Sharing Your Photos, Part 3

How to automate watermarking and output settings using custom presets in Lightroom Classic’s Export dialogue
A view of the Watermark Editor in Lightroom Classic.

Figure 1. A view of the Watermark Editor in Lightroom Classic.

They say sharing is caring. They say that a candle loses nothing as it shares its light with another candle. They say that even though sharing requires trust and faith and a willingness to take risks as one reaches out to others, the connection one derives from sharing makes it all worth it. Bearing all that in mind, “they” are likely not considering the value of intellectual property. If you’re a photographer, share…but watermark as you go.

In part two of this article series on Lightroom Classic tools and tips for optimizing your images for output and sharing, we went through many of the settings in Lightroom’s Export dialogue but couldn’t quite get through all of them. Here in part three, we’ll pick up where we left off and cover the Output Sharpening, Metadata, Watermarking and Post-Processing panels, as well as how to create custom user presets and execute multi-batch processing. You can follow along by opening the Export dialogue in Lightroom Classic. To open it, select an image and then go to the File menu and then to Export.

Output Sharpening

Fortunately, there’s not much to consider in the Output Sharpening panel in the Export dialogue. This panel isn’t where the real sharpening happens, so to speak. So, don’t let this panel’s limited features discourage you. This panel is supposed to recreate the sharpened look you create in Lightroom’s Develop module and in the Detail panel. That’s where you sharpen first to make the edges and detail of your image look the way you want it to look. Thus, the first phase of sharpening in the Develop module is referred to as Input Sharpening, and the second phase—and the name of this panel—is called Output Sharpening.

Abobe Lightroom Sharpening panel.

Figure 2. The Sharpening panel consists of two dropdown menus. One selects the intended medium for your export, and the second determines how much sharpening will be applied.

Output Sharpening is applied to your image based on what size you’re exporting it as and, to a lesser degree, what you’re exporting your image for. The panel itself only offers a couple of choices. Once you’ve checked the Sharpen For box, as shown in Figure 2, the first dropdown menu allows you to choose between whether you intend to view your image on a Screen, on Matte Paper or on Glossy Paper. Next, you can choose between Low, Standard or High amounts of sharpening to be applied to your image. It’s as simple as that.

My only suggestion here is to stick with Standard sharpening. You’ll know after you’ve exported it if your image needs a little bit more or a little bit less, but if you’ve done your Input Sharpening well, Standard almost always seems to do the trick regardless of what image size you’re exporting.

Metadata

The Metadata panel offers control over what types of metadata you attach to your images upon export. Looking at Figure 3, you can include Copyright Only, Copyright & Contact Info Only, All Except Camera Raw Info, All Except Camera & Camera Raw Info, and All Metadata.

Adobe Lightroom's Metadata panel.

Figure 3. The Metadata panel offers control over how much or little information you want included with your files upon export.

Beyond the dropdown, you have some checkboxes to consider. You can remove person or location info, and if you organize your keywords in Lightroom in hierarchies, those hierarchies can be preserved.

I always set my exports to include All Metadata and only check the box to preserve keyword hierarchies. But choose what works best for you. Of course, if you don’t want that info shared, don’t share it. I’m just part of the school of thought that all the metadata you attach to your files about copyright, contact info, location information and keywords are all added to the file for a reason, so why remove them? It doesn’t make the file any bigger. You’ll know if the info attached to your file is or isn’t meant for public consumption.

Watermarking

To watermark or not to watermark; that is the question. This is a debate that goes on and on in the photography world, and I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one. Currently, I don’t watermark when posting stuff on Instagram or Facebook—but that’s admittedly a recent development as of just a few weeks ago. There’s logic on either side of the debate. Adding a watermark adds an extra layer of protection that can discourage people from sharing your image without asking. On the other hand, it can inhibit some people from sharing your image, which is counter to one’s goals on social media, typically speaking. And unless you have a big, distracting watermark on top of your photo’s subject, watermarks are pretty easy to Photoshop out.

