November 19, 2007
The latest Lightroom 1.3 update features an updated Export dialog with several new features. Rather than just pick out what’s new, I thought I would us this opportunity to write up a complete guide to all the Export controls: what they are and which are the right options for you to use.
The Export function lets you export single or multiple photos from Lightroom as finished files, allowing you to export copies of the master images as DNGs, TIFFs, PSDs, or JPEGs. But that’s not all. You have full control over the exported file settings, where the files get saved to, whether to incorporate a post-processing action and the export settings can be saved as custom presets, making it easy for you to create and use different Export routines.
The first thing you will notice is the Export Files to Disk message in the first dialog box section. It does not look like much now because this is merely a holding space for where third party Export plug-ins can appear listed. To coincide with the release of Lightroom 1., Adobe have also released an Export Software Developers Kit (SDK) to allow third party companies to build export routines. For example, it will be possible for a third party to create an export plug-in that will allow you to use the Lightroom Export module to directly export photos to sites such as Flickr.
To export files from Lightroom, make a selection and choose File ➯ Export or press Command+Shift–E (Mac) or Control+Shift–E (PC). The Export dialog opens (see Figure 1).
Tip: You can press Command+Option+Shift–E (Mac) or Control+Alt+Shift–E (PC) to bypass the Export dialog by exporting based on the last used settings.
Figure 1 The File ➯ Export dialog, shown here using the To E-mail preset. You can configure your own custom export presets and click on the Add button to add as a new User Preset.
The Export dialog has a Preset option that already contains a few preset export options to help you get started. For instance, To E-mail setting shown in Figure 1 puts the exported JPEGs in a folder called To E-mail on the desktop. Other presets include an Export to DNG and Burn Full-Size JPEGs. You can also use this dialog to create and save your own custom export preset settings.
Start by selecting a Destination Folder. This folder location will be remembered between exports, so you can easily set up some kind of hot folder that you can regularly send your exports to such as the My Pictures folder or a folder on the Desktop. In Figure 1 I have the For E-Mail preset selected and this automatically sends the exported photos to a folder called To E-Mail that is located in the Users/username/Pictures folder.
You can leave the File Naming section set to Filename if you want to retain the current naming, or you can add a text string such as _email or _foliocopy if you wish to somehow differentiate the export processed images from the original masters.
In the File Settings section, images can be exported using the JPEG, PSD, TIFF, or DNG formats. The file format options will adjust according to the file format you have selected. In Figure 1 you can see the JPEG quality slider for JPEG exports. If we had DNG selected as the output format you would see the DNG options shown in Figure 2 below.
Figure 2 When DNG is selected in the File Settings, 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.
By the way, yes, it is possible to save non-raw files as DNGs just as you can convert any supported proprietary raw file to DNG. One 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. The downside is that if you save JPEG images this way you will lose all the benefits of JPEG file compression and is a bit like saving a JPEG image out as a TIFF or PSD – you will increase the file size to almost that of a normal uncompressed image file (DNG will apply just a moderate amount of file compression).
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 safer general choice, because it more closely preserves the appearance of the pictures as you have been used to seeing them on the screen and is a widely adopted space for general photo editing work in a program such as Photoshop. ProPhoto RGB is in many ways a better choice than Adobe RGB because the color gamut of ProPhoto RGB is a lot larger than Adobe RGB and 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 it is a favorite photo editing space for high-end print work where you want to maximize the 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 ProPhoto RGB images will look even worse when they are not color managed! 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, you should perhaps stick to using sRGB, and I would also advise choosing sRGB if you are exporting images as JPEGs for Web use, or for client approval, especially if you are unsure of how well the client’s systems are color managed, or are preparing pictures to email 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, rather than throw these away by converting to 8-bit and then making the edit adjustments. 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 such a damaging option to choose. If you think 16-bits will help you preserve more levels as you perform any subsequent editing work or you feel the extra levels are worth preserving, choose 16-bit. Also, when exporting as a JPEG, PSD, or TIFF, you can use the Constrain Size options to set the output size and set the number of pixels per inch or pixels per centimeter for the Resolution.
When the Add Copyright Watermark option is checked in the Image Settings panel, this adds a small copyright notice to one of the bottom corners of the exported images (this is not available when exporting as DNG).
In the Image Settings section 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 below. If you select Dimensions you can force the exported images to fit precisely within chosen dimensions, which may well change the aspect ratio of the exported images. And then you can set the export to 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 edge dimension constraints.
The Resize to Fit options can be used to make the exported photos bigger or smaller. If you uncheck the Don’t Enlarge checkbox, you can use the Resize to Fit settings to output blowup size outputs.
But if the Don’t Enlarge checkbox is checked, this will resize the photos to the desired output dimensions, but if the source photo is smaller than this size, it will out put the photo at its native pixel size.
In Photoshop you have choice of interpolation methods to select when resampling the image size. For example, you are recommended to choose a Bicubic (smoother) when making an image bigger for smoother results, or Bicubic (sharper) when reducing the image size. There are no interpolation options available in Lightroom. Instead, a single ‘Lanczos kernel’ method of interpolation is used in both Lightroom and Camera Raw.
The Minimize Embedded Metadata option allows you to export images without including custom informational metadata such as keywords. This option can be useful if you want to keep the metadata information to a minimum or hide the keyword metadata. Below this is the Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy option. This is checked by default and will ensure that keywords are always written to a file’s XMP space such 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.
For example, let’s say you have two computers that share the same controlled vocabulary, i.e. 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 won’t make any difference because the keyword hierarchy for the individual keywords will be recognized anyway. Please note that I am talking about a normal export and import here, 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 happen to use a keyword hierarchy that uses: California > USA > Places, that hierarchy will be preserved so long as either the computer you importing the photo to already knows this hierarchy relationship or the ‘Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy’ option is checked. If it is not checked, the keywords will be exported as a flat list: California, USA, Places.
The Post-processing section is a powerful feature in the Export dialog. This lets you perform tasks like showing the images in the Finder at the end of an export, opening the photos in Photoshop after exporting or you can set everything up to directly burn the exported files to a disk. These are the default options you have in the Post Processing section, but if you read further on the following page, you can find out how to create Photoshop droplets (which are self-contained Photoshop action routines) and have these run at the end of an export.