The only reason to use any kind of photo editing software is to help you share pictures. Whether you are printing pictures or sharing digitally, you’ve got plenty of people who want to see your pictures and that’s why Lightroom’s Export Dialogue is the one tool you’ll use the most frequently. This tutorial will show you how to save pictures for sharing online, printing, and syncing with your Creative Cloud.

Don’t read this article. Skim it. Use it like an encyclopedia. Go to the section you have questions about and read that. (Hint: File Settings is the most critical) Do read the section at the end on syncing exports with your Adobe Creative Cloud account so you can access them easily to include in your Adobe Portfolio site.

The Export Dialogue 

First of all, enter the Export Dialogue by pressing the three keys together: Command (or ctrl) + Shift + E. You can also right-click on any picture and choose Export, or go up to the File menu and choose Export, but those are too slow for the most used tool in Lightroom. I highly recommend using the shortcut keys.

Whichever picture or pictures are selected when you enter the dialogue are the pictures you will export. If you mistakenly enter the dialogue, press ESC or the Cancel button.

From top to bottom…

Export To

Make sure to choose Hard Drive from this drop down list.

Export Location

The first section is all about where you want your pictures to end up. I usually choose Same Folder as Original Photo or “Specific Folder. If you choose Specific Folder, click the Choose button and navigate to where you want the picture to be saved. I often also check the box to Put in Subfolder and then name the folder.

Because you’re using Lightroom to manage all your pictures, be sure to check the box to Add to this Catalog. If you don’t check this box, then the picture won’t be visible in Lightroom unless you import it manually. Trust me and check this box.

For Existing Files, choose Ask what to do. This means that when you have another file in that folder that has the same name as the one you’re creating it’ll ask you if you want to replace it, keep it and use a unique file name for the new one (my preferred choice), or cancel.

File Naming

Check the box to Rename To and choose whichever option you like. Try them out and see what best fits your workflow.


We’ll let Richard Harrington address all the ins and outs of video work. Check out this library of video articles. Lightroom is not the ideal place to export a video, but it can be done. I leave this section collapsed.

File Settings–This is the important stuff

You’ve got to get these settings right or when you post your picture online it’ll look awful and take a long time to load which means people won’t wait to see it or you’ll clog your friends’ email inbox with a huge file.

Start by clicking Image Format and choosing JPEG, which is the best format to use to share pictures. Next, choose sRGB from the Color Space menu. sRGB will ensure that the picture looks good anywhere it might be viewed online or by print labs.

Quality determines the final file size, which determines where the picture can be seen online. Sending friends a huge picture file in an email is bad manners–it clogs up their inbox space, and you may not even be able to send it. Furthermore, uploading large files to your website means they will take a long time to load when people try to view them, and people will probably not be patient to wait, particularly if every picture takes more than an instant to load. Remember, most people are viewing your pictures on their phones and phones don’t do well with large picture files.

Set the Quality slider to something between 60 and 80. I usually set it at 60 for all my pictures shared here on Photofocus. Not only does this ensure that the pictures load quickly, but it also ensures that if someone did try to steal my picture and make prints the file is not good enough for printing. But you won’t see the difference on screen, so go ahead and set it down to 60.

The Limit File Size To field is another good way to keep the file size under control. You’ll find that many blogs won’t allow you to upload files over a certain size. This button trumps the Quality box. Remember, too, that 1,000K is just 1Mb, and that’s still a pretty large file.

Image Sizing

I’ll give you the settings to export for web, and then some ideas about exporting for print.

Click Resize to Fit and choose either Long Edge or Width and Height depending on your needs. My pictures on Photofocus all get set to 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is the maximum size for the header images. It’s also a very convenient size for viewing online. This doesn’t mean that your pictures are cropped to 1920 x 1080, which is a 16:9 ratio and the same shape as your television. It means that the maximum width can be 1920 pixels, and the maximum height can be 1080 pixels. If your picture is cropped square, it will end up 1080 x 1080 because the height is the limiting value.

When you export choosing the pixel dimensions, that is the same as setting the resolution, so the Resolution field doesn’t matter; you can leave it blank or leave whatever value is already there. It won’t affect the picture.

