file format can combine the XMP data with the pixel image information in a single file document. But the major downside is that, if you save JPEG images in this way, you will lose all the benefits of JPEG file compression; it's a bit like saving a JPEG image as a TIFF or PSD—you end up increasing the file size to that of a normal, uncompressed image file. It is also important to point out that saving a JPEG as a DNG does not convert a JPEG image into a true raw-format image. This is a misunderstanding that has cropped up before on some of the e-mail forums. It must be stressed that once you have converted a raw image to a TIFF or JPEG, there is no way of returning it to its raw state again.

File Settings

Up to this point, all the catalog files will have been edited using the Lightroom internal RGB space, but you can now select an output color space for the exported files by choosing from sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), or ProPhoto RGB. If you are exporting the photos for photo editing, your choice will boil down to Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB. Adobe RGB is a safe general choice as it is a widely adopted space for general photo editing work in programs such as Photoshop. ProPhoto RGB is, in many ways, a better choice than Adobe RGB because the ProPhoto RGB color gamut is a lot larger than Adobe RGB and is more or less identical to the gamut of the native Lightroom RGB space. With ProPhoto RGB, you can guarantee inclusion of all the colors that were captured in the original raw file, whether your display is able to show them or not. For this reason, ProPhoto RGB is a favorite photo editing space for high-end print work where you want to preserve the maximum color gamut to achieve the best print results. The downside of using ProPhoto RGB is that you must view the files in a color-managed application in order to see the colors displayed correctly. If you view a ProPhoto RGB image in a program that does not recognize profiles (such as most Web browsers) or where the color management is switched off, the colors will look terrible. Adobe RGB files won't look so hot either if you don't color-manage them, but trust me, ProPhoto RGB images will look even worse! If you are familiar with the basic concepts of color management and are using Photoshop color management switched on, it will be safe for you to export using Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB. If any of the preceding information scares or confuses you, then perhaps you should stick to using sRGB. In fact, I would definitely advise choosing sRGB if you are exporting images as JPEGs for Web use or for client approval (especially if you are unsure how well the client's systems are color-managed), or if you are preparing pictures to e-mail to friends. For the time being at least, sRGB is going to remain the most suitable lowest common denominator space for Web work and general use.

The Bit Depth can be set to 16-bit or 8-bit. One of the reasons so many professionals advocate working in 16-bit is because you can make full use of all the capture levels in an image when applying your basic tonal edits. If you start out with an 8-bit image and carry out major edits, you'll end up needlessly throwing away a lot of data along the way. Keeping your images in 16-bit throughout helps preserve all the levels. In Lightroom (and this is true for any raw processor), you are making all your basic edits in 16-bit regardless of how you export them. So, at this stage, you will already have taken full advantage of all the deep-bit levels data in the original capture. Therefore, choosing 8-bit at this stage is not necessarily so damaging, especially if you have carried out all the major edit adjustments to the raw file in Lightroom. If you think 16-bits will help you preserve more levels as you perform subsequent editing work in Photoshop, and you feel the extra levels are worth preserving, the safest option is to choose 16-bit.

Image sizing

In the Image Sizing section (Figure 9.15), you have the opportunity to resize the exported photos (except where the DNG file format or Original image is selected in the File Format settings). There are various options here. If you check the Resize to Fit box, you can choose Width & Height to make the photos resize to fit within the values entered in the two boxes. If you select Dimensions, you can force the exported images to fit precisely within set dimensions (which may well change the aspect ratio of the exported images), or you can resize the photos along the long edge or the short edge only. if you have a selection of photos where some are landscape and others are portrait, you can specify a long edge or short edge dimension limit, and all photos will resize to the same long edge or short edge dimension constraints. Finally, the Resolution box allows you to set the number of pixels per inch or pixels per centimeter for the resolution.

Figure 9.15

Figure 9.15 Here is a view of the Export dialog in which you can see the File Settings and Image Sizing options. Note also that when the panels in the Export dialog are collapsed, the settings are summarized in the panel bar for quick and easy viewing.

When to interpolate?

