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Best Lightroom Export Settings (For Print, Instagram & More)

Last updated: January 18, 2024 - 12 min read
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Our article covers the best Lightroom export settings. These settings balance image quality with accessibility. Maybe you’re editing photos for Instagram or enlarging photos for printing. You’ll find the perfect way to share your best work.
Let’s dive deep into the many settings in the Lightroom Classic export dialogue box (File > Export). Many options are also in the export panel of Lightroom (formerly Lightroom CC), but not all. To learn how to export photos from Lightroom, see our post on how to save and export photos from Lightroom.

 

Choosing the Best Lightroom Export Settings

We love our images and want to share our favorites at the highest quality possible. But this does not always mean exporting the files at 100%. Exporting images from Lightroom is not a one-size-fits-all situation.
We share our photos in different ways. So, the best Lightroom export settings depend on where we share our images. But we’ll cover how to best export photos from Lightroom without losing quality.

Step 1: Choose Settings Under Export Location

Click File > Export from the main menu at the top. Then, use the settings under the Export Location tab to help you organize exports. There is no “best” export location. Choose the location that works for you.
Select “same folder as original photo” in the Export To drop-down menu to keep your exports with the original photos. But you can also save them to your desktop in a new folder. Choose where you want to keep your images.
You also have the choice to add created images to a subfolder or your Lightroom catalog. But if you want to access the exported file later, you may have to synchronize its folder (Library > Synchronize Folder).
In the Existing Files drop-down, select “choose a new name or the exported file.” By default, Lightroom Classic exports using the file name encoded by your camera.
But you can customize the file names in almost infinite ways. Then, you can save your favorite naming combinations for your exports.

Screenshot of Export Location dialog box for Lightroom export settings
Choosing options under the Export Location tab

 

Step 2: Make Changes Under File Naming

Start by opening the File Naming tab and click the box next to Rename File. Open the drop-down menu and select Edit. This opens the Filename Template editor.
Lightroom Classic includes default naming choices like Filename, Sequence #, Date, and Title. Scroll through the drop-down menus to see more choices.
Use other options like Image # and metadata naming options like Copyright. Include as many identifiers as you like. Then click the Insert button next to your choices.

Screenshot of a custom preset in Filename Template Editor dialog box for Lightroom export settings
Inserting a filename as a custom preset in the Filename Template editor

 

Custom Settings and Presets

You can also type directly into the template editor. Add custom text to your image title or punctuation to separate title elements. Lightroom shows you an example of what the title looks like for your selected image.
Open the Preset drop-down menu and select “save current settings as new preset.” This opens a new dialogue box to save your file name as a new template. Save your file name as a new template. Name the preset, and click Create.
Finally, click Done. Lightroom (CC) lets you custom-name your exported files. But the choices are more limited.

Step 3: Adjust Details Under File Settings

The File Settings tab lets you choose the image format and quality, file size, and color space. Lightroom CC has similar settings. But the export panel is organized differently from Lightroom Classic.

Screenshot of File Settings dialog box for Lightroom export settings
File Settings tab

 

Best Formats to Export Photos

The best image format for online posting is JPEG. It is a universal image file format. But a JPEG is a compressed file. So you lose some quality when exporting. It just may not be obvious when viewing a photo online.
If you want to export a high-resolution image, select TIFF or DNG. For printing, you can choose either a JPEG or a TIFF file. But not all social media platforms accept uncompressed file formats. Some platforms accept RAW files. But this is not common.
Switch to a GIF if your photo includes animation or a PNG if it has a transparent background. Here are the image file formats currently accepted by the most popular social media platforms:

  • Instagram: Converts all uploaded photos to JPEG.
  • Facebook: Accepts JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, and BMP.
  • Twitter: Accepts JPEG, PNG, and GIF.
  • Flickr: Accepts JPEG, PNG, and non-animated GIFs. All other formats are converted to JPEG.
  • Pinterest: Accepts JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, and WEBP.
  • Website Hosts: Web hosting sites vary. For example, Wix accepts JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP, WEBP, HEIC, HEIF, JPE, JFIF, JPEG 2000, and RAW files.

