Adobe Lightroom 3 First Steps:
Exporting Images From Lightroom

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on August 29, 2011

How do you get images out of Adobe Lightroom 3 so that you can send them in an email, burn them to a DVD or upload them to an online photo site? Lightroom’s Export window is the answer. It’s a powerful image-making machine.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Export Window BasicsTo read the rest of my series about Lightroom for beginners, click here: Adobe Lightroom 3 First Steps. To be notified by email of future articles, subscribe to PhotoCitizen. It’s free.

Why Export?

Lightroom doesn’t have a Save or Save As button because it saves all of your changes automatically as you go. And it does it without making extra copies of your original photos. That’s the beauty of Lightroom.

But, sometimes you need an extra copy. You might want to save some important images to a DVD for backup. Maybe you’d like to send a few small JPEGs by email. Or, you may want to upload images to a photo-sharing website. These are the kinds of jobs that  Lightroom’s Export window is designed to handle.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Basics Tutorial - Export Window Layout

Export Layout

Export Window Layout

To get started, we’ll select a few images and open the Export window to see how it works.

First, use the Library module’s grid or the filmstrip to select one or more images that you’d like to export.

Next, click on the Export button at the bottom of the Library module’s left-hand panel. Or use the keyboard shortcut, CTRL+SHIFT+e. (On a Mac, press  COMMAND+SHIFT+e).

This will open the Export window. Let’s go over the basic parts of the window first.

Right Side: Settings

Let’s start with the most important part of the Export window, the Settings section. It occupies the right side of the window. Settings is made up of eight sections:


Use the drop-down menu next to Export To: to  tell Lightroom where to save your exported images.  My advice is to pick “Choose folder later (useful for presets)” so that each time you export a batch of images you’ll be asked where to store them.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Export Window Tutorial - Export Location

Export Location

Otherwise, you can specify where on on your computer you’d like to save the exported images:

  • Save them to any folder on your computer by choosing Specific folder. Once you choose this option, the chosen folder will be listed below the Export To drop-down. To change it, click on the Choose button and browse to a folder.
  • Save them to a commonly used folder – without the need for a lot of browsing – by choosing Desktop, My Documents folder, My Pictures folder or User folder. (These are Windows system folders. Mac users will see different options).
  • Choose Same folder as original photo to save them with the original. Only use this option if you plan to keep the exported copies. If you’re going to email them and then delete the copies, it’s best to save them to the desktop to make them easy to find.
  • Specify a subfolder by typing in the empty field next to “Put in Subfolder.” This will create a new folder within the location you’ve chosen in the Export To drop-down menu. This option is especially useful if you’ve chosen Desktop or one of the common folders: The subfolders will help you keep your images better organized.

If you plan on keeping the exported copies – as opposed to deleting them after you’ve used them – you can add them to the Lightroom catalog by checking Add to This Catalog. Otherwise, Lightroom will forget about them once it’s done with the current export, but they’ll still be taking up space on your hard drive.

The final choice under the Export Location section has to do with duplicate images. It tells Lightroom what to do if the destination folder already contains an image with the same name as one about to be exported. Click on the dropdown next to Existing Files and you can direct Lightroom to:

  •  Choose a New Name for the Exported File – this will add a suffix such as “-1” or “-2” to the end of the file name.
  • Overwrite WITHOUT WARNING – this option will delete the old file and replace it with the newly exported one.
  • Skip – this is the opposite of the overwrite option. It will leave the old file in place and ignore the new one.
  • Ask what to do – I highly recommend using this choice. If any duplicates are found, a window will pop up allowing you to review the file names involved and manually choose what to do.


Adobe Lightroom 3 Basics - Export Window File Naming

File Naming

There are only two options in this section:

  • Rename To: This drop-down menu allows you to automatically rename each file as it is exported. Choose Edit for the finest control. Unless you’re saving the new copies in the same folder as the originals, there is no reason to change the name here, so I recommend leaving this option unchecked.
  • Extensions: This drop-down menu allows you to change the extension to uppercase or lowercase. For example, “Image-1.jpg” vs “Image-1.JPG.” For most of us, this is unimportant, so leave it alone.


The File Settings section allows you to choose the type of image you’d like to export and to specify a few other options. The available options will vary depending on the image type. Since JPEG is the most commonly used export format, I’ll concentrate on it.

