Using Lightroom 5 to Prepare an Image for Photo Lab Printing

Lightroom 5 makes it easy to get your favorite photos ready for printing by a photo lab. In this post, I lead you through the correct choices in the Print module to produce a JPEG file you can upload to your favorite printing service.

Start by selecting and processing your photo to look its best in the Develop module, including sharpening it using the Detail panel. Feel free to crop your image to improve its composition. You do not have to crop it to a specific size ahead of time. But if you want a specific proportion for your print (such as 4×5/8×10) you may want to keep that in mind.

 Photo1 develop LR5 copy


Choose a Template

Next, switch to the Print module. From the Template Browser in the left panel, choose a layout. For a  borderless print, I recommend starting with the Maximize Size template. Then click the Page Setup button to choose the proper orientation (horizontal or vertical) for your image. Your picture appears on the paper with a large white border around it. You will take care of this in the next step.


Photo2 Print Template


Photo3 Page Setup Win - Copy

Decide the size of paper you want to print on. Be sure the lab you are going to send the image to offers that paper size. In this case, I am going to order an 8×12 horizontal print. Now I need to tell Lightroom to make my picture that size exactly.

Size the Photo Paper

Open the Print Job section of the right panel. Under Print To: change Printer to JPEG File. Then check the box to turn on Custom File Dimensions. These start at the paper size that came with the template you chose. To get your exact size, type new numbers in the boxes. In my example, I type 12 (wide) by 8 (high). Lightroom automatically adjusts the margins to zero on all sides.


Photo4 JPEG File Custom File Dim copy


In this example, my image is not exactly 12×8 inches. A little white border shows at the top and bottom edges. To make the image go all the way to the edge of the paper, I need to enlarge it slightly. Under the Image Settings panel, I turn on the Zoom to Fill check box and the white border disappears.


Photo5 Zoom to Fill copy

Photo6 Zoom to Fill before After copy

If you notice a small gray box in the upper left corner of your picture, don’t worry. This tells you the exact size of your picture and is for reference only. It will not be printed.

Set the Resolution, Sharpening and JPEG Quality

Now that your picture is properly sized, you need to tell Lightroom the resolution and sharpening settings you want to apply. Return to the Print Job panel. Set the File Resolution to 300 ppi for prints up to 16×20 inches. (You may want to use 200 ppi for larger prints to create a smaller file at acceptable quality.)

Turn on Print Sharpening. Select the amount you want applied; I usually use Standard for my nature and architecture shots. If you are printing a portrait, you may want to choose Low instead. Then pick the Media Type. Lightroom adjusts the sharpening to match the paper surface. Unless you are ordering an inkjet print on watercolor or other textured paper, use Glossy for the Media Type.

Now set the JPEG Quality to 100. If you are ordering a very large print (16×20 inches or more), use 90 to create a smaller file but still good quality result.


Photo7 Resolution Sharpening Quality copy

Set up Color Management

Making choices for Color Management is the last part. For Profile, sRGB is the safest choice. For Intent, use Relative for the most vivid colors.

Photo8 Color Management copy

If you know the lab can accept Adobe RGB files, you may want to use that profile for slightly better quality, especially for high saturation photos. Some printing labs provide custom profiles for their equipment (especially inkjet printers). Check with the lab for more information on this process.

Finally, leave Print Adjustments turned off until you have experience with the lab. If you have calibrated your monitor, you should not need to make any adjustments here.

Create the JPEG File

Now your picture is ready to be turned into a JPEG file suitable for a quality print. Click the Print to File button at the bottom right and save the image to a folder on your desktop for easy retrieval. You can prepare multiple pictures for printing this way as long as they are all the same size. It is easy to mix horizontals and verticals by turning on the Rotate to Fit option in the Image Settings panel.

Photo9 Rotate to Fit - Print to File copy

Go to the photo lab’s web site and follow their instructions for uploading, ordering and paying for your print. Wait patiently for your print to arrive, and then admire your work when it does!

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4 thoughts on “Using Lightroom 5 to Prepare an Image for Photo Lab Printing


Useful article – but after working through the develop module (including softproofing), why not just export as jpg if the destination is a lab?

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Kathy Eyster

Roger, you can certainly export via the Library module. However, in the case of this image, the crop leaves the image just slightly smaller than 8×12 inches exactly. When I export this, I won’t see the difference until the image is printed and comes back with a thin white border. In this case, using the Print module gave me a visual preview which I was able to correct.

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Michael Diegel

Hello Kathy, Enjoyed your instruction if 2013 Summer Intensive. Thank you! I have recently sent some test print images to Whitehouse Custom Color (WHCC) and they came back unacceptably dark even though my monitor was calibrated with a X-rite Display calibrator. Luminance was set to 120 cd/m2. In order to get them more in line with WHCC, I felt that my luminance need to be set to about 90 cd/m2. Have you had any experience with WHCC and dark prints? I did not softproof the images initially. Would softproofing have improved my results? Any other suggestions?

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Kathy Eyster

Hi Michael,

I have had prints made with WHCC and have not had problems with my prints being dark compared to my calibrated monitor. In fact I recently created a new account with MPix Pro which requires the same test printing and those prints all came back as good matches also.

I would suspect that your monitor brightness of 120 cd/m2 is probably the issue. 90 cd/m2 is definitely in the ball park of acceptable luminance. So if that’s what is needed to make a good match, I would use that setting. If it makes the screen too dark for other photo editing, then you could consider using a slightly higher luminance setting (maybe 100?) and use the Print Adjustment settings in the Print Job panel to compensate in the file. This will require more testing on your part to arrive at the right amount and probably you will have to pay for the prints.

Soft proofing would likely not have made much difference as you would only be proofing to the Adobe RGB space and not a specific paper profile.

The only other consideration would be the age and/or quality of your monitor, but if you can achieve calibration, then I would not look there first for the solution.

Hope this helps,

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