Lightroom from Adobe can be counter-intuitive to the new user in a few ways. With use, however, you will find that the aspects of the software that make Lightroom different also make it superior to nearly any other photo editing software package out there for several purposes. We’ve explained why there is no “Save” button within the Lightroom interface, and now we’ll tell you what is different about exporting files from Lightroom than almost any other program.
Most photo editing programs change the actual file which you have open, making and saving the work you have done. This is either done on the original, or you can create a separate file using the “Save As” function. The problem with this is that it creates extra files on your disk, taking up space, with each copy creating additional work for you when transferring or selecting files for whatever reason.
Lightroom does things differently – the editing is non-destructive. Because of this, no matter what you do to a photo, you will not ruin your original file. (And those originals should be shot in .RAW format and converted to DNG for highest quality and greatest flexibility in editing). What Lightroom alters and saves is not the photo itself, nor a copy of the original image. It saves changes to the metadata information related to the file. This takes up far less space then changing the photo itself. However, in order for your changes to be seen, you will need to export the changes you made to a more mainstream format such as .TIFF or .JPG.
On the surface, Lightoom’s export capability seems to be much in line with several other photo editing programs. Most programs perform work within a proprietary software format which can not be read by most other systems from different manufacturers. So, after you make whatever changes you desire, you then export the image to its final format, creating the additional file. With Lightroom, however, it exports a copy of the picture with the modified metadata containing your edits, into a final form.
To export the file, select the image(s) you would like to export. Then click the export button within the Library Module (or select File → Export). The export dialog box will give you a chance to select your desired preset from a box on the left-hand side of your screen. If you want to re-use settings from a previous export session, it’s a breeze. Just select the photos to which you mean to apply the settings, and select “Export with Previous” from the File menu.
Using other programs, you want to save the final export, since there is no way to easily re-create your changes. However, with Lightroom, you can easily re-create the export, since your changes were the recorded in the first place and the original remains untouched. Digital Asset Management (DAM) is all keeping everything organized….Lightroom helps with this. Don’t fight it.
What should you do with the exports you create from Lightroom? Delete them, of course! There’s little reason to save the exports which can be so easily re-created.
Deleting your exports has another big advantage – it will prevent having to keep several different files on your drive with slightly different names. Having to remember which picture was Mount Washington Gold.TIF and which one was Mount Washington Summer Day.TIF is a challenge to say the least. There’s no need to try to remember all that if you don’t need to create the additional files in the first place.
I export my files to a special desktop folder called (creatively) “Lightroom Exports.” I periodically delete everything in this folder.
If you want to save different versions of the same photo, you can always create virtual copies, which take up little extra space.
The only good reason to keep a Lightroom export is to access when you may not have the original handy (say if it is on an external drive that you don’t have while traveling.) Even then you would be able to access JPGs of your images from Mosaic View on your tablet or smart phone.
So after you take a stunning photo, and work hard to bring our every ounce of feeling and emotion that photography can convey, you will reach your moment of truth when you export your edits into a highly-sharable format, creating your masterpiece. And the best thing you can do with your pièce de résistance when your edits were performed in Lightroom? Hit delete.