Adobe Lightroom 3 for Beginners - Export Window File Settings

File Settings

  • Format: Use the Format drop-down menu to convert your exported image to a JPEG, PSD, TIFF or DNG. Or choose Original to export an exact duplicate in the original file format at the original size. Choosing Original will disable most of the other options in the Export window.
  • Color Space: Unless you have a very good reason to choose one of the other color space options (Adobe RGB 1998, ProPhoto RGB, or Other) leave this at its default setting of sRGB.
  • Quality: This single slider controls the amount of JPEG compression and, therefore, the quality of the exported image. For the best quality, set it to its maximum value of 100. For smaller file sizes, use lower values. To export images for the web, I suggest a quality setting of around 60. You’ll get an image that that looks good and opens quickly when viewed in a web browser.
  • Limit File Size To: This is mostly for web-bound images. Here you can specify the file size of the exported image – in kilobytes.  When this option is checked, the Quality slider is disabled. Lightroom will automatically set the quality as necessary to create the desired file size. For most uses, I’d leave this option disabled and use the Quality slider instead.
  • Include Video Files: If your selected images include video files, you can export them along with your photos. Since Lightroom is capable only of organizing video files and not processing them, they will be exported at their original size and in their original format despite any other settings in the Export window. Most of us will leave this option un-checked.


Use the Image Sizing section to resize your images as you export them. To resize your exported image, place a checkmark in the box next to Resize to Fit.

Lightroom Export Window Tutorial - Image Sizing

Image Sizing

Next, choose an option from the drop-down menu to control the resizing method. There are five options here: Width & Height, Dimensions, Long Edge, Short Edge and Megapixels.

Regardless of the method you choose, Lightroom will not crop or distort your exported image. It will maintain the original aspect ratio. So, if you start with an original image that’s 3000 pixels wide and 2000 pixels high – a 3:2 aspect ratio – your exported image will be resized to a 3:2 ratio.

The various resizing options are hard to explain, so the best way to learn how they work is to export some images using different methods and comparing them.

I’d suggest starting with the Long Edge option. This will set the longest side of your image to the size you specify. For example, if you plan to project your image, and your projector’s resolution is 1024 x 768, set the size of the longest edge to 768 pixels. That way, all of your images will be uniformly sized. Vertical images will be 768 pixels tall and horizontal images will be 768 pixels wide.

If you instead set the longest edge to 1024, your horizontal images will fill the screen while your vertical images – which will be 1024 pixels tall and too big for your projector – will either be cut off by the projector or automatically shrunk to the proper size by your image-viewing software.  That will make the verticals look smaller than the horizontals.

To export the image at its original size, un-check the Resize to Fit option. This will disable most of the options in the Image Sizing section.

Other options in this section include:

  • Resolution in pixels-per-inch (or centimeter). I generally use 72 ppi for web images and 240 ppi for making prints.
  • Next to the width (W) and height (H) settings, there is a drop-down menu which is normally set to pixels. You can change this to inches or centimeters if you plan to make a print of a specific size. But it’s usually better to leave this set to Pixels and set the physical size of your print in Lightroom’s Print module.
  • Place a check-mark in the Don’t Enlarge check box if you only want to reduce the size of you exported images. Otherwise, if some of your original images are smaller than the size you’ve set for your exported images, Lightroom will increase their size to match your settings. This may produce a blurry image.


Output Sharpening allows you to quickly sharpen images as they are exported. Since there is not much control here, it is usually better to sharpen each image individually in Lightroom’s Develop module. But if you need to quickly export some as yet un-sharpened images, this section comes in handy.

Learning Adobe Lightroom 3 - Export Window Output Sharpening

Output Sharpening

Use Sharpen For to set the intended output. The three possible choices are Screen (a computer, TV or projector), Matte Paper and Glossy Paper. Next, set the  Amount of sharpening to Low, Standard or High.

For web-bound images, I generally sharpen for a Screen and set the amount to Standard. When I plan to project an image, I’ll use Screen and High because the projected image loses a lot of sharpness. For prints, I generally disable Output Sharpening, but may occasionally set it to Low for whatever type of paper I’ll be using.

You’ll need to experiment with these settings to see which looks best for you.


Learn Adobe Lightroom 3's Export Window - Metadata


This section contains two check boxes:

  • Minimize Embedded Metadata: Embedded metadata is the information your camera saves with each captured image and is generally known as EXIF data. Usually, this includes shutter speed, aperture and a lot more.
    • Why would you want to omit the EXIF data? Omitting the EXIF data makes your file size slightly smaller and prevents viewers from seeing the camera settings used to capture a particular photo.
    • Place a check-mark in this box if you want to remove most of the the EXIF metadata from your exported images. Important data such as copyright and capture time will still be included.
  • Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy: If you’ve set up a keyword hierarchy, checking this box will preserve that hierarchy in the exported images. An explanation of keyword hierarchies is beyond the scope of this article, so if you don’t know what a keyword hierarchy is, leave this box unchecked.