There are no interpolation options in Lightroom. Instead, an adaptive method of interpolation is used in both Lightroom and Camera Raw. However, this still leaves the issue of when and where you should interpolate. There are still times when digital camera files may need to be made bigger in order to meet client requirements for blowup images. One of the questions that has arisen relates to capture sharpening. Is it OK to use the capture sharpening in Lightroom and interpolate the image up later when you need to create a bigger pixel-sized image? Or, should you switch off the capture sharpening in Lightroom, export at the bigger pixel size, and capture-sharpen afterward? Figure 9.16 shows the difference between these two approaches. The important thing to bear in mind here is that the capture-sharpening process is intended to sharpen a capture image in preparation for all types of uses. If the image you start with contains obvious artifacts, then any amount of sharpening and further interpolation is likely to enhance these defects. The objective should always be to capture-sharpen your photos just enough to make them visibly sharper, but without creating noticeable sharpening artifacts. So, although interpolating before capture sharpening sounds like a good idea, it doesn't actually help. I have come to the conclusion that the capture sharpening applied in Lightroom does not enhance any artifacts. It is appropriate to capture-sharpen the original raw image in Lightroom and interpolate up at the export or print stages.

Figure 9.16

Figure 9.16 The left image was capture-sharpened in Lightroom and interpolated up at the export stage to twice the original file size. The right image was initially unsharpened and the exported version interpolated to twice the original size and then reimported and sharpened in Lightroom using settings identical to the ones used in the left version. These pictures are shown here at the 100% (doubled up) output size.

Output sharpening

The Output Sharpening section (Figure 9.17) provides the same sharpening controls that are found in the Print module Print Job panel options. It should be stressed that these sharpening options are intended for applying sharpening for inkjet print output only. What this means is that, instead of using the sharpening controls in the print module to sharpen for print, you can use the Export dialog settings to sharpen a file for inkjet print output. For example, let's say you wanted to take photos from Lightroom and prepare them for printing in Photoshop or via a dedicated RIP. If you apply output sharpening at the Export stage in Lightroom, your files will be nicely sharpened and ready to print.

Figure 9.17

Figure 9.17 The Output Sharpening options.

In the Sharpen For section, you can choose Screen output (such as for a Web page or external slideshow presentation) or choose between a matte or glossy paper inkjet output. I say "inkjet," but you can successfully use these output sharpening settings to prepare photos for other types of photographic printing such as a Fuji Frontiera continuous tone process. Note there are no sharpening options for halftone CMYK output, and you will still need to carry out this type of sharpening in Photoshop. The Amount settings include Low, Standard, and High. The Lightroom output sharpening is based on routines that were originally devised by Bruce Fraser; these were all coded with the Standard setting. The Low and High settings, therefore, allow you to make the sharpening effect weaker or stronger.

It is worth bearing in mind that you don't always need a high pixel resolution to get good results in print. Clients are often fond of quoting a 300 ppi resolution for everything from small newspaper photos up to billboard size posters! The truth is that 200 to 250 ppi is quite often all that you need for magazine reproduction, and more pixels doesn't always equate to better quality. Having said this, images that contain a lot of fine detail will benefit from being output for printing (or printed directly via the Print module) at a minimum resolution of 300 ppi. If you choose to upsample, Photoshop applies its adaptive upsampling routine that combines the Bicubic and Bicubic Smoother interpolation algorithms prior to applying the print output sharpening. As I say, this isn't necessary for all images—just those that contain a lot of fine edge detail.


The Minimize Embedded Metadata option allows you to export images without including custom metadata such as keywords (Figure 9.18). This option can be useful if you want to keep the metadata information to a minimum or wish to hide the keyword metadata. Below this is the Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy option. This is checked by default and ensures that keywords are always written to a file's XMP space so that the keyword hierarchy is preserved when the keyword metadata is previewed on another computer running Lightroom, where perhaps the keywords used are unknown or do not share the same hierarchy.

Figure 9.18

Figure 9.18 The Metadata and Watermarking options.

For example, let's say you have two computers that share the same controlled vocabulary—that is, they both share the same keyword hierarchy structure. If you were to export a photo from one computer and import it into the other, then the Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy option wouldn't make any difference because the keyword hierarchy for the individual keywords would be recognized anyway. (Please note that I am talking about a normal export and import here and not about the Export/Import catalog command.) But if this option is unchecked and the second computer does not share the same information, the keywords will otherwise be output as a flat View list without a Lightroom-recognized hierarchy. So, if you happened to use a keyword hierarchy that used California > USA > Places, that hierarchy would be preserved as long as either the computer you were importing the photo to already knew this hierarchy relationship or the Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy option had been checked. If it was not checked, the keywords would be exported as a flat list: California, USA, Places.