Whether you like them or not, here’s how you begin to create and apply them. Check the Watermark checkbox and then open Edit Watermarks from the adjacent dropdown menu. Lightroom Classic offers a few preset options, but if you want to create a watermark, it’s best that you create your own from scratch.

Adobe Lightroom's Watermark Editor.

Figure 4. A view of the Watermark Editor, which consists of three settings panels.

Selecting Edit Watermarks launches the Watermark Editor, as shown in Figure 4. The user interface consists of a viewing window on the left where you can preview your watermark. Just below the preview is a text box where you can add text, and to the right are your three settings panels: Image Options, Text Options and Watermark Effects.

The initial choice you have to make is whether or not you want to create a simple text watermark or add a graphic logo. Both choices limit the available settings panels you can work with. For instance, if you choose to create a simple text watermark, the Image Options panel is of no use. And if you choose to create a graphic watermark, then the Text Options panel is disabled. The Watermark Effects panel is useful with either choice.

Pro Tip: To have your graphic watermarks look their best, make sure they have transparent backgrounds. Since your watermark needs to be a small, low-resolution file, Lightroom limits you to using either JPEG or PNG only. Since JPEG does not support transparent backgrounds, I suggest using PNGs.

Adove Lightroom Text options panel.

Figure 5. The Text Options panel is a simple text editor offering control over how to style your watermark’s font, align it, color it or add specific effects.

When creating a text watermark, the Text Options panel works like any word or character editor. As shown in Figure 5, you can decide which font to use, how to style your font, align it, color it or add specific effects. When creating a graphic watermark, all you need to do in the Image Options panel is hit the Choose button to navigate to your saved logo to import it into the Watermark Editor.

The Watermark Effects panel is critical to putting the final touches on your watermark. You can play with your watermark’s opacity, its size, how it’s inset from your image’s edge and where it’s anchored on your photo. For the size portion of the panel, I almost always have the Proportional radio button checked and then move the slider underneath to customize the size of my watermark to taste. For reasons I hinted to earlier, I prefer to create and use watermarks that are subtle and non-intrusive to the image’s aesthetics. In Figure 6, you can see an example of what I consider a large overbearing watermark versus what I actually use (or used to use) on my images.

Examples of watermarks in Lightoom.

Figure 6. If you decide to create and apply watermarks to your images, I suggest making them subtle, so they’re not ruining your image’s aesthetics.

Once you have your watermark created just the way you like it, you need to save it as a preset, so you don’t have to redo this each time you export. To do so, simply go to the dropdown menu at the top of the Watermark Editor and select Save Current Settings as New Preset. Next, name your preset, click Create, and then each time you export one or multiple images, simply select the template you created, and your watermark will be applied to all of your images.

Post-Processing

The final settings panel in the Export dialogue is the Post-Processing panel. This allows you to choose from a set of actions that Lightroom will perform after you’ve clicked on the Export button. Open the dropdown menu and choose between Do Nothing, Open in Finder (on a Mac, or Explorer in Windows), Open in Photoshop or Choose in Other Application. I usually use Open in Finder. That option opens the folder you exported to, so you get quick access to your export.

User Presets

An example of user presets in Lightroom.

Figure 7. My set of User Presets created for my various types of exports.

Now that we’ve finally gone through each settings panel in the Export dialogue, let’s talk about how to make your export process a bit easier. The trick is in getting to know how to create User Presets. In short, User Presets are a way for you to take the settings you configure for any export and save them for future use. Notice in Figure 7, I have a set of User Presets created for all of my export needs. I created exports for high-resolution use, low-resolution use without watermark, low-resolution use with watermark for emails, and for RAW files.

Let’s create a couple of User Presets. We can create one low-resolution preset with a watermark and another without. Refer to Figure 8 below to see how I’ve configured my settings. To start, I set my Export Location panel to export to a folder titled “Exported Images” on my desktop. I’ve checked the Put in Subfolder check box, and titled my subfolder “LOWRES NO WATERMARK.” I then bypass both the File Naming and Video panels. As stated earlier in this series, unless there’s a specific reason to rename your exported files to satisfy the needs of a client or the rules of a contest, there’s more value in keeping exported files named the same as their source files.

