Photographers often complain that “Facebook crunched my photo”. If you use the correct Lightroom export settings for web and print you’ll avoid your image quality being ruined by social media platforms. Lightroom export settings can be very confusing at first, so in this tutorial you’ll learn the best export settings for Lightroom for:
- How to export raw files from Lightroom
If you’re not a Lightroom user, you’ll still find these export settings helpful as I’ve included information on resizing images for web and social media and they can be used with other editing programs.
To avoid the social media crunch we’ll cover
- How to export images from Lightroom for Facebook
- Facebook image sizes best settings
And while we’re on the subject of best export settings for social media, let’s not forget Instagram. How could we as photographers?! So I’ve also included information on Lightroom exporting for Instagram. No more poor quality images on Facebook or Instagram social media platforms!
But before we can get to the photo exporting stage, we first need to select images for exporting.
How to export images from Adobe Lightroom
You can select a single image to export or export multiple images at once. The process is the same once you’ve selected your images.
Selecting multiple images to export in Lightroom
To select several consecutive images at once you can either:
- Click the first image
- Hold down shift
- Click the last image
Or to select several images that aren’t next to each other:
- Click the first image
- Hold down Command (Apple) or Control (Windows)
- Select each image you want to export
Step 1 – Open export dialog box to export from Lightroom
After selecting the image or images you want to export you have four different ways to open the export dialog box where you enter your export options:
- Right click and select Export from the menu
- Click File in the menu bar on top and select Export from the drop down menu
- Use the export keyboard shortcut by pressing Ctrl Shift E (Windows) or Cmd Shift E (Mac)
- In the Library Module click the Export button in the lower left panel
The first three export options can be used in both the Library Module and the Develop Module, however, the Develop Module doesn’t have an Export button.
Quick Lightroom exporting trick
Here’s a really quick way to export additional images to the same destination you’ve just used:
- Select Export with Previous
This skips the dialog box and exports images in exactly the same way as the previous time you did it. To do this:
- Click File in the top menu bar or
- Right click
Step 2 – enter export options in the Export Dialog Box
Okay, so now that the Lightroom Export Dialog box is open, you have different options to export images for for different uses:
- Online use – social media sites and websites
So, starting from the top of the dialog box…
Export Location – where to save your photos on export from Lightroom
The first part of the Export Dialog box is a really important step in maintaining an organized workflow. I won’t go into that in detail in this article, but you can find out more here…
Further reading: The best way to organize photos, starting with file naming
At the very top of the export dialog box, under Export To, click on Hard Drive then:
- Select Specific Folder from the Export To dropdown menu
- Click the Choose button and select the folder you want to save to
- Leave other tick boxes unchecked
- Under Existing Files select Ask what to do in the dropdown menu
File naming export settings – set or change the filename of photos on export
Even if you’ve already renamed your original images in Lightroom, you can also rename files on export, or choose to keep the filename as it is. Your file naming export options are:
- Custom Name – set a custom name for your exported photo
- Custom Name – Original File Number – assign a custom name to precede the Lightroom filename of your photo
- Custom Name – Sequence – for exporting several images at once with the same custom name. Remember to set what number you want to start numbering from, e.g. start the numbering at 1.
- Custom Name – (x of y) – use to export several images at once with the same custom name to indicate how many images are in the sequence and where in the sequence each image fits. Again, remember to set the start number
- Date – Filename – adds the date the photo was taken from the metadata, followed by the filename
- Filename – the filename as it appears in your Lightroom catalog
- Filename – Sequence – for exporting several images at once with the filename as it appears in your Lightroom Catalog followed by the sequence number. Remember to set the starting number.
- Edit – opens the Filename Template Editor. I use this most and it’s so useful it needs further explanation!
When you open the Filename Template Editor by selecting Edit from the list you can edit any of the above file naming settings, but you have also have two ways to edit the file name:
- Click edit and enter your settings. The last used file naming settings will show, but you can enter any of the different options from the dialog box, or type in any text of your choice.
- Use a filename option as a base and then adjust it. This is a quick way to make a slight change to a setting. So if you click on any of the options then click edit, that file naming option shows and you can adjust it to suit your needs. For example, click Custom Name – Sequence, then click Edit to open the Filename Template Editor dialog box.
You can see what your filename will look like in the Example text above the editing box. The example text also shows in the File Naming section of the export dialog box.
