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Using Lightroom Presets to optimise your image sizes for social media

Nico Technique, Social Media Leave a Comment

Adobe Lightroom is a very powerful piece of software with a myriad settings which can be changed.

Luckily having made lots of changes, we can save these settings as a preset. Presets can then be selected at a later date, meaning all the previously saved editing settings will be remembered and applied to the image instantly.

Export Presets are particularly useful – settings which are applied when exporting images to your computer – because different social media platforms require different sizes and shapes for our images, if they are to look their best.

For example, Instagram uses a square format and is optimised for images of 1080px wide and tall.

Facebook, on the other hand, is known to compress images which are not of specific sizes, downgrading the quality substantially. To avoid this we have to upload at either 960px or 2048px on the longest side. If we upload at 1600px, Facebook will resize the image down to 960px and compress it as well, resulting in a much degraded image.

Fortunately, it is straightforward to enter the correct settings into Lightroom so that the resulting images are appropriate for use on social media. We can also save those size settings as presets so that we do not have to re-enter them every time we want to create an image for a different platform. Here’s how I do it…

Once our image is edited to look the way we want, it is time to enter the export settings we wish to use.

Let’s create an image for Facebook this time.

In the Develop Module, there are three ways to open the Export dialog:

  • Choose Export from the File menu.
  • Click the Export Button (next to Import, bottom left of the screen, above the thumbnail strip)
  • Click Ctrl-Shift-E (Command-Shift-E on a Mac)

Make sure Hard Drive is chosen as the Export To: at the top of the dialog.

export dialog 1

Let’s work through the dialog from the top:

Export Location

Export To: I always set this option to Choose folder later (useful for presets) because sometimes I want to send files to different folders, e.g. iCloud or Google Drive depending on whether I want to use the image on my phone or computer. When exporting to your computer, I recommend always saving to the same folder. It is easier to clear up files later.

Existing Files: gives us options in the event that there are already files with the same name in our destination folder. Select Ask what to do.

File Naming

I always rename my files before we get to the export stage, so this option isn’t relevant. I highly suggest you rename all the files from a particular shoot as part of your editing process. It makes files much easier to find in future searches if they have not still got the original file name they acquired in the camera!
If you prefer to rename your file at this stage there are useful template options provided.

Video

Not relevant in this example.

File Settings

These are very important.

File Format: 95% of the time this is going to be JPEG. Photographic images have millions of colour variations, which is why this standard was invented. JPEG keeps file sizes manageable without losing quality, see below.
There are some users who prefer to upload PNG files to social media. PNG (pronounced “ping” when spoken) is a fabulous format which includes transparency and colour-number options making it perfect for logos and illustrations. For photographic images, though, file sizes are large.

Color Space: for social media we need to always set this to sRGB. This is the colour space which computer screens use, so it is perfect for all online use.

Quality: JPEG images have a sliding scale of compression, represented here by the Quality option. Leaving this at 100% will result in no compression for your image, resulting in a large file size. Choosing a value of 30% would compress the image more, giving us a small file but with reduced quality. There has been lots of research into this where scientific methods have shown that realistically you cannot see any loss in quality down to about 80%, which is where I set mine. These smaller files are easier to upload, or email.

Limit File Size To: I don’t use this option for social media, but sometimes I find myself being asked to upload an image (normally a logo or avatar) which has a maximum size, at which point this option is useful.

Image Sizing

Again, this section is very important.

Resize to Fit: make sure this is selected and that Long Edge is the choice from the drop down menu.

Enter 2048 pixels in the size box. Ignore the resolution, which is only relevant for output for printing.

Output Sharpening

Output For: Set to Screen.

Amount: High.

People get much too obsessed with sharpening. It is easy to ruin an image by sharpening it too much. Check the image which you export and change the amount downwards if necessary.

Thankfully Lightroom is relatively gentle in the way in sharpens. I suggest applying most of your sharpening in Lightroom (I typically take the slider to 80, leave the radius and apply 25 of masking, more if the image is a portrait) before you export and then adjust it to taste here, depending on the reduction in image size.

If you really want control over your sharpening here is a simple workflow enabling you to change your sharpening very accurately so you can change it from image to image.

  1. Edit your image in Lightroom until you are ready to export it for social media.
  2. Use Ctrl-E or Command-E to open your image in Photoshop.
  3. In Photoshop, use Image > Image Size (Alt-Ctrl-I, Alt-Command-I) to resize your image to 2048px on the longest side (don’t worry about what the other side becomes).
  4. Use Ctrl-1 (Command-1) to view the image at 100% size.
  5. Hit Ctrl-J (Command-J) to duplicate the background layer.
  6. With the new layer selected, go to Filter > Other > High Pass.
  7. Select a low value, perhaps 1 or 2 and then tweak that value until you can only just see the details of the image through the grey high pass filter. Click OK.
  8. If you wish to protect some areas of the image from being sharpened you can add a layer mask to the High Pass layer at this point.
  9. Changing the blending mode of the new layer to Overlay (more subtle sharpening) or Vivid Light (less subtle) to taste. Use the eye icon next to the new layer to see the before and after sharpening you have applied. If you feel the sharpening is still too much you can reduce the opacity of the new layer to tone it down a little.
  10. Use File > Save As to save the file wherever you like. Make sure you choose JPEG as the output file type and that sRGB is the color profile too. Failing to do this will result in very odd looking images if you try to upload them to social media, which is sRGB specific.

