Lightroom Tutorial 6 – Exporting and Saving Photos

Why do we export photos in Lightroom (p.s. exporting is really saving)

As Lightroom is developing a virtual copy of your photo, if you exit Lightroom and find the photo in its original folder and click on it, you will not see the changes that you made in Lightroom because nothing has been saved.

However when you open Lightroom again, the photo will open with the changes that you have made. If we don’t export the developments that we have made to a virtual copy, then we can only access those developments in Lightroom. This is why we need to export photos when we are ready to use them. Lightroom doesn’t use the term save, it instead says export. However, when you export a photo, you are in effect saving it.

Before we exploring the export feature for the purpose of saving and then making use of your photo (publish on web or blog), there is a neat trick that Lightroom uses alongside Photoshop. In the photo below I am unhappy with the second bird that appears at the bottom of the photo. I have developed the photo in Lightroom and am happy with how it looks, other than that damn bird.


For this trick to work you need to export it to Photoshop. Press Ctrl and E and this box will appear.


Check the box “Edit a copy with Lightroom adjustments” and then click edit. Your photo is now opened in Photoshop. Make the changes that you need to in Photoshop, such as cloning part of the image or creating layers. While you’re at this point in Photoshop it may be worth using the auto tone and auto contrast as these can neaten up your exposure a little. The quick keys for this are:- Ctrl Shift and L for auto tone, and Ctrl Shift alt L for auto contrast. If you’re not happy with them just use Alt Ctrl Z to step back.

Now here comes the neat trick. Save the photo by pressing Ctrl Shift and S, don’t change the file name, and now save you photo as a TIFF file. Go back to Lightroom. Sometimes it will display a blank screen and at others it will show you the TIFF you have just edited (I don’t know why it isn’t consistent with this but it doesn’t matter). If you have the blank screen, check your photo ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and on the far right you will have two photos, your TIFF and the RAW or JPEG etc file that you had developed (see below). If you wish to make further adjustments to your photo then you can work on the TIFF file from here on. The key things when doing this is to keep the same file name and save as a TIFF. If you change the file name then you will have to import the photo into the Lightroom catalogue, whereas keeping the same file name means that appears in your catalogue automatically. This is really useful as you may wish to make further developments in Lightroom, or to compare the two photos. This technique keeps the process straight forward.



Once you get the hang of it, exporting is a very simple process, and it can automate file names, sub folders, image size, sharpening and file type. You can also add a watermark, and embed your IPTC data.

Let’s imagine that I have 8 photos that I am going to post to my student blog for an assignment. I have developed them and added/saved metadata (see Lightroom Tutorial 2).

Go into the library module and select all that you wish to export/save. Ctrl A will select them all or you can Ctrl click to select several photos individually.


1 – all of the photos have a light grey surround to show that I have selected them all, any with a dark grey surround have not been selected.

2 – Click export and the following menu will appear (this is the top half, further down the page is the bottom half of this menu)

save-51 – File destination, 2 – Folder options, 3 – Sub-folder, 4 – Photo naming options, 5 – File type i.e. TIFF, JPEG etc

1 – File destination, you can export directly to email, cd/dvd or your hard drive. If you are saving to an external drive you would keep the hard drive option checked and then find the drive by choosing a specific folder from the menu numbered 2 above.

2 – Folder options. There are a few options here, including exporting to the original folder, but I choose “Export to specific folder”. Clicking the choose button I find the original file folder and then I am going to check put in sub folder.

3 – Sub folder. I use this option for simplicity. If I have exported to the original folder without following 2 above, then when it comes to selecting the photos for the web or my blog, I have to go through all of the photos and check their properties. However, by checking the sub-folder I can then export only the photos that I will use, they will all be in one place which makes it easy to use them without re-sorting them, and I can name the sub-folder as well. I name the sub-folder by the file size. In the above image mine says 1080  – which I use to show that I have saved these photos at 1080p (1080 pixels in height). For an assignment I may be asked to save at 2000 pixels on the long edge, so I would then name the folder 2000. This means that my photos are easy to find, and easy to submit, post, or upload. Knowing the pixel size is useful for me and saves me from having to check the properties, this speeds up my workflow.

4 – Photo naming options. It is not necessary to use specific names for your photos. The original extension that was imprinted by your camera is often good enough. I prefer to use a file name, so I check “Rename to, Custom name x of y”, and in the custom text I add the name. In the example above I have used the custom text “exercise 2.12”. This means that all of the eight photos will be named exercise 2.12, and they will also be sequentially numbered.

