How to Choose Your Lightroom Export Settings for Printing

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Photography / Post 148 Views

If you haven’t yet printed some of your favorite photos, trust me you are missing out on a lot. The joy and pleasure that you get by looking at the prints cannot be matched by the digital copies. This article might excite those photographers who have gotten their photos printed at least once. But if you haven’t yet, this might be the beginning, give it a try!

The majority of you may already be using Adobe Lightroom to post-process and color correct your photos. But did you know that you might be saving your final digital copy to be sent to the printer using the wrong export settings? Do not panic, this article will help you cross-check some of the key export settings that you want to follow.

Getting the Dimensions Correct

Trust me, this is one of the most basic and silliest mistakes that you might make while exporting the final copy to be sent for printing. To make sure that you get the dimensions correct, simply crop the image (if needed) using the desired aspect ratio the moment you import the photo to Lightroom. This will make sure that the final prints are in the perfect dimensions and you do not have to pay the printer extra to correct the ratio.

Note: You can use a Virtual Copy to crop for print and leave the original for online.

crop sizes and ratios in Lightroom

Select the Correct Color Space

A good quality print is one which has the most accurate color representation. If you have been getting a difference in colors between what you see on your screen and what you get on your prints, something might be wrong with the color space.

The color space of a digital image is the most important aspect of accurate color representation in a print. You need to make sure that you are selecting the AdobeRGB or any other color space as advised by your printer. AdobeRGB is a larger color space as compared to the sRGB, which is the default color space in the export setting. To know more about the color space, read: AdobeRGB vs sRGB Color Space.

Some printers may have their own custom color profiles, which they may or may not share with you. So, in that case, they would ask you for AdobeRGB color space file and later export the file as per their custom profile. If you are unsure about the printer, simply export the photo as AdobeRGB color space.

Note: Many labs and printers in the USA use the smaller sRGB space, so if you send AdobeRGB files for printing you will get unexpected color in your prints when they come back. Be sure and ask the lab what they use and prefer beforehand.

Once you have selected the color space, make sure to keep the Bit Depth as 16 bits/component. This will make sure that the color transition and falloff is gradual.

Select the Correct Image Format

Once you are done with selecting the required color space, it is important to choose the correct image format. You can go with the JPEG format but if you are opting for high-quality or a big print, save it as a TIFF. This file format has much more information as compared to a JPEG and is vastly accepted by the printers.

Note: Again check with your lab first. Some will not accept a TIFF file.

Select the Correct PPI (Pixel Per Inch)

PPI in a photo print means the number of pixels that are there per inch of the photo. The ideal and the best possible quality is 300ppi, but you can also choose 240ppi if required. Basically, the more the PPI the better print quality you would get. If you are getting bigger prints and do not want the photo to look pixelated, try saving the photo with maximum possible PPI (ideally 300ppi in the case of prints).

Note: Once again ask your lab. Some may have a standard PPI that they use and prefer. Canvas prints, for example, are often at 150ppi. 

Finish up

Once you are done selecting these four major export settings, you shall be good to export the file for prints. You can always experiment with these settings as there are no hard and fast rules. These were just some tips and suggestions I wanted to share as per my experience.

One other thing to make note of is whether or not you are enlarging the image. Be careful when upsizing files as there are good and bad ways to do that, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Read more here: Image Size and Resolution Explained for Print and Onscreen

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