Metadata

I choose privacy where possible with my metadata. I want all the metadata I have added, but not necessarily all the metadata about my camera settings and the changes I have made to the RAW file when I edited it.

Include: select All except Camera and Camera RAW Info.

Unselect the other options.

Watermarking

I strongly believe that adding a watermark to your images is essential if you are to prevent your images becoming orphans. By this I mean that your images are taken from social media and used by other people as if they were their own. This could be on the same social media platform, another social media platform, or elsewhere on the internet. An image can quickly lose its “ownership” in this way, unless a watermark is clearly visible, in which case at least your rights as the creator of an image stand a better chance of being recognised.

To this end it is important to set up the watermarking section of the export dialog properly.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a designer-made watermark image to apply, Lightroom will let you make a simple text watermark just as easily.

Let’s get started.

In the Watermarking section, make sure the checkbox is ticked, then choose Edit Watermarks from the dropdown list.

watermark editor

In this example I have created a text-based watermark using the copyright symbol (hold down Alt and type 0169). You will notice you can change the font, style, alignment, opacity, size and position of the text.

When you are happy with how it looks make sure to save it as a watermark preset – yes another type of preset!

Choose Save Current Settings as New Preset from the dropdown menu at the top of the dialog.

save watermark as preset

Then give your new creation a name and click Create.

text watermark preset

Then click Done to exit the Edit Watermark dialog.

OK, from now on you can select Text as the Watermark Style in the Export dialog:

text watermak chosen in

If you already have an image-based watermark then the same procedure can be used to position your watermark file and adjust its opacity.

Start by choosing the Graphic option in Watermark style at the top of the dialogue:

image based watermark

Then you can choose the options you want from the Opacity, Size, Inset and Anchor (position) settings.

Don’t forget to save your watermark preset (yes a preset within a preset) by choosing Save Current Settings as New Preset from the dropdown at the top left of the dialog, as before.

Click Done when you have finished to return to the Export dialog.

Post Processing

Not relevant for this preset.

In the next section we will learn how to save and organise our presets.

Saving and Organising our Presets

On the left of the Export dialog is the Preset panel. At the bottom of the panel are buttons for Add and Remove.

Click the Add button.

You will be presented with a dialog asking you to name your preset:

new preset

You can also choose to store your preset in a folder depending on what the preset is for:

name and folder choice

You will notice I have several folders here already.

HLH is a client specific folder. Pointing contains presets for point to point image use – one of my voluntary roles. Prints is a useful folder which contains presets for exporting images in different print sizes and makes exporting images for printing a lot quicker. Finally Social is the folder I use for exporting images for social media.

Let me show you:

social presets

I try to name my presets in a uniform manner so I can find them quickly and easily. You will have your own naming conventions no doubt.

First comes the number of pixels on the longest side, then the position of the watermark – different images suit different watermark positions.

Now that we have created a preset let us consider why different ones are useful for different purposes.

Moving Presets

Let’s say you want to reorganise your presets into different folders to the ones they are in at present.

  • Click and hold on the name of the preset
  • Drag the preset to the new folder.

Easy!

Deleting a Preset

To remove a preset completely, click on the name of the preset to highlight it, then click the Remove button to remove it completely.

In the next section we are going to discuss why a number of presets can be useful, what the different settings are, and why.

Presets for Different Platforms

Facebook

Facebook remains one of the most popular sites on the internet, but it is also one of the trickiest when it comes to uploading files of the correct size.

The TL;DR version is this. For normal posts on your personal timeline or your Page (you have a page, right?) there are two sizes which Facebook doesn’t compress in a horrible way: 960px on the longest side, and 2048px on the longest side.

File settings are always JPEG, sRGB and a quality of 80-90. Why this quality? Well, there is no noticeable difference between 100% and 80% but I feel 100% means a much larger file size and therefore more chance of being compressed on upload. Reducing to, say, 85% means much more manageable files too.

The choice as to which of these sizes to use is up to you but could be influenced by whether you have gone into your Facebook settings and disabled the downloading of images from your account. If you haven’t then a 2048px file is a nice size for someone to steal, with or without a watermark, Furthermore you can expect to see you image on Pinterest very soon, probably edited to remove your watermark and any recognition of your skill as the photographer.

If you upload with a file size between these two, or do what a lot of photographers do and upload a full size file which has not been resized at all, then prepare to be disappointed.

