Scott's Photography
Lightroom Export Presets

June 3, 2013
By Scott Lewis

This month I want to talk about exporting photos from Lightroom. I recently started using Lightroom, and almost immediately I found that I needed to streamline my process to get JPG copies of my photos. If you are not using Lightroom, and you have a DSLR camera that can save photos in RAW, you are definitely missing out. Lightroom is an extremely useful an reasonably affordable application.

After a few rounds of exporting files from Lightroom I have come up with a few Export Presets. I had two export presets in Bridge. One for low resolution images for email and web usage, and one for full size JPG files that I would use for printing & placing on my iPad. Each of those presets put the JPG files in a JPG sub-folder off the folder containing the RAW or Photoshop files.

One of my issues with Lightroom is that it does not separate photos in a folder from those in its sub-folders. So if my images are in a folder like "2013 - Grand Canyon" and I exported photos to a JPG sub-folder, then when I select the 2013 - Grand Canyon folder I would see both sets of images. I do not like that.

I realized that I almost always use JPG files temporarily. For instance, I exported a set of portraits I took and gave them to a friend. He is starting a photography side business and has a SmugMug account. He uploaded the pictures to his account for me as if he took the pictures for me. Then I used his site to order prints. He was very much against the idea that he made any money off this, but I insisted that he make a profit off me.

After I gave him the JPG images I did not need them anymore, so I deleted them. I had previously exported the images to JPG for my iPad, and them MOVED those JPG image to a folder that syncs with my iPad.

In both cases... I did not need the JPG images in the folder that Lightroom knows my originals are stored.

All this leads to this... I created an "Exports" folder in my main folder that Lightroom keeps in my photo catalog. I then built three Export Presets that all use that same folder.

1 - For email and web - I set this export to use the Exports folder, set the maximum resolution (in width or height) not to exceed 1280 pixels, and set quality to 50%.

2 - For my iPad - I set this to use the Exports folder, save at the full resolution, and set the quality to 80%. This is more than good enough for my iPad and iPhone to show off pictures. (Note: I eventually tweaked this one to save to a folder that already syncs with my iPad... to save me the step of moving the files.)

3 - For Printing - This preset saves at full resolution and 100% quality.

All three of these are also set to ask me if a file is being overwritten, and allows me to decide if I want to override the file or if I want to allow Lightroom to rename the current file during the export.

I find that I delete files shortly after emailing copies, and I move files to another folder for my iPad. Printing is still in flux. As it is I am content with moving the files to a flash drive or something to get them ready for printing. I fully expect to print directly from Lightroom if I am using my own printer (and won't need to export) or I will get my own SmugMug account if I do this as a side business.

If I do this semi-professionally, I will tweak the export for printing to probably rename the files as they are exported, and even automatically uploaded to a SmugMug account or something.

If you to plan to export JPG files for a client... I highly recommend using the renaming feature of Lightroom's export and generate filenames with a new sequence number. This number would be from 1 to N. This way when the client sees their photos they are all numbered in a row. If you were to use the numbers from importing them into Lightroom, and you don't export every one, the client may ask where the missing pictures are. The downside to this is that you may have to keep these renamed versions in Lightroom's catalog so that if the customer asks about one, and you need to access the original, you have a way to find it easily. Since I have not started doing this for clients I have not addressed this part of the export process. (NOTE: I will tell in a future article how I am use Catalogs to help with streamlining my workflow with this renaming for the client.)


You should definitely create export presets in Lightroom. Like me, you will probably have just a few reasons to export, and it only takes a few minutes to establish a pattern that works for you. Then it is very easy to get your photos out of Lightroom quickly and easily.