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Adobe Lightroom's Equivalent of "Save For Web"

Comparatively speaking, Photoshop has been around for a long time. Few can say they've mastered it, but even beginning users quickly get used to saving JPEG's via "Save for Web." Even when Adobe renamed the option to "Save for Web and Devices," this didn't confuse many for very long. But if you've started using Adobe Lightroom, you've probably noticed that neither of these commands exists on the menus in this program. But Lightroom is actually more than capable with regard to saving JPEG images for web or email. You just have to know where they hid this feature.

You can find the Lightroom equivalent of "Save For Web" as the Export command on the File menu. You can export a single image or a group of them. Any images you have selected in the Filmstrip panel across the bottom of the screen. If you're working on an image in the Develop module, that image will already be selected, but you don't have to limit yourself to just that one.

Settings for Export work on the basis of presets. Lightroom itself comes only with a couple of presets, but you can add more of your own. A number of programs that have plug-ins for Lightroom also install Export presets of their own. I currently have presets from four such programs. If you'd rather have complete control over all the settings available in the Export dialog, there are quite a few. The defined presets get listed down the left hand side of the Export window. The much more extensive right hand side lists all the individual settings. If you already know the preset you want to use, you can get right down to business by selecting File >> Export With Preset from the menu rather than just Export.

The first group of settings entitled "Export Location" allows you to control where your exported files will go to and how to handle cases where a file of the same name already exists. The standard options of overwriting the existing file, skipping the conflicting export, or choosing a new name to avoid the conflict are available via a dropdown box. You can also tell Lightroom to automatically add the new files to your Lightroom catalog.

The "File Naming" group of settings allows you to automatically choose new names based on user editable template rules. Together with Lightroom's extensive support for metadata, you can create some fairly sophisticated naming rules fairly easily.

Next up in the list of available settings is "File Settings." If you think about it, pretty much everything in the Export dialog could broadly fit under such a generic name, but I'm probably nitpicking. What you'll actually find here in fact are some of the most key settings in the entire Export dialog. For instance, here is where you can control the format for your export files. Not only can you create JPEG files, you can also pick Photoshop's PSD format, TIFF, or Adobe's DNG "Digital Negative" format. You can also choose not to convert formats at all but rather to keep exports in the format of the original images.

Depending on the format you elect to export your images as, you will be presented with associated sub-options. JPEG export allows you to specify the quality (compression) to be used as well as a maximum size in kilobytes for each file created. PSD format lets you specify either 8-bits per channel or 16-bits. TIFF lets you specify the number of bits per channel and also whether to employ ZIP compression. If you export to DNG you can specify the size of the embedded JPEG preview image or whether you want a preview image included at all. You can also check a box to embed the entire original image in the DNG if you want, a good idea for those sold on DNG but still a bit concerned about what they might be losing if they dispense with their native raw format such as NEF or CRW. Since DNG is an evolving standard, you can also specify that the exported DNG files should be compatible with specific versions of Camera Raw. Most users will want the most recent version, but if you are providing DNG files to someone who doesn't have the latest, it's nice that you can still save DNG files back to the original Camera Raw 2.4 specification.

If you export to JPEG, PSD or TIFF you can specify a color space to convert your exports to. Color space isn't applicable for DNG since it is still a linear gamma raw format.

Lightroom 3 also now supports Video files so there's a checkbox at the bottom of the "File Settings" section to allow you to include video formats in your export if any are selected. Video file exports always keep the same format as the originals. Lightroom doesn't yet include a transcoding format to convert video formats.

Grouped in the "Image Sizing" section are a number of very flexible controls to allow you to specify how big your exports will be. You can control exports based on maximum dimensions or maximum megapixels. Files larger than what you specify will be resized to fit. By default, files smaller than this will remain their original size, but by checking a box you can tell Export to enlarge them on the fly. "Image Sizing" also lets you control the resolution in pixels per inch or centimeter. Keep in mind that resolution only controls the meta-tag embedded in the file header. It controls only how the resulting exported image data gets interpreted and does not actually add or subtract pixel data.

As its name implies, "Output Sharpening" settings allow you to apply an appropriate amount of sharpening to your exported files based on their intended use. Users who run and hide at the thought of Unsharp mask settings will rejoice to find instead a simple dropdown to select Screen (web or email), Matte Paper or Glossy Paper, along with a second setting for Standard, Light or High to choose the amount of sharpening. In the world of sharpening, it doesn't get any easier than this.

The "Metadata" settings let you specify how to handle the voluminous amount of metadata maintained by Lightroom. With the simple check of a box, you can minimize what gets included.

Lightroom provides excellent support for watermarking images. When you Export, you can use the settings in the "Watermarking" section to turn this on or off as well as specify the watermark to be used. Click on the dropdown box to pick an existing watermark. At the bottom of the dropdown list is "Edit Watermarks..." if you want to create a new one. You can create a text watermark with control over the font, color, position and drop shadow, or select an image watermark in place of the text.

The bottom section of settings appropriately is the "Post-Processing" section and lets you tell Lightroom what to do after the export. This defaults to "Do nothing" but you can instead have Lightroom open the export folder in Windows Explorer (or OS X Finder), or open the exported files in Photoshop or another application of your choice.

If you have installed any Lightroom plug-ins that include Export settings, they will include their own settings sections that may include some of the above or replace them completely as needed by that application. Export settings for many third-party applications automatically include opening the resulting images in that application. You can see this based on the dropdown at the very top of the Export dialog, above all the settings I've outlined here. Rather than the "Export To" option set to "Hard Drive" it will be set to the target application name. This lets you easily do your catalog management and raw conversions in Lightroom while still making use of other applications for additional image editing. The underlying architecture of the Export dialog appears quite feature rich, allowing vendors a great deal of control over what gets presented to the end user.

You can think of Lightroom Export to be the equivalent of both "Save for Web" and "Save As...", as well as the hidden Image Processor module in Photoshop. All wrapped up in a user friendly dialog, you have good control over creating copies of images in your Lightroom catalog.

For those following along at home, here's the complete standard layout for the Lightroom 3 Export dialog:

Date posted: August 22, 2010


Copyright © 2010 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Photoshop Save for Web versus Save As JPEG
File / Save Missing From Lightroom?

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