Set of image file labels icons for Lightroom export settings

 

Best Image Quality and Sizes for Export

Cameras with lots of megapixels (MP) create large files. And if you do any editing in Adobe Photoshop beforehand, your file size can skyrocket past a gigabyte (GB)! We want to export photos from Lightroom without losing quality. But exporting full-sized files usually means large file sizes.
When exporting for print, export a full-sized file unless the print lab has an image size limitation. But large image files do not work well online.
Large image files are slow to load and use lots of photo storage space. Also, there is a limit to how much quality can be displayed on most monitors and mobile devices.
Popular platforms compress your images because of the large volume uploaded. If you export images at their recommended size, you will see little difference in image quality.
But if you upload a full-size image and leave the compression up to the platform, you will probably see reduced image quality. High-quality images can become pixelated, and the platform may crop your photo. Plus, reducing the size also protects your full-size image from unofficial downloads.
Popular social media platform logos for Facebook Twitter Instagram WhatsApp and LinkedIn

 

How to Reduce File Size in Lightroom

In Lightroom, you can reduce file size in two ways. You can use the slider to reduce JPEG quality by a percentage or set a size limit.
Rather than export the files at 100%, select 85%. This reduces the file size and keeps the perceived image quality. Some photographers even suggest reducing image quality to 70%.
If the social media platform has a file size limitation, check the box next to Limit File Size To. Then, enter a maximum file size. Lightroom creates the best quality file within the size limit. Here are the current image size limitations of popular social media platforms:

  • Instagram: Max 30 MB
  • Facebook: Under 15 MB is recommended
  • Twitter: Under 5 MB is recommended
  • Flickr: Up to 200 MB
  • Pinterest: Max 20 MB
  • Website Hosts: This varies. For instance, Wix recommends no larger than 25 MB.

You may also want to reduce file size to make images load faster. But there is disagreement about the optimal image size for online viewing. If the images load slowly, reduce the size to under 1 MB (1,000 KB). If the photos still load slowly, reduce the size to 500 KB.

Best Color Space Settings for Export

Most online content is viewed on computer screens or mobile devices. Both have limited colors. So, you may prefer to edit in a larger color space like Adobe RGB.
But the best color space for posting online is sRGB. This limits the colors to those your viewers can see. It is also the default color space for many cameras. And many platforms compress larger color space to sRGB anyway. But sometimes, there are unpredictable results.
If you print photos, the color space can be sRGB or Adobe RGB.
Photo editor working on computer and graphics tablet with colorful parrot photos

 

Step 4: Adjust Numbers Under Image Sizing

The size of your images will vary with your camera system and how you have cropped them. But most digital cameras create images larger than accepted on social media platforms.
The size of the display limits most computers. For instance, my Mac displays 2,560 x 1,600px (pixels) and a resolution of 227 ppi (pixels per inch). It does not matter how large the file is. That is the max you can see on the screen.
Under Image Sizing, you can export files at defined display sizes and resolutions. You have similar choices in Lightroom CC, but they are more limited.

Screenshot Image Sizing dialog box for Lightroom export settings
Image Sizing tab
 

Best Display Size for Export

If you are printing, export your file with the original display size. Check the box next to Resize To Fit if you are posting online.
You can choose to enter the exact dimensions for both width and height. Or you can enter dimensions for your image’s long or short edge. Lightroom then figures out the other dimension based on the current aspect ratio.
There is an optimal display size for many social media platforms. Platforms reduce your image to the maximum size. Some keep the aspect ratio. But others may crop your photo.
Platforms have different recommendations for cover photos, banners, and ads. But here are the display size recommendations for image posts:

  • Instagram: 1,080px on the bottom edge. Photos in landscape orientation are 1,080 x 608px. Photos in portrait orientation are 1,080 x 1,350px (4:5 aspect ratio)
  • Facebook: 1,200px on the bottom edge. Pictures in portrait orientation work well as 1,200 x 1,500px (4:5 aspect ratio).
  • Twitter: Images posts are best at 1,200 x 675px (16:9 panoramas).
  • Flickr Pro: Images display at 6,144px on the long edge. Other accounts display at 2,048px.
  • Pinterest: Images display at 1,000px on the short side. Photos in landscape orientation are 1,000 x 1,500px. Photos in portrait orientation are 1,000 x 2,100px.
  • Website Hosts: This varies. Wix suggests uploading images that are 2,560 x 1,440px.

