Automating Photo Publishing with Lightroom

Lightroom Published Photos
Lightroom Published Photos

Lightroom Published Photos

If you’re anything like me, you’re a really keen picture-taker, a fairly keen editor, and a grudging filer. Somehow publishing can get lost, but it’s publishing that allows people to actually see your work. Without publishing it, it’s like it’s never happened.

But, once you’ve shot, imported, keyworded, filed, chosen and edited your shots, it’s too easy to simply do nothing at all with them. Or too easy to feel that there’s one last edit that will transform the shot from OK to awesome.

These are excuses. Get publishing!

And I’m not addressing you exclusively, dear reader. I’m as guilty of it myself. For example, after my star trail fail, I’ve actually taken a star trail I’m really happy with, but have I shared it here?


Fortunately, Lightroom has features which can help. In this article, I’m going to illustrate with Jeffrey Friedl’s excellent jf Flickr export tool, but others are available, and LR’s built in Facebook publishing service is probably one of interest to most people.

A note on Publishing Services in Lightroom.

Lightroom Publishing ServiceThis was explained to me really well in a blog post that I’ve since forgotten the whereabouts of. Basically, if you want to export a photo to — for example — email to someone, then you use LR’s excellent built in Export tools. However, that’s quite a fire-and-forget mechanism. It’s Export and be done. If you want an ongoing relationship with the files you’ve exported, you should use the Publish Services, which you’ll find down on the bottom-left in the Library module.

These allow you to set publishing destinations. You can then drag the photos you want to publish, and the next time you tell Lightroom to Publish them, the collections are updated in the destination. This is useful if — for example — you wish to use Lightroom to unpublish a shot. Remove it from the Publish destination in LR, and at the next publish, the shot is removed from the destination.

Next, think of these services in terms of Lightroom’s Collections functionality. It works the same way, you just specify an external relationship for the collection, rather than it beginning and ending with a virtual grouping in your LR catalogue.

Smartening your Collections

OK, so where the power lies in this is that you can create Smart Publishing Collections. In the screenshot above, the collections with the cog (Food & Drink and Edinburgh Christmas Market) are smart collections, whereas the ones with arrows are standard collections constituent of images you manually place therein.

LR auto-populates smart collections based on logic that you set. So as you go about your normal business of importing, categorising, assessing and generally mucking about with your photos, Lightroom silently goes about sticking them in publishing collections for you. Once you’re happy with what you’ve done, a single button click takes care of it for you.

Lightroom smart collection

In this example, I am publishing Food & Drink shots into a Flickr set. Any image with the keyword “Food & Drink”, and which I rate as four star or above is automatically published to the set. I establish these rules in advance, one time, and LR goes on and on, publishing on my behalf. I don’t have to remember which collections, which sets, which rules. The trick here is obviously configuring the Smart Collection rules to your established behaviours.

You are Keywording, right?

Lightroom Metadata panelLR’s power as a cataloguing tool comes from the right hand panel of the Library module, not the left. If you’ve got a massive folder structure and not much in the way of a Keywords structure, you’re really not making as much of LR as you should be. If you build a keywording structure (read “The DAM Book” by Peter Krogh for more on this, even though he slags off LR as not being good enough for the task), you can build real searchability into your catalogue. After all, a successful workflow isn’t about putting images into your catalogue, it’s about getting them out.




So, the general thrust of this post is this:

      • Keyword your images and add meaningful star ratings to them.
      • Configure Smart Publishing Collections for specific image types that you want to publish automatically.
      • Sit back while Lightroom looks after things for you.