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Inspiration

What Quality You Should Export Your JPEGs in Lightroom?

By Trevor Dayley on January 28th 2016

One of the most common things that I see among photographers is that upon their export, they have their quality slider set all the way to 100. While we feel that this will allow for the best and highest quality image, this actually proves itself to be detrimental to your workflow. So, here is my tip on how to export high-quality images all the while saving space and export time.

[Free Tutorial: Make Sure You Know These Lightroom CC Features]

What Quality You Should Export Your JPEGs in Lightroom Video

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Your Lightroom Export Settings

Putting your quality slider at 100 may have you believe that you’re getting the best image quality possible but, in reality, you’re simply bloating your files and making them larger than they need to be. Exporting your JPEGs at 80 versus 100 will equate to the same quality all the while giving you a much more manageable file size. To show you that the number on the quality slider doesn’t affect your JPEGs, I’ve gone through and exported the same image at different quality settings (starting from 100 and going down the scale) to monitor the changes in file size.

lightroom-export-settings

As you can see, the differences between exporting at 100 and 92 will already save you an immediate 20% on file size. So, when you’re exporting images for your clients, you can set your quality slider to as low as 77 without sacrificing any quality (or just going for an even 80 to makes things easier on yourself). If you’re uploading your images to your website or using them for graphics, you can even export your JPEGs at 65-70. By having your quality slider set to 80, you’re freeing up 40% of the file size you would’ve originally gotten from exporting at 100. Now you not only save space on your file storage, but this will also help your images upload and download faster.

[Rewind: JPEG FORMATS: DO YOU KNOW WHY YOU CHOOSE THE ONES YOU DO?]

Conclusion

Thanks for watching! If you would like more information about how to increase your efficiency in Lightroom, check out our Lightroom Workshop where we show you everything from how to organize your images to mastering post production. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos, tutorials, and updates!

Terms: #JPEG

Trevor Dayley is a full-time wedding photographer based out of Arizona. He has six kids and has been married for 15 years. When he is not shooting weddings, he loves helping the photo industry. He has written hundreds of articles and shared countless tutorials. In 2014, he was named one of the Top 30 Most Influential Photographers in the Industry and one of the Top 100 Wedding Photographers by BrandSmash.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Krista White

    great page… question..

    when exporting for print would you suggest output sharping? if so why, which one?

    Thank you

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  2. Lee Hawkins

    Thanks for sharing this! I usually use 92%, but I may reconsider this for certain applications after seeing this…!

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  3. Mark Romine

    Following this idea should seriously be tempered with what you plan to do with your photos in the future. Why do I say that? Because the JPG format is not a file format that is very malleable to excepting multiple edits down the road without serious loss of quality, especially if the first save option out of your RAW editor is to Save with a compression that is less than 100%. Each time you save a JPG file with a compression setting of less than 100% you are throwing away data due to the of act of compression. This will result is loss of quality especially in tonal gradations, like skies or seamless backgrounds. Plus increase JPG artifacts, ugly.

    The argument that it saves 40% more space and that it will speed up your machine, are not great supporting arguments either. Especially in this day and age of cheap HD space. For example, assuming that you are using LR as a RAW convertor, then you are already saving significant space just by the fact that you are converting your files from the RAW format to the JPG format. That is where the huge space savings actually occurs, trying to squeeze more out of your file by saving to a lower JPG compression setting is really minimal. It may represent 40% space savings from a JPG saved at a #12 setting vs one saved at a setting of #10. But in the overall scheme of things it is probably less than 5% of the overall space savings that is gained from converting the file from the RAW format. As far as speeding up your machine by using JPGs with greater compression, I don’t think so. I’ve never had a machine or even an application choke on JPG files and I’ve been working with JPG files for 21 years now. Big RAW files, yeah, they will choke a machine but not JPGs.

    Additionally following this recommendation seriously reduces your options for how you can use your files in the future and get maximum quality from them.

    Frankly, this bad advice to follow as a general rule when exporting files. You might want to do this for a specific need/reason but not for every day use.

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  4. Brad Wedgewood

    I can see the benefits to this for uploading to the web…faster load times etc… but for anything else this may just lower image quality for no good reason… Todays computers won’t struggle to open or store a 10mb file so there really isn’t any need to lower the size and quality of the file…after all we spend a bunch of money on a camera and lens combo to give us high resolution shots so why then would we purposely lower the image quality? To stop us from buying another storage drive? It seems counter productive….Export time is not an issue as I can export an entire wedding, approx 600 fullsized photos from 14bit raw to full quality jpeg in about 20 mins or so. I do lower image size when uploading to my website for lower bandwidth use and loading times but otherwise my files stay as Hi Res files. Low res files cannot be blown up properly and will lead to pixelation and color/tonal banding if tried.

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  5. Matthew Saville

    I don’t do math on the weekend, but these odd increments probably correspond almost perfectly with Photoshop’ traditional 1-12 quality scale.

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  6. Jamie Ivins

    Great article Trevor. I started setting my quality slider to 85 before last wedding season and was amazed at how much space I saved. Time to take it to 80!

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  7. Poul-Werner Dam

    Yes, but what if the site (facebook, instagram, etc) compresses your file further. When exporting for these purposes I alway use 100% (and a reduced file size). For delivery to clients, etc. I use 80%.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Agreed… if I know they’re recompressing, I decide on the resolution I’m happy with for that site and go 100% on the quality, assuming there’s not a fixed size limit. Same thing I learned for video… uploads to YouTube, etc. always recompress, and also, they use quality-judging algorithms to decide which versions of your upload to produce — which resolutions. So you’re better off with higher quality, even tough you know it’s not going to be offered directly to the viewer.