5 – File type. Here you can choose between JPG, PDF, TIFF, DNG and original. For some of the exercises in Foundations in Photography we are asked to submit TIFF files, and on my website and blog I use JPG. You can set your required file type here, along with the quality and the colour space. I tend to stick with sRGB – which is the internet standard colour space. Using this option embeds your colour profile. This is important, because there are times where you may save a photo in Photoshop or other photo developing software and you’re pleased with your photo. Then you upload it to the internet and your colours are all wrong. This is because the colour space has not been embedded. If you are using Photoshop then do not use Ctrl Shift S to save (unless you are doing so for the Lightroom/Photoshop tip above). In Photoshop use the save for web option by simultaneously pressing Ctrl Alt Shift and S, and this also embeds your colour profile. There are times when you have to limit your file size. Some competitions may require a maximum 2MB per photo, and you can set this by checking the “Limit file size to” button. Lightroom will then adjust the quality accordingly.

save-61 – Image size, 2 – Sharpenning, 3 – Metadata, 4 – Watermark, 5 – Post processing.

1 – Image size. For some assignments we are asked to submit photos that are 2000 pixels on the longest size, and occasionally to submit low res files of 600 pixels on the longest side. This is easy to set up. Click “resize to fit”, change the drop down box next to it so that it says “width and Height”, and then alter the figures in the width and height boxes “w” and “H”. In the photo above you will see that my width is set to 10000 and my height to 1080. This is so that the height of the photo is 1080 pixels. If I had the width at 1000 pixels than that may automatically reduce the height below my desired 1080. However, if you want a photo set so that the longest edge is 2000, then set both the width and height to 2000. If I want to export a photo in its original file size then I set the boxes both to 10000. This is larger than the original file size of my photos, so they wont be altered, but I will now have the photo saved as a TIFF of JPEG.

2 – Sharpening. It is advised that we only sharpen photos that we have finished developing and are ready to use. This way we don’t create blocky and pixelated images, which will happen if you sharpen too early in the developing process and then reducing the image size. It’s unlikely that you will export from Lightroom until you are ready to make use of the photo so you can sharpen at this point without losing your image quality.

3 – Although you have already added metadata to your photo, at this stage you can choose to embed it into your exported file, or to get rid of parts of it. I like having metadata saved in my photos. It means that my details are stored in my photos so that I can be contacted, and some search engines pick this up. You can search keywords in Lightroom if they are saved, so in two years time you can use a keyword search in Lightroom with the terms i.e. “red” and “Bugs”, and Lightroom can then find all of your photos that are labelled as red or bugs or both. It makes searching for photos at a later date easy. However, there are times when you need to strip a photo of metadata. The Societies of Photographers run competitions each month for members and non-members. They have quite strict conditions, i.e. 2000 pixels on the longest side, 2MB file size limit, and no metadata embedded into the photo. Lightroom makes it possible to strip the metadata from the photo that you are going to use.

4 – Watermark. You can add a watermark, and when I use one it is a copyright symbol and my website details (Lightroom Tutorial 7 will include how to set up a watermark).

5 – Post Processing. Once you have exported a photo you may want to open it in Photoshop or another application. I tend to have this set at do nothing. If I needed to clone or use adjustment layers in Photoshop I would have done this earlier using the Ctrl E, and then saved as a TIFF from Photoshop, so there is nothing further for me to do at this point.

Key Points

Lightroom develops a virtual copy of your photo. If you develop a photo in Lightroom and then exit Lightroom and view the original file folder and click on a photo it will appear undeveloped. This is why we export photos from Lightroom using the export button. Exporting the photo will save the changes that you have made.

Export an individual photo from Lightroom to Photoshop by pressing Ctrl E. Once you have finished developing in Photoshop you then press Ctrl Shift S to save, save as a TIFF and do not alter the file name. Your edited photo is now in your Lightroom catalogue.

Use the export button in Lightroom to embed your colour profile. In Photoshop use the save for web or Ctrl Alt Shift S to embed the colour profile.

Because you have exported to a sub-folder then your full size developed original remains in your Lightroom catalogue, so if you need a larger photo later, then it’s there waiting for you.


Look out for Lightroom Tutorial 7, which will cover the basics of making contact sheets, creating PDF files, and slideshows.

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