The Magic of Lightroom Publishing

Organizing, Managing, and Publishing Archival Quality Images Using Lightroom

“I wish everything in the world was like Lightroom” – Michael Ashley

Despite jet lag and general exhaustion from our international multi-workshop trip, CoDA’s Director of IT, Michael Ashley is taken to his happy place through Lightroom. During a 15-flight, 2-week tour of Australia last October, he is found working on some media for the Views of an Antique Land website. The media milling process we’ve figured out using Lightroom is truly amazing. This workflow has radically changed the way we work on projects at CoDA.

He’s using Lightroom 6, creative cloud edition to curate a catalogue of images, records collected of postcards, photographs, and even 3D objects through the Views of an Antique Land Roadshow Series. This project, directed by Dr. Stephen Mills and Professor Paul Nicholson of Cardiff School of History, Archaeology & Religion at Cardiff University is a study of the Eastern Front of WW1, in Egypt and Palestine. Through roadshows and online contributions, Dr. Mills and his colleagues are collecting hundreds of stories and images from the Eastern front. They hope that through this study, they can both create an image of the Ancient Landscape, which has quite a different face about 100 years later, but also share and tell the stories of the soldiers that fought on the front, and their conversations with loved ones back home.

Michael puts the finishing touches on the Lightroom Publishing workflow and transfers that knowledge back to the team in Cardiff as they prepared for their roadshow on the 25th of October. This includes taking images, shot in Pentax RAW format and copying them as DNGs while performing an intentional re-naming convention into the Lightroom catalogue. The metadata for these images is written into IPTC core fields in batch and on individual items. After all metadata is staged, Michael starts the real magic. In Lightroom, he selects the best exposures of each postcard and creates a virtual copy to perform cropping and light re-touching of the images, so they are ready for their spotlight on the web.

The Workflow

We’ve been managing media using Lightroom for years. However, there are some really key (and cool) ways that we have discovered can help us stage our Lightroom catalogs so that the export and file organization of the derivatives are fully automated. Lightroom Publishing can be set up to watch for key triggers ahead of time, and publishes them to folders on the local hard drive by version and type.

Setting up a smart Lightroom publishing workflow is simple, first set up a folder for places to go, then decide how the item will be published, for example as a jpeg without location metadata. Create a Smart Folder with criteria for publishing. We use a star and color rating system to define the Original, Archival, and Representation versions of files. Once an image meets the set conditions, it goes in the “publish” section in your catalog, then publishes the images to your preset requirements and folder at the click of a button.

Oh, and the best part is, if you change anything about an already published file, the catalog will tell you and let you republish. Smart.

Our Rating System and Settings

Here is how to proceed:


Edit the color labels by going to the menu and clicking Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit. Set your labels to:

  • Red: Representation. After metadata is embedded on originals, click Cmd + ’ to create one or more virtual copies. Crop, edit, retouch, and revise these virtual copies and label them red.
  • Yellow: Video. To quickly identify video files
  • Green: Original. Any images that are turned green are the original imports. At CoDA, we only consider DNGs as ‘original’.
  • Blue: For image series. Identifying series of images can be important for identifying photogrammetry series to export.


Develop a star rating system which works for your organization. Ours is set to:

  • 1 Star: Minimum Viable Metadata has been embedded
  • 2 Stars: Good enough for Archiving
  • 3 Stars: Selected for Press and Outreach
  • 4 Stars: Most Loved Images
  • 5 Stars: Unused, but could easily be for a superlative masterpiece.

Export Presets

These are the settings and the smart-folder triggers for each type of export:

  • Original: We only consider DNG’s as original file-types since they are copied into Lightroom as camera RAW.
    • File Settings
      • Image Format: DNG
      • Compatibility: Most Recent Version of Camera Raw
      • JPeg Preview: Full-size
      • √Embed Fast Load Data
      • √Embed Original File
    • Allow Smartfolder to match ALL of the Following rules
      • Rating: Is greater than or equal to: * (1 star)
      • Label Text is: Original
  • Archival: Only files which are originally Tiffs or Dng (RAW) will meet this criteria
    • File Settings:
      • Image Format: TIFF
      • Compression: none
      • Color Space: sRGB
      • Bit Depth: 16 bits
    • Allow Smartfolder to match ALL of the following rules:
      • Rating is greater than or equal to: **
      • File Type is not: JPEG
      • File Type is not: PNG
      • File Type is not: Video
      • Label Text is: Representation
  • Full: Any of the representation images will be exported in their original size.
    • File Settings:
      • Image Format: Jpeg
      • Quality: 80
      • Color Space: sRGB
    • Allow Smartfolder to match ALL of the following rules:
      • Rating is greater than or equal to: **
      • Label Text is: Representation
  • Representation: Any of the representation images will be exported as optimized for web
    • File Settings:
      • Image Format: Jpeg
      • Quality: 80
      • Color Space: sRGB
      • Image Sizing:
      • Resize to fit: Width and Height
      • √ Don’t enlarge
      • W: 2048 H: 2048 Pixels
      • Resolution: 300 ppi
    • Allow Smartfolder to match ALL of the following rules:
      • Rating is greater than or equal to: **
      • Label Text is: Representation

Get the full workflow

If you’re interested in learning how to manage thousands of images and video in Lightroom and have a step-by-step training, check out our training services and request a presentation for your team, or book a data therapy session to tackle file organization today.