Previously, the Add Copyright watermark option in the Metadata panel would simply add a watermark in the bottom-left corner based on the copyright metadata applied to each image. It worked and was a useful feature to have, but the Watermarking section now allows more control over how watermarking is applied to your exported images (Figure 9.18). Over the coming pages you'll see two examples of how to add a watermark: You can create a text watermark, or you can click the Add Image button to select a suitable image graphic. In addition to placing a watermark at the time of export, you can also do so via the Print module Page panel and Web module Output Settings panel. Watermarks can also be edited by going to the Lightroom menu and choosing Edit Watermarks.

How to create new watermark settings

  1. To create or edit a watermark, go to the Lightroom menu and choose Edit Watermarks. Or, if you are already in the Export dialog, go to the Watermarking section and select Edit Watermarks. This opens the Watermark Editor shown here. If you are in Text mode, you can type in the text to use for the watermark and use the bounding box handles to adjust the scale of the text. Over on the right are the text and watermark options for setting the alignment, orientation, opacity, and color, plus you can also add a drop shadow and adjust the Radius and Angle settings to create a bevel and emboss type of effect. Once you are happy with the watermark settings, click the menu list at the top and choose Save Current Settings as a New Preset. The saved setting will now be available as a custom option such as in the Watermarking section of the Export panel (see Figure 9.18).
  2. Alternatively, you can click the Graphic button to open a PNG or JPEG image file and place this as your logo. There are no active settings here for adjusting a watermark graphic other than to fade the opacity, so you'll need to use Photoshop to edit such watermarks beforehand and create special effects like the rounded bevel edge seen here.


The Post-Processing section in the Export dialog is a powerful feature. It lets you perform tasks such as showing the images in the Finder at the end of an export or instructing Lightroom to open the photos in Photoshop after exporting. You can even arrange for the exported files to be burned directly to a disc. These are the default options you have in the Post-Processing section, but if you read further over the next few pages, you can find out how to create Photoshop droplets (which are self-contained Photoshop action routines) and have these run at the post-processing stage of a Lightroom export.

Adding Export Actions in Lightroom

The post-processing options in the Lightroom Export module allow you to integrate Photoshop processing routines with Lightroom by adding them at the end of a Lightroom export. All you have to do is run through a sequence of Photoshop processing steps that you would like to see carried out at the end of an export and record these as an action. In the following few steps, I show an example of how to create a Photoshop action for converting RGB images to CMYK that includes the necessary pre-sharpening and profile conversion steps. This is just one example of a Photoshop routine that you might like to apply on a regular basis to photos that have been exported from Lightroom. By following the steps shown here, you can adapt this to record almost any type of Photoshop processing sequence.

  1. Here I want to show you the steps you would follow to create a Photoshop droplet that could be placed in the Lightroom Export Actions folder so that it appeared as a selectable item in the Post-Processing section of the Export dialog. I started by opening an image in Photoshop and recorded a series of steps as an action. In this example, I set the opened image to the correct resolution, applied an automated sharpening routine for this resolution, merged the image, converted it to a specific CMYK profile, all before converting it to 8-bits per channel mode.
  2. Having recorded the action, I was now ready to save it as a droplet. In Photoshop, I went to the File menu, selected Automate arrow.jpg Create Droplet, applied the settings shown here, and clicked Choose to save it to the Lightroom Export Actions folder (see Step 3). There was no need to establish an output folder in the Destination section, since I would be using the Lightroom Export dialog to determine where the exported files would be saved to, so I chose Save and Close.
  3. As I mentioned in the previous step, the Photoshop droplet needed to be saved to the Lightroom Export Actions folder. On a Mac, go to Users/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Export Actions. On a PC, you will need to go to Local Disk (C:)/Username/Application Data/Adobe/Lightroom/Export Actions.
  4. I was now ready to put the droplet action to use. In Lightroom, I selected the photos I wanted to process, and chose Export from the File menu to open the Export dialog shown here. In the Export Location section, I instructed Lightroom to create a new export folder called CMYK TIFFs. In the File Settings section, I selected the TIFF file format with the Compression set to None. It did not matter too much which RGB space was selected here because the output files would eventually be converted to CMYK, but I did choose to set the output color space to ProPhoto RGB, since this was pretty similar to the native Lightroom RGB space. In the Image Sizing section, I limited the output size to 30 cm along the longest edge and at a resolution of 300 ppi. Finally, in the Post-Processing section, I clicked the menu to select the droplet that I had previously saved to the Export Actions folder. Once I had done that, it was time to save these customized settings as a new preset. In the example shown here, I saved the Export settings as Export CMYK TIFF 300 ppi.
  5. All I needed to do now was click Export, and Lightroom would export the images that had been selected in Lightroom as TIFFs, output them to the designated folder on the desktop that I had named CMYK TIFFs, and do so in the following sequence of steps.

