One of the most efficient aspects of Lightroom is to be able to export your image for different uses. Gone are the days of saving multiple copies of an image "for web" or "for print". Lightroom can work with your raw files and when you're ready to use them in some way, you can just export a copy out to another location.
Do you have a particularly prized photograph that you want to show on the web? Perhaps put on your website? Or maybe stick it in a book, or send it off to the printers? With one click, you can do these things, and organise your images so that you don't get confused.
The important thing to remember is that you don't need to have multiple copies of the same image saved at different qualities for different tasks. You keep your raw file, then generate an "exported copy" of it for whatever use you need. If for some reason you do need to have different copies (maybe different Develop settings for example) then Virtual Copies do a brilliant job of this.
So let's start by looking at the properties of an image file. There are just 2 of importance when we look to export. It's size, and its resolution.
An image, for example that was 6x4 inches in size, but had a resolution of 1 pixel per inch, would result in a terrible quality image. So therefore, a rule of thumb might be to imagine that "more ppi" (pixels per inch) would be reasonable. And this is true. However...
For web display or emailing images to other people, the filesize of an image can also be important. A full size image could be anywhere upwards of 8-10Mb which would not only take a while to load on the page, but would also eat up any "limited bandwidth" options your image hoster may have. Likewise, if you own your own website, most hosting companies have limits on your "bandwidth" (the amount of data the server will "download" to browsers, usually on a per/month scale). An image set to 800 pixels on its widest side could weigh in at 200k, which is around 50x lighter than the full size image. It would also be useless to anyone wanting to copy it and put it on anything other than a postage stamp, or rebrand it on the web.
However, if you want to print an image out to paper (or in a book), you'd want the best quality you could have and file size could be less important. I did a post on image resolution here which you might find interesting...
What this means is that you're likely to need several different Export types depending on what you're doing with your image. Let's look through some examples.
To print (jpeg) : These need to be max quality. We're going to be sending them to 3rd party printer companies.
To print (Fine art - tiff) : These are max quality, but TIFF files are required by our fine art lab.
Flickr use (jpeg) : These need to be decent quality - Flickr is a photo sharing site after all. Let's say 2000px on the longest side. We also want to include the EXIF data too so that people can see the settings we used.
Facebook (jpeg) : Here we want only low quality images 600px on the longest side. Maybe we want a watermark on these too.
Proof copies for email (jpeg) : These need to be small lightweight images that allow me to send lots of them in a single email. Could probably re-use the Facebook preset, but maybe we want to dumb the quality down further.
My Website (jpeg) : These are 2000px on the longest side, high quality jpegs with a discrete watermark and the exif data stripped.
Desktop Wallpaper (jpeg) : These need to go to a specific folder and be a specific dimension (i.e. 2560 x 1440px)
You could consider many of these, a few of them, or all of them and more...
1. Set Up Receiving Folders
The first job is to set up some folders somewhere to receive the exports. I have them set under "My Pictures", but many of them just get sent to the desktop because I delete them when I'm done with them.
2. Build The Export Preset
Right click on any image, and click "Export" to open the Export manager. Here you can see a list of basic ones Lightroom has added along with "User Presets" which is where we'll create our own.
One the left is a list of the presets. When you click on a preset (to highlight it in blue), the information on the right hand side will change.
There is no "edit" function here. You click on a preset, make changes, then when you;re done, you can "Add" it as a new preset.
So select any preset, and work your way down the right hand side.
Export Location : Here you can specify where the image gets exported to. Whether it's the desktop (if you're going to upload to Flickr) or a Wallpaper folder, or maybe your NAS to slideshow your images on the TV, or an ftp folder that uploads to your website, or... well... you get the picture.
File Naming: Allows you to rename the file.
File Settings: This is an important one as it allows us to choose the file type, colour space and quality as well as the ability to limit the file size to a certain amount. In most cases you'd use jpeg (for screen use) maybe tiff (for a printer) and occasionally original file (if you're putting them on a memory stick to take them somewhere perhaps?). You can choose one or the other from quality or filesize. Generally you'd only reduce the quality to keep the filesize down. A small file size is advantageous if perhaps you've been given a limit, or your website is loading pictures slowly for your viewers, or you want to prevent other people downloading super high quality copies of your photo. You wouldn't want to reduce the quality for a print (for example) or a competition entry.
Image Size: Here we set the dimensions of the image as well as pixel density. A forum I frequent has a max size of 1000px on the longest edge. For my website I like to go a bit bigger (2000px) because monitors are getting bigger and resolution is getting better. 1000px wide on my main monitor is less than a third of the screen width - which is essentially "small" to me. On someone's 1024 x 768 monitor though it would almost fill it. Setting the image size in cm or inches means that the ppi box needs to be filled out. More on resolution here, but if you bear in mind that 300ppi is great for close up (12" away) viewing, 100ppi is fine for anything over 3ft. I tend to choose "Width & Height" so that if the setting is "1000px", Lightroom will resize the image to have 1000px on the longest edge - be the image a portrait or landscape.
Output Sharpening: I do all my sharpening in Lightroom before export. However, so may sites do different things with image sharpness that you may want to have a separate tweak here for images being used on certain sites. Flickr (for example) softens my images quite significantly, whilst Wix (my website provider) over sharpens them.
Metadata: Here you can choose to include your metadata. This is things like the EXIF data (camera/lens combo, shutter speed, aperture etc) as well as keywords & copyright information. The smallest amount of info you can include is copyright, but you can click on the drop down and add more if you like. This is great for things like eBay exports where you'd want to make sure EXIF data like GPS co-ordinates are not included. Don't want to let everyone know where the family jewels are stored!
Watermark: Allows you to add a watermark to your image. Website images may have a discreet watermark, Facebook might have a large splash watermark, and obviously for print you may not want a watermark at all.
Post-Processing: Allows you to do another action after exporting. This used to be useful if (for example) you were exporting for further processing, but Lightroom has an "Edit in" feature for this now.
3. Add The Export Preset
Once you've finished entering your settings, click "add" (bottom left). This allows you to rename your Export template to something memorable (see my list of examples above). These appear not only in this box, but you'll also see them appear under the right click menu in Lightroom. So multiple image selection and export can be done very very quickly. Creating variants of an Export Template are extremely easy. Just select the one you want to create a variant of, make the changes, then click "add" and give it a new name. Setting up different web sized images as in the example above (600,1000, & 2000 pixel size) is a very swift job.
And you're all done!