There is debate about the best resolution for posting images to a personal website. It is about balancing quality and how fast you want the webpage to load.
Most web hosting services let you load whatever file size you want. But the platform may compress or “optimize” your image to increase speed. If you are unsure what display size to use for your website, 2,048px is an excellent place to start.
Pinterest app and images on a smartphone screen

 

The “Don’t Enlarge” Box and Best Export Resolution

If you are working with a small image file, you may be tempted to enlarge the photo on export. Lightroom is not a good tool for enlarging photos. Check the box next to Don’t Enlarge.
If you need to enlarge a photo for printing, use Lightroom, Photoshop, or a resize tool. You can use ON1 Photo RAW’s AI resize. Or use Photoshop’s Superzoom neural filter to enlarge part of a photo without losing resolution.
The best resolution for images viewed online is 72 ppi. For the best printing resolution, change the resolution to 300 ppi.

Step 5: Adjust Output Sharpening

Sharpening defines the edges and usually adds a bit of brightness to your image. Most images benefit from a bit of sharpening during export. Depending on your needs, you can choose from a set of output sharpening presets.
Both Lightroom Classic and CC include sharpening presets for onscreen and printing on matte or glossy paper. You can choose from three sharpness levels—Low, Standard, and High.

Screenshot of Output Sharpening dialog box for Lightroom export settings
 

Step 6: Adjust Metadata Settings

Your camera collects lots of data, including settings and maybe GPS coordinates. Lightroom makes adding more metadata to your images easy to help you find and sort images.
You can add a model’s name and your address. And you may want this personal information attached to the image. But you may not like the world to see it.
Because this information lives with an image, it becomes public when you post to many social media platforms. The exception is Instagram, which strips your picture of all metadata.
Other platforms may strip some of the metadata. But Flickr preserves metadata. So, under the Metadata tab, you control which metadata Lightroom Classic embeds when you export images.
You can include all metadata, camera settings, or only copyright information. You can also remove information about the location and people in your photo.

Screenshot of Metadata dialog box for Lightroom export settings
 

Step 7: Add a Watermark to Images

Adding a watermark is like signing a painting. There is much debate about whether to watermark images or not. One side argues that a watermark detracts from the image. Others argue it is like signing artwork and reduces image theft.
You can add a watermark at export rather than onto the image itself. This lets you change when and where you add a watermark. Most photographers do not watermark printed images. But you may add it when posting to social media.
You can add simple text or a graphic watermark. Click the box next to Watermark. Open the drop-down menu in Lightroom Classic and select Edit Watermarks.
In Lightroom CC, click the gear icon. This opens the Watermark Editor. From here, you can navigate to a graphic or type a watermark. You can adjust the size, position, and opacity.

Screenshot of Watermark Editor dialog box for Lightroom export settings
Lightroom Classic watermark panel

 

Step 8: Setup Export Preset Settings

It is easy to forget which export settings are best for various social media platforms and printing. So, make an export preset of your favorite settings! Click the Add button below the left-hand column in Lightroom’s export dialogue.
Here are some examples of what you can enter.

Lightroom Export Settings for Instagram

  • Location: Personal choice
  • File Naming: “Filename_Instagram”
  • File Settings: JPEG, sRGB, 85%
  • Image Sizing: Width 1,080px, resolution 72 ppi
  • Sharpening: Screen, standard
  • Metadata: Leave the default setting
  • Watermarking: Personal choice

Lightroom Export Settings for a Website

  • Location: Personal choice
  • File Naming: “Filename_Website”
  • File Settings: JPEG, sRGB, 85%
  • Image Sizing: Width 2,048px, resolution 72 ppi
  • Sharpening: Screen, standard
  • Metadata: Include all metadata, then check the Remove Person Info and Remove Location Info boxes
  • Watermarking: Personal choice

Lightroom Export Settings for a High-Resolution Print

  • Location: Personal choice
  • File Naming: “Filename_Print”
  • File Settings: TIFF, sRGB, 100%
  • Image Sizing: Uncheck resize box, resolution 300 ppi
  • Sharpening: Matte or glossy, standard
  • Metadata: Leave the default setting
  • Watermarking: Uncheck the box
 

Conclusion: The Best Lightroom Export Settings

The best Lightroom export settings depend on how you want to use the exported file. File and display sizes vary across social media platforms. What you use for social media posts will not be the same for Lightroom export settings for print. So you should determine them on a case-by-case basis!
For more tips and tricks, look at our complete Lightroom guide! And try out The Preset Collection for shortcuts to perfection!
DepositPhotos partly provided images in this article.