    The master Lightroom photos were rendered as pixel images using the ProPhoto RGB space and resized to fit dimensions of 30 cm along the longest edge at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch with the metadata information and keyword hierarchy preserved. These were initially saved as ProPhoto RGB TIFFs to the CMYK TIFFs folder that would appear on the Desktop. Once the initial export had been completed, the Photoshop post-processing kicked in. The exported TIFF files were then opened in Photoshop and the Export CMYK TIFF 300 ppi droplet action steps were applied to each of the images in turn, which were then saved back to the CMYK TIFFs folder, overwriting the original RGB TIFFs.

    As you can see, there are a lot of processing steps going on here, which the Lightroom export process can manage automatically and do so much quicker than if you tried to do all this one by one to each individual image. The above folder shows the final six photos after they had successfully been exported from Lightroom as CMYK TIFFs, ready for delivery to the client for use in a page layout.

Export plug-ins

The Lightroom Export dialog allows the use of Export plug-ins, which can be downloaded from various third-party providers. To install a plug-in, click the Plug-in Manager button (circled) at the bottom of the Export dialog (Figure 9.19), which opens the Plug-in Manager, shown in Figure 9.20.

Figure 9.19

Figure 9.19 This shows the Lightroom Export dialog with the Plug-in Manager button circled.

Figure 9.20

Figure 9.20 This shows the Lightroom Plug-in Manager dialog with several third-party plug-ins loaded.

Photomatix Pro export plug-in

The Photomatix Pro plug-in for Lightroom is only available to purchasers of the Photomatix Pro program. Instructions on how to install the plug-in are provided on the HDRsoft Web site, but you may need to go to the File menu and select "Plug-in manager" to check that the plug-in has been activated in Lightroom.

  1. In this first step, I made a selection of grouped photos that had been shot using a five-exposure bracketed sequence, two EVs apart. Next, I used the Export Photo command: cmd_shift-e_1.jpg (Mac) or ctrl_shift-e_1.jpg (PC).
  2. In the Export dialog, I selected the Photomatix Pro plug-in. Here I used a file naming template that would add the custom text HDR to the original filename. For the other settings, I selected ProPhoto RGB at 16-bits and clicked Export, which opened a second dialog, where I adjusted the settings and clicked Export.
  3. Once the HDR image had been created, it opened in Photomatix Pro, where I was able to adjust the Tone Mapping settings shown on the left to get the desired HDR to low dynamic range (LDR) conversion. When I was happy, I clicked Process.
  4. Here you can see the Lightroom Grid view again, where the HDR-to-LDR processed version appeared next to the original bracketed photos.

Exporting catalog images to a CD or DVD

If you want to export images to a CD or DVD, you can do so via the Export dialog. In Figure 9.23, I selected the Burn as DNG custom export setting, which uses the Files on CD/DVD Export plug-in and was configured to convert all the selected photos to DNG and burn them to a CD or DVD. With this setting, the photos are first converted to DNG and automatically placed in a temporary folder. Lightroom then launches the operating system disc burning utility (such as the one shown in Figure 9.21) and alerts you that Lightroom is ready to start copying the files to a blank recordable CD or DVD. If you have more than one CD/DVD burning device available, you can select which unit you want to use to burn the disc. Once you have done this, click Burn and you will see the Burn Summary dialog, where you can enter a name for the archive disc you are about to create (Figure 9.22). If there is not enough room to burn all the data on a single disc, Lightroom will inform you of this and enable a multi-disc burn session. In the example shown here, I needed to archive a total of just over 8 GB of data to disc. However, a single recordable DVD can hold a maximum of 4.3 GB of data, so in these circumstances Lightroom automatically divides the library export into batches of equal size (based on the space available on the first disc you inserted to record with) and proceeds to burn the data (and verify) to successive discs, appending each disc burn session with successive numbers. Once the burn is complete, Lightroom automatically deletes the temporary disc folder.

Figure 9.21

Figure 9.21 When you choose the "Burn the exported images to disc" option, you can select the device unit that should be used to burn the disc and click Burn.

Figure 9.22

Figure 9.22 In this Burn Summary dialog, you can enter the name of the disc to be burned. If there is more data than can fit on a single disc, Lightroom automatically alerts you and sets up the CD/DVD burn procedure to a sequence of discs.

Figure 9.23

Figure 9.23 The Export dialog using the Files on CD/DVD Export plug-in.

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  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020