Example of a user preset in Lightroom.

Figure 8. An example of settings I selected in creating a User Preset for low-resolution image exports without a watermark.

In the Image Sizing panel, I’ve set my Resize to Fit dropdown menu to Long Edge and my pixel resolution to 2,000. Again, as I stated previously, when defining the export size in terms of pixels as opposed to inches or centimeters, the resolution or PPI is not important, so I pay no attention to it.

Next, I’ve set my Output Sharpening to Screen and its Amount to Standard. The Metadata Panel is set to Include All Metadata. I’ve left the Watermark box unchecked and the Post-Processing panel to Show in Finder.

Once everything is set, I can save my settings. I’ll go to the lower left-hand corner of the Export dialogue user interface and click the Add button. A box appears to do this, and I name my preset like my folder, “LOWRES NO WATERMARK.” I then hit Create, and it’s done. I can now see a User Preset, and for future exports of this type, I can bypass the need to go through each panel and reconfigure my settings. I simply check the LOWRES NO WATERMARK preset and click Export.

Creating the next User Preset that’s basically the same—but this time with a watermark—is as easy as can be. I only need to make two changes to the LOWRES NO WATERMARK preset. In the Export Location panel, I change the name of Put in Subfolder to “LOWRES WITH WATERMARK.” Then I go down to the Watermark panel and choose my watermark preset. Everything else I’ll leave the same. Finally, I’ll click the Add button in the lower left corner of the Export dialogue user interface and, as before, name my User Preset the same as the folder I’m exporting to. In this case, the name will be LOWRES WITH WATERMARK. Done!

What should you do if you create a User Preset and realize you configured your settings wrong? Easy! First, select the User Preset with the wrong settings, correct them as needed, and then click on the name of the User Preset while holding down the Control key if you’re a Mac user. Or right-click if you’re a Windows user to bring up the context menu. Then, select Update with Current Settings (see Figure 9), and your User Preset will be all fixed.

Screen shot showing how to update a Lightroom user preset.

Figure 9. It’s easy to make changes to an existing User Preset with the contextual menu command Update with Current Settings.

Multi-Batch Exports

Believe it or not, we can make things even easier. If you follow my lead and create a set of presets to handle all your various output needs, you’ll be able to export an image collection in all your different formats and resolutions simultaneously.

To do a Multi-Batch export, first select an image or a set of images. Bring up your Export dialogue and then open your User Presets. In case you haven’t noticed it already, your User Presets come equipped with checkboxes. To do a Multi-Batch export, simply check all the presets you want to use; each export preset will be performed at the same time.

Lightroom's batch export panel.

Figure 10. The Batch Export panel allows you to automatically export a group of images multiple times using your selected User Presets.

The only difference with Multi-Batch exporting is that after you click Export, a Batch Export panel will appear, as shown in Figure 10. The purpose of the Batch Export box is to verify the Export To locations. If you have already incorporated such a destination in your User Preset, as we did earlier in this article, then no additional settings need to be configured. If you have not, then you can check the Choose Parent Folder checkbox at the top of the Batch Export dialogue and indicate which folder you want to export to—you’ll choose a destination with each preset individually. Ultimately, once you create a set of User Presets, Multi-Batch processing is inherently built-in, and your whole export workflow is basically automated.

So that’s a wrap on Lightroom Classic’s Export dialogue. It took us two articles to get through it, but that doesn’t mean we’re done talking about sharing. In the fourth and final article in this series, we’ll look at other ways to share beyond using the Export dialogue.

Jason Bradley has a unique set of skills. He specializes in nature and wildlife photography both underwater and above; he’s the owner and operator of Bradley Photographic Print Services, a fine art print lab; he leads photographic expeditions around the world, and is the author of the book Creative Workflow in Lightroom, published by Focal Press. Visit BradleyPhotographic.com to see more of his work and find info on his upcoming workshops and expeditions, and BradleyPrintServices.com to learn about his fine art printing services.