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Printing Tips for Adobe Lightroom

When I work on an image, I generally end up in Photoshop so that's where I do most of my printing from. But when Lightroom does everything you need to optimize a given image, why go to Photoshop just to print? For many printing tasks, Lightroom does an excellent job. And there cool printing tricks Lightroom is capable of that Photoshop users can only dream of.

First, for those unfamiliar with Lightroom, much of the product's functionality is broken up into "modules." There's the Library module for organizing your images (think of it as somewhat like Adobe Bridge but more so), there's the Develop module where you optimize your images (basically akin to Adobe Camera Raw), there's the Slideshow and Web modules (two great ways to help you share your images) and there's the Print module. Unlike some programs where "print" isn't much more than a button you press to send data to your printer, the Print module in Lightroom can do lots of cool things. It has so many cool features in fact that it would be hard for me to go into detail on everything here. To get you started though, here are some of the highlights.

Adding Photo Info
At its heart, Lightroom is an image catalog that makes it easy to keep track of all those great photos you've shot over the years. It catalogs all the EXIF data and allows you to add IPTC captions, keywords and other metadata. When you print those images out, Lightroom also makes it easy for you to include what you want from all that metadata. On the right hand column of the Print module, simply check the box for "Photo Info" and have at it. You'll be able to see the results in the main image display. If you don't find what you are after, select "Edit ..." at the bottom of the Photo Info selection box to open a dialog to give you complete control.

Watermarks and Identity Plates
Lightroom also makes it easy to add watermarks to your printed output. You can select either text watermarks with complete control over the font or create an image overlay watermark to give you complete control. Identity Plates implement a similar concept but with more complete control over position and other attributes. Both allow you to save presets so you can use the same settings in the future. You can create watermarks in Photoshop too of course, but Adobe makes you do so on a new image layer. In Lightroom, both watermarks and identity plates are added at the time of printing so you don't need to modify your actual saved image.

Custom Borders and Vignettes
This isn't really a separate feature, but rather a creative way of applying one I've already mentioned. First, create a file in Photoshop with just a vignette or other border, leaving the middle transparent and save it. The size of your border doesn't need to exactly match the images you will eventually use it on, but the aspect ratio should be the same. Now select that file as an Identity plate in Lightroom and drag it to fit on your image.

Print Templates
In Lightroom, you're not limited to printing just one photo at a time. In fact, the program comes with a long list of preset layouts, or "templates" to let you print multiples of the same image, or print packages with any number of different images all on the same page. Want a 5 x 7 plus four wallet sized images laid out on the page automatically, or perhaps a contact sheet with thumbnails generated from a group of images? No problem. It's just a few mouse clicks in Lightroom. These kinds of features used to be only available on high-end RIP (Raster Image Processor) applications but Lightroom makes them available to everyone. Templates include all print settings, overlays and so forth and are easy to select or create your own. You can develop a custom look for your prints and apply it automatically.

To print multiple images, simply select them in the filmstrip panel and then go to the Print module. What you do next is up to you. The Preview panel at the top left will show you the basic page layout as you move your mouse over the list of currently saved templates. Click on one in the list and the main image display will layout your selected images using that template. If you don't like the results, you can select a different template just as easily, or use the controls in the right hand panel to modify things using your selected template as a starting point.

Sharpening During Printing
The process of printing inherently softens an image slightly so it is common practice to add output sharpening before printing. In Photoshop, this is typically done on a new layer and then either saved with the image or discarded without saving after printing. Lightroom lets you add an amount of sharpening on the fly based on your current settings during printing. It already knows a lot about your image at this point, so all you need to tell it is whether you are printing to matte or glossy paper and how aggressive you want to be in sharpening. No threshold, radius and all those other hard to understand terms at all. This will probably come as welcome news for users frustrated by Photoshop sharpening.

Print to a JPEG
At the bottom of the right hand panel in the Print module you'll find the Print Job settings. By default, the "Print to" selector is set to "Printer" which makes sense. It's the other option on this drop down that is what I want to point out. Instead of sending the results of your print job to your printer, you can instead print to a JPEG file. All the same template settings available for printing to a printer are also available for printing to a JPEG. The possibilities for this are endless. For example, rather than creating a printed contact sheet to give someone for review, you can create a JPEG contact sheet and email it to them. Definitely cool. To make it even more cool, change the page background color in the Page settings right above those for Print Job and create a JPEG with a custom colored background rather than just plain boring white.

As you can see, printing from Lightroom offers features not possible in Photoshop, at least not without a lot of extra work or third party plug-ins. You may just find yourself going back to Lightroom to print even when you do use Photoshop for editing. Tempting, isn't it...

Date posted: September 5, 2010


Copyright © 2010 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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