I would say, without a doubt, that Lightroom is one of the most used programs on my computer, second maybe only to Chrome. However, even as a convert from the first version of Lightroom and having logged about a zillion hours using it since then, I am still always learning something new that I can do with it. Partly from the consistent upgrades and improvements over the years, but, also because there are many hidden features for those of us willing to do a little spelunking around the program.

One of these buried treasures is not in Lightroom itself, rather a repository that Adobe maintains called the Lightroom Developers SDK. Short for “Software Development Kit”, this is a library of information and “how to’s” for anyone who wishes to build their own plugins to extend Lightroom’s features. Inside this library is also a selection of sample plugins that you can use as a foundation for building your own. Each of these samples is a fully functioning plugin on its own, offering some feature or functionality not available in the regular program. One of my favorite, and most used, is the FTP sample plugin. This gives us a way to send batches of large images to a file server straight from Lightroom. Below is a tutorial on how to find, install, and use it, so you can get those beautiful images of yours to the people who want them, as quickly and easily as possible!

Why FTP?

FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol, a way for one computer to connect to another on the internet, and send large piles of data without having to go through a website. HTTP, Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is what we use to view web sites, but it is rather inefficient for transferring files from one site to another. HTTP must render each file separately, taking extra time to do so, something completely avoided by FTP. This results in a much more efficient process, achieving my number one goal with workflow, making it as fast as possible so I can get back out in the field with my camera!

Not everyone you have to send files to will have an FTP server you can drop your images on, but if they do, this can massively speed up your transfers to them. The beauty of doing this all in Lightroom is you can save your settings as presets by recipient. You setup the plugin once and then just export it using your preset each time. This is spectacularly handy and time-saving for stock agencies or large submissions, where you may be sending hundreds of files at once. Hit “Export”, select your preset, and let Lightroom do all the work!

How to Set It Up

Download the SDK

  1. Go to https://www.adobe.io/apis/creativecloud/lightroom.html and click the blue “Start building today” button.                   
  2. Click the Lightroom Classic icon. 
  3. A window with three columns should appear below the icon. Make sure that the boxes in each column are selected and checked as shown in the screenshot below. 
  4. After clicking the box in the third column, a fourth column will appear, in which you will click the box under “Select Version” (as of November 2017 this says “v1 (Latest)”). Once you click this, a terms and conditions box will appear, click “agree” and the SDK should begin to download as a zip file. 
  5. Open and extract the zip file using whatever software you normally would use to do so. Be sure you know where you extract this to, typically it will appear in your “Downloads” folder, but you can move it somewhere else. I keep a folder of Lightroom extensions on a separate drive for just this type of thing.
  6. While on the download screen, it is also a good idea to open the documentation for the Lightroom Classic SDK. However, a copy is also included in the zip file if you forget to. You can find complete instructions on installation of the FTP plugin on page 154 of the PDF.


Install the FTP Plug-in in Lightroom

  1. Open Lightroom, and on the main menu in the top left of your screen, under “File” go to the Plug-in Manager. 
  2. At the bottom left of the Plug-In Manager screen, click “Add”, and browse to where you saved the SDK. Double-click the folder “Lightroom SDK 6.0”, then “Sample Plugins”. Click once on the folder “ftp_upload.lrdevplugin” and click the “Select Folder” button on the bottom right.  
  3. You should now see the FTP Plugin loaded in the pane on the left of your Plug-in Manager window. 

Exporting Your Files via FTP

Now that you have loaded the plugin, you will need to configure it the first time before you can use it with the destination FTP server’s connection information. This is provided by whoever you are sending the files to. For example, if sending to a stock agency, they typically will have this information under your account profile, or in their FAQ settings. If you can’t find it, or are not sure where to find it, you will have to get this information from the recipient.

To configure the FTP export in Lightroom, do the following:

  1. From the “Library” module, select the files you want to FTP. You can select as many as you want from a folder or collection, by holding down the Shift or Ctrl keys while clicking. 
  2. Once you have selected the images you want to transfer, right-click on any of the images. On the first menu that pops up, select “Export”, then at the top of the second menu that pops up, select “Export…”. 
  3. In the drop down at the top of the “Export” window, select “FTP Upload”.  
  4. Go to the bottom of the options section, to “FTP Server”. Click the drop-down “Destination”. Select “Edit” on the menu that appears. 
  5. Enter the information provided to you by the recipient for their server. DO NOT enter the information shown below, this is just an example folks! 
  6. Once you have made any changes, SAVE THIS AS A PRESET! Click the drop down at the top of the window, and select “Save Current Settings as Preset…” This is not required but highly recommended if you are going to FTP to this site again in the future. 
  7. At this point you can go to any of the other options sections and make any changes as specified by the recipient. For example, if they only want JPGs, or files at a certain dimension. Be sure to save this as part of your preset if you do so. 
  8. Once you have entered all this info and are ready to send the files, click “Ok”. The export will appear as a task in the upper left of your main Lightroom screen, and disappear when complete. 
  9. It is a good idea for the first few times to open an FTP Client like Filezilla, and verify your files transferred correctly. Filezilla is free, and has tons of instructions on their site for how to use the program. 

Using The FTP Preset

Now that we have saved this as a preset, life becomes even easier. When you are ready to FTP any files, select them as before, and right-click on one. When the menu pops up, you will see your preset listed at the bottom of it as an export preset. Click and you are all set, the export will run just as you set it up!

What’s Next?

The beauty of the SDK is you can do as much or as little as you want with it. Adobe also provides a “Publishing Service” sample so you could turn your FTP export into a listed publishing service collection with a bit of programming, allowing you to track the files you have sent. If you don’t want to go that far, you can also create as many preset variations of this as you want, say for each different stock agency, your clients, or even your own website.