Use the Watermarking section to add a visible watermark to your exported images. This could be a graphical image of your logo or simple text such as “© Alan Haynes.”

Beginning Adobe Lightroom 3 Export Window - Watermarking


Use the drop-down menu to choose a watermark you’ve already created or create a new one by choosing Edit Watermarks.

To learn more about creating and using watermarks with Lightroom or Photoshop, see my series of articles on watermarking.


The final section on the right-hand side of the Export window is the Post-Processing section. Here, you can tell Lightroom what to do after it has finished exporting all of your photos.

Lightroom 3 for Beginners - Export Window Post Processing


Using the drop-down menu next to After Export, you can choose to Show in Explorer (on the Mac, this would be Show in Finder),  Open in Other Application or Do Nothing.

If you choose Open in Other Application, you’ll be able to tell Lightroom which application to use by clicking the Choose button and browsing to the correct program. For example, if you choose your email program, Lightroom will automatically attach your exported images to a new email message to make it easier to send them.

Do Nothing will leave you staring at the Lightroom window once the export is completed. Nothing else will happen. Choose this option if you’ll be doing several different Export operations to avoid having a new Explorer or Finder window open after each export.

I recommend using the Show in Explorer (or Finder) setting so that you don’t have to go looking for the exported images on your own. Lightroom will open their containing folder automatically in a Windows Explorer or a Mac Finder window.

Left Side: Preset

On the left-hand side of Lightroom’s Export window, you’ll find a list of export Presets. These are time-savers that will automatically change the settings on the right-hand side of the window.

Beginning Lightroom 3 - Export Window Presets


Click on the “For E-Mail” preset for example, and the settings change to what Adobe thinks are the best settings for email.

You can then modify those settings and save them as a new preset by clicking the Add button below the preset list. Give your new preset a name such as “Alan’s Email.” The next time you need to email some images, you can simply click on the “Alan’s Email” preset to instantly recall the correct settings.

If you have only a few modified presets, store them in the User Presets folder. As you make more presets, create additional folders to make it easier to find the preset you need. Create as many presets as you’d like and organize them into as many Preset folders as makes sense to you.

Some third-party plugins for Lightroom will add their own customization to the left side of the export window. Your Preset area – in its default configuration – will look much simpler than mine which contains a lot of extras.

Top: Export To

Look at the top of Lightroom’s Export window. You’ll notice that in the title area, Lightroom tells you how many images it will be exporting. For example, if you’ve selected 21 images to export, the text reads, “Export 21 Files.”

Adobe Lightroom 3 - How to Export Photos - Export To

Top Panel

Verify this number to make sure you selected the correct number of files. If it says “Export One File” and you meant to export several images, you can cancel the export, re-select the images and try the export again.

This top area also contains the Export To drop-down menu. Generally, you’ll have two choices here: Hard Drive and CD/DVD. If you’re exporting to a disc, choose CD/DVD. Otherwise, choose Hard Drive.

NOTE: In the current version of Lightroom (3.4.1), the CD/DVD option is not available to those of us running the 64-bit version of Windows 7. You can still burn discs by exporting to the hard-drive and then burning the disc using Windows instead of Lightroom.

Bottom: Buttons

The bottom part of the of the Export window includes three buttons: Plug-In Manager, Export and the Cancel button.

Beginning Lightroom 3 - Export Button

Export Button

The Cancel button is self-explanatory. And, since the Plug-In Manager has little to do with exports, I won’t discuss it here.

When you have all of your settings in place, click the Export button to start things rolling. The Export window will disappear and a progress bar will be shown in the top left corner of the main Lightroom window. Once the progress bar disappears, your export is complete.


Use the Export window only when you really need it. You generally shouldn’t  have several copies of the same image occupying space on your hard drive.

Instead, try using Lightroom “virtual copies” to create alternate interpretations of your images – such as black-and-white and color versions – or Lightroom’s “Publish Services” to upload photos to Facebook, Flickr and other popular sites from within Lightroom.

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Lightroom Resources

Best Price on Adobe Lightroom 3If you haven’t tried Adobe Lightroom 3, click here to download a free trial version from Adobe.

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Recommended books about Adobe Lightroom 3 There are quite a few books about Adobe Lightroom 3 available from Amazon. My favorite – because it is jam packed with information – is The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book – Complete Guide for Photographers by Martin Evening.

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