File Settings – set file format, color space and image quality
These export settings have a big impact on image quality, so it’s important for the best quality images for online use and print to make sure that you’ve got this bit right.
Image Format options:
- JPEG – the most common image format for web and print
- PSD – if you’ve imported from Photoshop to Lightroom and have a PSD file you can export is as a PSD
- TIFF – for print files and online use
- PNG – for online use, because PNG retains quality and keeps file size to a minimum
- DNG – the Adobe Raw file image format (aka digital negative)
- Original – the same file format that you imported, so if you imported photos from a Nikon camera and didn’t convert to DNG in Lightroom, the Original file format would be NEF
Color Space options:
- sRGB – most commonly used for web and print
- Display P3
- Adobe RGB (1988)
- ProPhoto RGB
Quality – the higher your quality is set the bigger the file size will be. You don’t always need image quality to be set to 100. For online use it’s best not to as it will slow down the load speed on a website and a big file size on social media sites will be optimized by their software (in other words the quality will be ruined).
- 75 – 80 is fine for online use
- 100 for printing
File Settings I hardly ever change:
- Image Format – JPEG
- Color Space – sRGB
- Limit File Size – I always leave this box unchecked, because I set the file size for each intended use in the next section.
File settings I change depending on intended use of exported images:
- Quality – 75 – 80 for online use, 100 for print
The only time I use different file settings is for exporting RAW images from Lightroom (in other words the original files), which I’ll mention at the end.
Image Sizing export settings in Lightroom – setting the actual size of the image
These are important settings for ensuring that an exported photo is the appropriate size for the intended use. If it’s too small it will appear pixellated. If it’s too big, the memory size of the image could have an impact on quality.
- Resize to Fit – check Resize to fit, open the drop down box and select Long Edge to export an image at the exact size you want
- Select Pixels (for online use) or Centimeters or Inches (for printing) from the drop down menu
- Enter the size of the image
- Don’t Enlarge – I leave this checkbox unchecked
- Resolution – 72 for web use and 300 for print use. The higher the resolution the bigger the image file will be.
Output Sharpening export settings in Lightroom
If you’ve sharpened your image as part of your editing process there’s no need to do so in the output sharpening section. Also, check with your print lab before sharpening images. I learned the hard way not to sharpen on export for my print lab when I received a ridiculously sharp and unflattering 40 inch acrylic wall print for a portrait client and had to reorder the item. It was a very expensive mistake!
If you want to sharpen images when exporting:
- Check the Sharpen For box
- Specify Screen, Matte Paper or Glossy Paper from the drop down menu
- Select the Amount from the drop down menu – low, standard or high
Metadata export settings
I set this to Copyright Only to limit file size, especially for my website photos, because it helps to minimize load speeds of online images. For this website I optimize images further, which would strip the other metadata anyway.
Metadata options (listed from smallest impact on file size to largest) are:
- Copyright Only
- Copyright & Contact Info Only – helpful for online if you want to be contacted by potential buyers
- All Except Camera Raw Info – withholds your camera settings information
- All Except Camera & Camera Raw Info – withholds both camera information and camera settings
- All Metadata
You also have a few checkboxes to select, namely:
- Remove Person Info – especially useful to protect the identity of your subjects online (if you add People info to photos to help find photos in the Lightroom database)
- Remove Location Info – again, if you’ve enabled location info in your Lightroom database, it can be helpful to remove this on export
- Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy
Watermarking on export
You can apply a watermark to images as part of the Lightroom export process. This export setting applies to digital images only, unless of course you want your watermark to appear on prints. But that would be unusual.
Watermarking export options:
- Untitled Preset – if you’ve created a graphic watermark or text watermark and not named it, it will appear as Untitled Preset
- Simple Copyright Watermark – a preset Lightroom watermark
- Edit Watermarks
Any watermarks you’ve created and named will also appear on the list with the assigned named.
Read more about the usefulness (or not, depending on your view) of watermarks and how to create a watermark in Lightroom.