When you send a picture for print, choose Dimensions and then set the dimensions of the picture to the print size, like 8 x 10 inches. Set the resolution to 300 and you should be good to go. If you are making a very large print, Lightroom will enlarge the picture using extrapolation algorithms, which works well. You may click the button Don’t Enlarge and leave the enlarging to your lab, which is what I suggest. In fact, I’d uncheck the box to Resize to Fit when I send it to the lab and let them manage the enlarging, which is what they do and have software specifically for the purpose. Check with your print lab about their recommendations.

Make a Preset

As I mentioned above, I use the same settings every time I get a picture ready to share here on Photofocus, or on Facebook, or Instagram, etc. Anytime you do the same thing over and over, it’s a great time to make a preset.

On the left side of the Export Dialogue, you’ll see a Preset panel. Enter all the settings you use each time and click Add at the bottom of that panel. Just enter a name for the preset and click Create. This saves all the settings in the dialogue, so make sure that they are all set properly.

Dont’ worry if you find that a setting was wrong when you saved the preset. Set everything where you want it and right click on the preset name, then choose Update with Current Settings. Using presets for export will save a lot of time and steps.

Output Sharpening

Even if you’ve already sharpened your photo, it’s ok to sharpen again during export. Click Sharpen For and choose Screen, then set the Amount to Standard.


You can choose what information about your picture to include with your picture. I like to include All Metadata, but you can choose what you like. Metadata is information about your camera settings and your copyright and even the GPS location where your picture was made, and it’s embedded inside your picture but it’s completely invisible. You can alter all the metadata in the Metadata tab in the Library module.


This is one of my favorite tools in Lightroom, and it deserves its own article. Watermarks are completely customizable. Check the box for Watermark, then choose Edit Watermarks which opens another dialogue. As I say, this deserves its own article, but you can go here and mess around with all you watermarking settings and then save a new preset for your watermark. I like to have one ready for the bottom left corner and for the bottom right corner. Your picture will have the text or graphic superimposed after export.

Whenever possible, I prefer to hand sign a printed photograph rather than print a watermark on it.


This final section allows you to do something after you export your picture. You could have it open in another application, like Photoshop, or you could set it to open Finder/Explorer, which might useful to help you share it quickly. I generally have this set to Do Nothing.

Syncing with Lr Mobile and Creative Cloud

If you’re subscribed to the Creative Cloud (recommended), then you have access to powerful and useful online storage. You don’t have to export your photographs to sync them with your Lightroom Mobile account online, but an advantage to exporting them first is that you can apply a watermark however you like. Whether or not you export first, syncing is simple.

Create a Collection using the + symbol in the collections tab on the left. Name it, and choose Sync with Lightroom Mobile. Now just drag and drop any photographs you want to access online into this Collection. Also, you can publish any collection you have already made by clicking the check box next to the Collection name. View your collection online by right-clicking on the name, then Lightroom mobile Links, then View on Web. Note that these pictures are not publicly viewable unless you allow them to be. Best of all, you’ve got direct access to them for your website, which is also included in your Creative Cloud subscription (here’s an article about how to utilize that).

A Note About Saving vs Exporting

Lightroom doesn’t save changes you make to a picture like you do when you’re typing a document. Lightroom cannot make any changes to you original picture (except to delete it). If you choose to Save in Lightroom, you’ll get a new file coupled with your original picture that contains Lightroom information so that when the picture is viewed in Lightroom it looks great with all the changes and settings you’ve made while editing; it’s called a sidecar file, and it’s a .xmp file. But if you just view it in Finder or Windows Explorer or email it to someone, you’ll only see your original picture without any changes. Exporting the picture makes a completely new picture file with your changes visible for everyone to see even if they don’t have Lightroom. So in Lightroom, we export, not save. Lightroom automatically records all your settings while you work, too, so you don’t have to worry about saving your work. Just Export a new file for sharing.


Exporting from Lightroom is simple, and using the right settings will ensure that your pictures look their best and aren’t so large no one will wait to see them. Besides sharing them in social media and online, be sure to print your photographs and utilize them in your website.