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    • Brandi Soileau

      I’ve got a question for you concerning instagram, if you happen to know the answer.. what is the trick to uploading a photo to instagram that you’ve taken on your camera and exported to a folder on your computer, without cropping anything, i.e., keeping it to instagram’s standard size? Mostly relating to vertical pictures. Also, I use Lightroom to edit/export so I’m not entirely sure what to change the settings to in the window of export, before actually hitting ‘export.’ Thank you in advance. 

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  8. Joseph Ford

    This tip I actually agree 100% with you. I go the additional step of exporting my jpeg for printing to 75% quality. You can’t see the difference.

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  9. Liam Douglas

    Great article, I always wondered if turing the quality up really made a differnece in anything other than file size.

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  10. Dave Haynie

    I think it’s a matter of how you’re using the image. For online, most people aren’t going to be pixel peeping and most people are going to be viewing on 8-bit, 1920×1080 or 2560×1440 screens (or less). In this scenario, it may well be better to compress more, to make the online experience better. That said, I’m still using higher quality settings when I upload my stuff to 500px, because in that environment, people are expecting higher quality, and as well, they can actually take a 20,000×3500 pixel panorama at a fairly high JPEG resolution. Many online sites put limits on file size, at which point you have to make decisions about resolution and JPEG compression.

    For local storage savings, not really a consideration for my rig (optimized some years ago for video, I have way more storage than I typically need for still work), but also, when you’re making JPEGs, how long do they stick around? If you’re not keeping them, it really doesn’t pay to save space just for something that’s maybe going up to the cloud or on a DVD or something. So again, concentrate on the target for that image — what makes sense for that image’s delivery?

    Here’s another thing you can do. The lossy part of JPEG compression is basically a localized low-pass filter. If you run a mild gaussian blur over the entire image, you’re much less likely to see banding and even blocking at higher compression setting.

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  11. Alex Petrenko

    Just made a quick check. At 100 and 90 everything is OK. At 80 background gradients without dithering start to show banding. At 60 first signs of losing skin texture appear (don’t try to look at the background, your eyes will bleed :) ).

    This was simple portrait, without complex areas like images with red color bordering with black.

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  12. Christian Blobner

    I guess you have to talk to Pye about this so that he can adjust the export presets for the lightroom presets system, which use 100 percent for the print exports.

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  13. Cameron Reynolds

    I use Jpeg mini Pro to further reduce the file size from LR. I have used the files exported using that plug in to print up to 30×40 in size and haven’t run into any issues. I tend to leave my quality at 100 with 300dpi and keep the pixels at the original 4000×6000 that my 24mp sensor gives me so my 24.7MB Raw file gets turned into a 1-5MB Jpeg depending on the image. Would suggest looking into it if you need to save space on your hard drives.

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  14. Rick Burgett

    Thanks for this. We old guys remember the days when .jpg artifacting was clearly visible at even modest compression rates, and consequently I’ve been hesitant to use much compression. This was a good wake up call to remind me that things have come a long way since then.
    Thanks Trevor.

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  15. Jason Ulsrud

    I traditionally print 50″ prints. To do this, I’ll open my image as a Smart Object in Photoshop, enlarge it to the size I’m going to print it as, then save it as a jpeg from Photoshop. This gives me a really good looking canvas printed images as my final product.

    When I export from Lightroom, I’ve always done it with the slider at 60. After watching this video, I exported one at 60, then bumped the slider up to 100, and to my eye, can’t really notice any difference.

    That said, however, I will likely take Trevor’s advice and export at 70 or 80 from now on.

    Thanks for the awesome video and info.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      This is fascinating to us, Jason. When you exported the image at 60 and 100 and couldn’t notice the difference, would you print that? Seems to us that a 50″ print exported from LR at 60 wouldn’t be good quality … We only print canvases from LR exported at 100 for samples, bridal shows, etc., for example. If a client wants a canvas, we do the same–make certain that image is exported at 100. We have wanted to experiment at 84, but we also didn’t want to waste the $ on that experiment. Thoughts? Thanks for this comment. Very interesting!

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    • Jason Ulsrud

      I never export my images out of LR for printing, but rather open image in PS as a Smart Image, then from there save it as a JPEG. I open in PS as a Smart Image to enlarge my native 20″ image to my printed 50″ size. This is the only way I’ve ever done it.

      The only time I export from LR is for digital images only, not for printed images.

      Does this answer your question Andy & Amii?

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Ahhh. Makes sense! Thanks for the clarification!

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    • Brandi Soileau

      Hi, can you possibly upload a screenshot of what you set your settings to in the export box before hitting export, just so I can see for reference? I’m fairly new to LR, and I just want to see some examples of good exporting settings. I only need these for digital, to upload to my blog, and also to Instagram… not print. Thanks in advance.

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  16. Andy & Amii Kauth

    You always make a convincing argument, bro. We used to export our print quality at 100% and 3500 on the long side. Now, we don’t resize at all and do 86% (I guess we’re scared to go to 80% … ha!). We also provide our clients with web quality (for that, we go 100% and 2048 on the long side so it looks pretty on FB). FYI: our process takes a long time to load into Pixieset (maybe 12 hours); that for sure has to do with the higher percentage and maybe the fact that we don’t have the highest possible internet speed?

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  17. Steven Lelham

    I usually use the slr lounge 1080p slideshow export preset and then dump them into jpeg mini to. they usually get around 1mb and those are how I post on social media or give to my clients to post on social media

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  18. Kyle Stauffer

    Thank you for this tip. I too have always kept the slider up by default. I may have to do some testing on how much the image changes when dropping the “output quality”.

    Also, what are your recommendations for output size? I typically output at 2400×3600 but have never ordered a large print from a photo re-sized to that. Always wondered what a 24″ plus print would look like at that output.

    Thanks,
    Kyle

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