The Truth About Saving JPEGs in Lightroom
As I’m out on the road teaching I always pick up on areas in Lightroom that people are having a hard time with. One area I realized was saving JPEGs. Why, when, how, and what settings to used are some common questions.
We need to be able to save a JPEG from Lightroom so we can email, print, post to the web or otherwise send our photo to people. We don’t want to send/post raw files so JPEG is the best format since you can compress it into much smaller files sizes (then say TIFF for example) and still get good quality results.
You’ll save as a JPEG when you get to the point where you’re done editing a photo. That means you’ll probably have gone through the Develop module and done a few things to the photo. Maybe you even jumped into Photoshop and back in which case you’d save a JPEG from your PSD or TIFF file and not the raw file. Basically, its when you’re done editing.
This is a little weird. There is not File > Save as JPEG feature in Lightroom. The “How” question would come up a lot less if there was. Instead, its called Export. Its under the File menu so you go to File > Export and you get a whole new dialog that lets you save your photo out into a different format – one of those being JPEG.
Now, this dialog is actually pretty big and there’s a lot of things you can do in it. But the truth is, most of them time you just want a JPEG version of your photo. In which case there’s a few simple settings to follow. First, why do you want a JPEG?
For Email: If you want to save a JPEG for emailing someone, you can see the screen capture below of the settings (click for larger view) I use. Basically, I resize so the width will not exceed 800 pixels and the resolution is set to 72 ppi. I’ll also knock down the Quality setting since I usually attach more than one photo and I don’t want to choke some one’s incoming mail. Notice we also save in the sRGB format for email and the web.
For a web page: For the web, things are pretty much the same. Of course the size can vary but 800 is a good rule to go by for the larger version of a photo on a web page. You want it large enough to appreciate, but not large enough to really print out at a decent quality.
To Print to an inkjet printer: If you’re saving this as a JPEG to give to somebody to print to an inkjet printer then I go all out. I’m not worried about compression here. In fact, I want as little compression as possible since I want the best print. That’s why there’s no resizing and Quality is set to 100. Also, notice that the Color Space is set to Adobe RGB. That’s generally known as the best format to save for inkjet printers. Some will argue [and I'm sure they will in the comments section ], that you should use ProPhoto RGB but that’s still debatable and if you know that much about it then you’re probably not reading this so use it if you’re comfortable.
To Print via a lab: Pretty much the same as the inkjet settings above. The only difference is that my lab (MPIX.com) prefers you send in the sRGB color space. Your best bet is to call or email your lab and ask them what they prefer. Again, since we’re printing and want the highest quality here I don’t use compression.
Well folks, I hope that helps to clear up some things around saving JPEGs from Lightroom. As a Lightroom user, do I wish it were actually called “File > Save for Web and Email or Save as JPEG”? Yep. As an instructor, I guess it’s job security because the whole Export thing seems a little counter-intuitive. But luckily, once you do it a couple of times it tends to stick pretty easily. Thanks for reading!