LR Export Made Easy: The Ins of Getting Out of Lightroom

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

LR Export Made Easy: The Ins of Getting Out of Lightroom

Lightroom-exportHow do you save edited photos in Lightroom?

This question bothers many first time Lightroom users.  Especially when they hear that the answer is that you don’t save your edits when you use Lightroom!

Lightroom is a database that permanently stores each edit you make to a photo the moment you make it.

It doesn’t however, apply these edits to your photo.  For instance, say that I convert this photo to black and white inside of Lightroom.  It looks edited when I view it in Lightroom, but when I look at in on my hard drive, I see the SOOC version of the image.


This isn’t a problem in most cases.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons why Lightroom is the ultimate non-destructive photo editor – you never change that original image.  And, you don’t need to take up hard drive space with an edited version of your photo for many things that Lightroom can take care of for you, like:

  • Emailing a photo
  • Posting it to Facebook
  • Printing it to your home printer

However, there are some things that can’t be done from within Lightroom:

  • Sending a file to a print lab
  • Uploading photos to your blog
  • Sharing photos in a forum or specific Facebook page (like MCP’s Facebook Group!)
  • Any many other things

The only time you need to combine your edits with the image in a new file is when you need to do something that can’t been done from within Lightroom.  Exporting is not a way to save files, or to make sure you never lose your edits.  Exporting simply creates a new file that you can use outside of Lightroom.

So how do you export photos?  Select the photo or photos that you want to export, right click, and select Export twice.  Or, use the shortcut control+shift+e (command+shift+e on a Mac).


You will then see this dialog box, where you control exactly how your photos to export:



  1. Choose between Hard Drive, Email and DVD.  Each option here changes the options below slightly.
  2. When exporting to your Hard Drive, choose where these new files will live.  The settings in this screen shot are the settings that I use to export to my blog.  From the Export To field, you can also select Same Folder as Original, which is what I use when exporting to send to a print lab.
  3. Choose the name of the new file or files.  “Custom Name – Sequence” prompts you to specify the file name and then numbers multiple files sequentially.
  4. Choose your File Format, Color Space, and Quality.  These rarely change for me.
  5. Specify the image size.  The settings in the screen shot above produce an image that is no more than 600 pixels on the longest side.  I turn this off to create a full size export for sending to a print lab.
  6. Output Sharpening – this sharpening doesn’t replace Develop Module sharpening.  It applies a different type of sharpening customized to your method of image output.  Note that you have to specify whether the image will be output onto screen, glossy paper or matte paper.
  7. Remove metadata for privacy concerns, if desired.  This might be especially useful if your camera embeds GPS info in your photos.
  8. Add a watermark to your image.

Section 9 in the screenshot above displays memorized presets that speed up exports.  I have set up my 3 most commonly used export settings here.  The first is configured just like you see in the screenshot above, for posting to my blog.  The second goes to my desktop  – I use this one for quick exports that I will delete from my computer very quickly.  And the last for is full size print quality photos to my external hard drive.

To set up your own Lightroom presets, first enter all the settings you want Lightroom to memorize.  For my blog photos, for instance, I direct the presets to my Blog parent folder, and use the “Put in Subfolder” option to specify a current month or topic.  Choose the size, sharpening and other settings you would like to be memorized, then click on the Add button at number 10 in the screen shot above.  Type the name of your preset and hit create.  Now you can recall these settings by clicking on the name of your preset.

When exporting from Lightroom, the most important thing to remember is that Exporting is not a substitute for saving, and that you don’t need to export every file.  Once that idea “clicks” for you, the rest is easy!



Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. August 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm —

    Thank you I have Lightroom 4 but don’t use it it scares me I just use my CS6. It’s the saving and exporting that kills me. Thank you

  2. Debbie
    August 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm —

    Step 5, confused. I dont see how you turn off this for full size export.

    Oh, and Step 3. If there isnt a specific name of the file, which I dont always do. Does it just go in sequence?

    New to exporting.

    • August 27, 2013 at 8:50 am —

      Debbie, in step 5, uncheck the Resize box to turn this off.

      Step 3 – it depends on the template you have selected. You can always experiment to see what it does.

  3. August 22, 2013 at 6:04 am —

    Thank you! I mainly use Aperture for photo editing and organization. But I think it is important to know and understand how LR works. This was very helpful!

  4. August 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm —

    Really great explanation of the number #1 issue people face when figuring out LR for the first time. Definitely bookmarking this and sharing!

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LR Export Made Easy: The Ins of Getting Out of Lightroom