Facebook has a particularly harsh compression algorithm and it results in uploads which look blurred and lack detail.

In addition to file size make sure your image is watermarked and in the sRGB color space. Every day I see photographers online complaining that their images don’t look the same online as they do on their computer. This is normally the reason why. Luckily our export preset in Lightroom is set to ALWAYS output as sRGB so that isn’t a problem for us but if you move over into photoshop to edit your image more it is easy to forget to convert it back when exporting from there.

Export settings for Facebook

File Type: JPEG.
Color space: sRGB
Quality: 85%.
File size: 960px or 2048px on the longest side.
Sharpening: Normal or High (see first module for a quick and easy way to control sharpening more)
Watermark: I create several presets with watermarks in different places. This way I can look at an image and work out where the watermark would sit best and choose that preset.

Instagram

Instagram presents us with different problems.

Despite being now owned by Facebook, that wasn’t always the case. Instagram started life as a mobile phone-only platform, and even now using it from any device which isn’t a phone is problematic.

The biggest difference between Facebook and Instagram is that Instagram is designed for a square, 1-to-1 image aspect ratio. To a certain extent, Instagram will compensate if you upload an image which isn’t square, but there is little leeway.

Given that Facebook doesn’t mind what aspect ratio you upload, you might decide to crop all your social images into a square format.

As far as image size goes, I recommend 1080px square, or at least on the long side.

I have read accounts of how some Instagram users stick to the Facebook format of 2048px but when I try that it seems to me that Instagram downgrades the image. Something to try at least. If you upload at 1080px you can be confident that your images will look tip top.

File Type: JPEG.
Color space: sRGB
Quality: 85%.
File size: 1080px on the longest side. Try 2048px if you like.
Sharpening: Normal or High (see first module for a quick and easy way to control sharpening more)
Watermark: I create several presets with watermarks in different places. This way I can look at an image and work out where the watermark would sit best and choose that preset.

Twitter

Whether you use Twitter on your phone, a tablet or a 32″ 4K monitor, it presents your timeline in a narrow column, and is therefore more biased towards portrait images. If you do upload landscape images, no harm will come to them but the display size will be limited to the timeline column on the device you are using.

Compression will take place if you upload enormous files so I suggest judicious downsizing to keep your image from being mangled.

File Type: JPEG.
Color space: sRGB
Quality: 85%.
File size: 1200px on the longest side.
Sharpening: Normal or High (see first module for a quick and easy way to control sharpening more)
Watermark: I create several presets with watermarks in different places. This way I can look at an image and work out where the watermark would sit best and choose that preset.

Pinterest

Generally it doesn’t matter too much what shape your images are for Pinterest. Having started out as a place for people to “pin” images they find on the web and create collections, Pinterest has now developed into a sort of search engine. People now post their own images on Pinterest in the hope of funnelling the user away from there and onto their own site.

This is often done with eye-catching images which feature the title of the target blog post or article. Some of these images are now very long thin portrait orientation images or infographics

File Type: JPEG.
Color space: sRGB
Quality: 85%.
File size: 1200px on the longest side.
Sharpening: Normal or High (see first module for a quick and easy way to control sharpening more)
Watermark: I create several presets with watermarks in different places. This way I can look at an image and work out where the watermark would sit best and choose that preset.

Tumblr

Tumblr does not have a bias towards images of a particular shape but does have size limits and bugs which affect images of large size so make sure you:

Reduce image size to something akin to 1000-2000px on the long side

Reduce quality to around 80-85%.

Using a single Preset

Using the presets you have created couldn’t be easier.

First of all, though, we need to edit our image to the point at which you are ready to export it to social media.

Make sure you have cropped it to a suitable shape (squareish for Instagram – and lots of others, or maybe portrait for Pinterest – whatever takes your fancy)

Ctrl-Shift-E brings up the Export dialog in Windows, Cmd-Shift-E on a Mac.

lightroom export dialog preset selected
A single preset selected and ready to export

Now we just select the preset we wish to use in the window on the left and click Export.

Because the Export Location is set to Choose folder later, Lightroom will now ask us where we wish to save the exported file. Choose a folder and click Select Folder and voila, our image is exported with all the preset settings.

Using Multiple Presets

We often want to post an image to more than one social media platform at the same time and recent versions of Lightroom have made that much easier.

Here is the export dialog again:

lightroom export dialog presets selected
Multiple presets selected

This time you will notice that in the Presets panel I have selected two presets by clicking in the tickbox next to them.

One will output my image with settings for Instagram, the other for Facebook. Both will put the watermark in the top left of the image.

Again, when we choose Export Lightroom will ask us for the destination folder, one for each preset, in case we wish them to go to different places.

Summary

So, Lightroom’s Export Presets are a nice way to save a group of settings we use regularly. We can simply choose them at the click of a mouse and not have to enter them all separately each time we use them.

This makes saving files with the correct settings for various different social media platforms very straightforward.

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