Post-Processing export settings
This section gives Lightroom instructions on what to do after you’ve exported your photos, which is a personal preference based on your preferred editing workflow. Your post-processing options, which you select from the drop down menu, are:
- Do nothing – does what it says on the tin
- Show in Finder – after exporting Lightroom automatically opens up the window that your files have been exported to
- Open in Adobe Photoshop 2022 (or whatever version of Photoshop you have) – another way to take an image from Lightroom into Photoshop
- Open in Another Application – once selected you need to choose an application to open your photos in by clicking the triangle next to the Choose button. A window opens to choose an application. Select the one you want then click Choose.
- Go to Export Actions Folder now – selecting this will open up a Lightroom folders window instantly (even before exporting)
In the After Export dropdown menu I always have Do nothing selected, but I can see that it would be handy to select Open in Finder if you want to go straight to your exported photos on your computer as soon as you’ve exported them.
Step 3 – Export photos from Lightroom
The easiest step in the export process is this last one – hit that Export button! You’ve done it!
But keep on reading for how to create export presets and the best Lightroom export settings for Facebook, Instagram websites and print.
Setting User Presets (aka Export Presets)
You can set User Presets for the types of images you use most. For example I have export presets for Facebook, Instagram, my photography website, blog post images and for printing.
Export presets are really easy to set up once you’ve decided on your export settings for a particular purpose. To create an export preset after filling in the Export Dialog box:
- Click the Add button at the bottom left of the preset panel
- In the New Preset box that opens enter a name for your preset
- Either leave the default Folder set to User Presets or click New Folder and enter the new folder’s name
- Click Create
Now every time you want to export to Facebook, for example, all you have to do is click your export preset for Facebook. Such a time saver! But we’re jumping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning of the export process.
Best Lightroom export settings for social media and websites
Image resolution for online use
Use low resolution files for online use – this is really important when resizing images for web.
Low resolution doesn’t mean that the quality of your digital images will be bad. The only time image quality is affected on social media is uploading images with huge file sizes and Facebook or Instagram etc have to compress the image for you.
You definitely don’t want social media sites compressing and ruining your images.
For the best results online resizing images for web your Pixels per Inch (PPI) should be set to 72 for low resolution images.
Okay, now let’s get into the exact Lightroom export settings for Facebook, Instagram and websites.
Best Lightroom export settings for Facebook
As I said, Facebook is notorious for compressing images to the point of an ugly mess! Here’s how to avoid that with a good balance of optimum image quality and reasonable file sizes.
Facebook export file settings:
- Image format – JPEG
- Color Space – sRGB
- Set the quality to 80
- Leave the “Limit File Size to” checkbox unchecked
Facebook image sizing settings:
- Resize to Fit – select Long Edge from the drop down menu
- Select Pixels from the next drop down menu and enter 1200 as the number of pixels for the longest side
- Select Pixels per Inch from the drop down menu and enter 72 as the resolution
- Leave the “Don’t Enlarge” checkbox unchecked
Output Sharpening for Facebook:
- Check the “Sharpen For” box
- Select Screen from the dropdown menu
- Set Amount to Standard from the dropdown menu
Don’t be tempted to set output sharpening to high as a way of sharpening an unsharp image. An out of focus image, or one with blur as the result of camera shake or subject movement, can’t be fixed this way.
Watermarking export settings:
If you want to you can set a watermark here. You’ll see from The Lens Lounge Facebook page and group that I don’t use watermarks for Facebook.
A watermark won’t protect your image from a thief as it’s too easy to remove in Photoshop.
If you do want a watermark, don’t make it so big that it ruins the image.
For my photography business I’ll put a watermark on Facebook images purely as a way to get my name out there. Even then it’s always towards the bottom left of the image and doesn’t intrude on the image.
Further reading: Lightroom watermark tips, tricks & myths
Lightroom exporting for Instagram
The only difference between Facebook and Instagram export settings is under Image Sizing to fit with the different sizes required by the two social media platforms.
For the best file size for Instagram, in Image Sizing set it to export at 1080 pixels on the longest side, regardless of whether it’s for a square, landscape or portrait image.
Resizing images in Lightroom to the relevant aspect ratio before exporting them helps to get maximum quality on export for Instagram images. These preset crop sizes are:
- Square – 1 x 1
- Portrait or landscape – 4 x 5 or 8 x 10
I wouldn’t recommend watermarking Instagram images, but it comes down to personal preference.
Lightroom exporting for websites
Resizing images in Lightroom for web use is very similar to resizing for Instagram and Facebook.
