A common cause of confusion when it comes to entering projected images into competitions, or preparing images for printing by 3rd party commercial printers, is choosing the correct export settings in Adobe Lightroom. This guide will hopefully clear up that confusion!
Exporting Images for Projection in Club Competitions
Select one or more files you want to export from Lightroom. Then right click one of the thumbnails to bring up the contextual menu, from this choose the Export… option. You can do this from either the Library or Develop modules.
A window will appear with a list on the left-hand side showing any export presets you have and with a number of collapsible panes on the right-hand side where you can choose the export options you want.
For example this is how it appears for me, I have various saved presets. You may find you need to expand a number of the panes on the right to see the options I outline below.
Firstly under File Settings check the output image format is JPEG, the colour space is sRGB and that the quality is somewhere between 70 to 90. More than this is probably overkill making the outputted files needlessly large and less may degrade the quality of your image.
Under Image Sizing make sure Resize to Fit is checked. Specify Width and Height from the drop down list. Check Don’t Enlarge. The specified width and height should be W: 1920 H: 1080 for internal club competitions, see this page for details of sizes for external competitions. Make sure the unit set is pixels rather than cm or inches. The resolution figure is unimportant for projection, but if you want to set it to something, 72 pixels per inch is fine.
These settings will mean that your outputted image will always fit within 1920 x 1080 pixels, but if you image is smaller in either dimension it will not be stretched or distorted. E.g. a square image will be sized to 1080×1080.
Optionally you may also want to enable output sharpening as resizing images down can have a slight softening effect. Choose the Screen setting for projection and adjust Amount to taste. I use Standard and find it looks natural.
For our purposes you don’t need to adjust any of the other settings. Before you click the Export button, click the Add button at the bottom of the preset list on the left-hand side of the window to save this preset.
You’ll be prompted to give it a name. I call mine “HBCC PDI” but you can choose anything. Click the Create button to save it.
You can now proceed to click Export and you’ll be prompted where you want to save the created JPEG files (e.g. on your desktop or in your pictures folder).
In future when you want to export an image for projection in a club competition you can choose the “HBCC PDI” option (or whatever you called your export preset) directly from the contextual menu that appears when you right click a thumbnail in Lightroom.
Exporting Images for Printing by a Printing Service
Before you get ready to export, you need to think about the size you want your image printed. Most commercial printers, offers a range of traditional and metric paper sizes. Remember what ever size you get your image printed, the club has a maximum mount size of 50x40cm, but your image may be any size within this.
It’s very important that the aspect ratio of your image matches the aspect ratio of the paper you are printing to, else the image will likely not fill the paper or be printed at a smaller size than you expect. As you are paying by the paper size you choose rather than the image coverage, you want to get this right.
When preparing your image use the crop tool in the Develop module to set the aspect ratio that is applicable to the size of paper you want to print to. E.g. for 16 x 12 inches it’s 4:3 or for A3 it’s 1:1.414. Lightroom will calculate or choose the ratio for you if you use the Enter Custom… option from the drop down list and simply enter the paper dimensions.
Make sure the padlock icon is showing as locked so the aspect of the cropping area is maintained as you adjust its size and position.
Finally before starting the export process, check with the Printer to see if they have a particular colour profile they want you to use with their printers.
The process for exporting a JPEG for printing is broadly the same as preparing an image for projection so I won’t repeat all the steps on how to bring up the export window, see above for details.
Under File Settings, make sure Color Space is set to an appropriate profile, such as the one supplied by the printer or else sRGB. The image format should be JPEG with an appropriate quality level set (as for projection).
Under Image Sizing make sure Resize to Fit is checked. Select Long Edge from the popup list. Enter the length of the longest edge of the paper you are printing to. In this case I’m preparing an image to print at 16 x 12 inches so I enter 16 inches. Make sure the appropriate unit is set in the drop down (inches or cms, NOT pixels). Since you have set the correct aspect ratio already (see above) the short edge length should be calculated correctly by Lightroom.
The Resolution figure should be set to no less than 200 PPI. Some Printers may specify an exact number, if so enter that. Pixels per inch is the same thing as dots per inch (DPI).
The Don’t Enlarge checkbox should be left unchecked. This is because for printing you may actually need to increase the image size in pixels for a given print size.
As with the projected image export you may want to save these settings as a preset to make the process quicker in future. I strongly recommend specifying the paper size you are printing to in the preset name to avoid confusion. Then when you’re ready hit the Export button to finish saving the JPEG file ready to upload to your chosen Printer.