The main difference is that the image size will vary according to where in the website you want to use it. I also change the file name on export so that the image is exported with a suitable description as the file name.
Image Sizing for websites:
I mainly use 2000 pixels on the longest side for large, full width images on websites (hero images at the top of the page). Images for my blog posts, like this one, are 1200 pixels on the longest side (800 used to be the standard size).
Like with Instagram and Facebook images, crop to the correct aspect ratio before exporting photos from Lightroom. In other words decide on the shape you want first – square, rectangle, panoramic etc.
For my websites I used to set the quality to 100 in the File Settings section, but now use 75 to limit file sizes. I don’t see enough of a difference in image quality for web use to warrant the bigger file size a higher quality setting creates at the expense of page load speeds.
Lightroom exporting for print
Printing photos requires high resolution images, which is adjusted under Image Sizing.
Image Sizing for print:
When exporting from Lightroom for print the Pixels Per Inch setting (PPI) needs to be 300 to export a high resolution file.
Next, if you want to specify a size, your choices are:
I say if, because you can leave the Resize to Fit box unticked and simply input a resolution of 300ppi. This way the image can be printed to any size without losing quality. However, it’s also a very large file, which is why it can be a good idea to specify a size.
I’ve never set the print size using pixels. Where you are in the world will dictate whether you use inches or centimeters. I’ve printed a huge number of large wall prints for clients over the years and always export the exact size I need in inches.
Output Sharpening for print:
This esport setting depends on your lab. Some professional print labs apply sharpening on their end, some don’t. So check with your lab before sending off files for prints.
For consumer print labs you’ll need to add sharpening, but be careful not to go mad on the sharpening. It can easily look overdone, which detracts from the final image.
I’d advise using low rather than standard sharpening.
Also, you have a choice to sharpen for:
- Matte Paper
- Glossy Paper
Further reading: How to make a photo book in 7 steps with the Lightroom book module
Resizing images for social media – summary
Facebook image sizes
I get asked a lot, “What size image should I export for Facebook?” There are two image sizes that you need to know for posting on Facebook. They are:
- Facebook image post size – 1200 x 900 pixels
- Facebook image link size – 1200 x 628 pixels
Instagram image sizes
And I get asked just as often, “What size image should I export for Instagram?”
- Square Instagram image size – 1080 x 1080
- Vertical Instagram image size – 1080 x 864
- Landscape Instagram image size – 864 x 1080
It’s as easy as that!
How to export RAW photos from Lightroom
In the export dialog box scroll down to File Settings and click on the Image Format box, then select Original or DNG. Your photo will be saved as a .dng file, which is a digital negative and therefore a raw file. Your exported image will look like the original photo (without your post production edits).
- If you select Original you don’t need to make any other changes to export settings. Well, actually you can’t, because only the original file data will be exported.
When you choose to export as DNG a few options pop up:
- Compatibility – select your preferred Camera Raw format so that the photo can be read in the version of Camera Raw that you have/need
- JPEG Preview – select the JPEG preview (which includes your edits) to accompany the raw file from none, medium size, or full size
Check the following boxes as necessary (these impact load speed for web use) or leave unchecked:
- Embed Fast Load Data
- Use Lossy Compression
- Embed Original Raw File
Further reading: Shooting RAW vs JPEG image quality pros and cons
Summary of resizing images and Lightroom export settings
- Make sure you have a filing system set up before you start exporting from Lightroom
- JPEG is the most common file format for print and online use
- 72ppi for low resolution online images
- 300ppi for high resolution for printing
- Don’t go mad on sharpening, but do use it
- Set the image size using the longest side setting
- Image measurements can be in pixels, inches or centimeters – use pixels for web images
- Pay close attention to image size and resolution for online use
- Save yourself time – set up User Presets for exporting from Lightroom
Further reading: 7 reasons every photographer should use Lightroom
Batch exporting introduced in the 2020 Lightroom Classic update
Adobe Lightroom first introduced batch exporting from Lightroom in 2020, which is a huge time saver for portrait and wedding photographers who supply clients with a large number of images! Simply by selecting your different export presets, you can batch export a photo:
- in different sizes
- to different locations
- with different names
So instead of exporting for Facebook, then repeating the processing and using your preset to export to Instagram or your website or exporting for print, you can do it all at once!
Such a time saver!
Find out more about batch exporting here:
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