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I've been trying to find the differences between these two options, but have not yet been successful. For the purposes of this question, I will assume that my end goal is to "export" the images to my hard drive in .jpg format, either using the "Export" option or the "Publish" option.

So far, I have come up with these differences, although I'm not certain about all of them:

  • With the Publish option, you can retract the exported images simply by removing it from Lightroom. The Export option is only one-way, so you'd need to delete the exported photo manually.
  • With Export, if you make changes to images after exporting already, you need to find the modified images manually and then re-export them. With Publish, photos with changes since the last publish are automatically detected and exported on the next Publish.
  • If you want to export a certain set of images, you need to select them and open the Export dialog, otherwise with Publish you need to select the images, drag them to the Publish collection, and then hit publish.
  • With Export, there is the ability to make many presets and even various folders containing presets which are in general very easy to change. With Publish, you don't have this level of organization. Instead, you must make a new "Publish to Hard Drive" service every time you want to export using different settings.

Are these differences accurate? Are there any other differences (advantages/disadvantages) I'm overlooking? I'm wondering this because I am considering switching over to a different mode of exporting photos.

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The publish tool is a way to link 'Exported' JPEG images to the lightroom original files. It's very useful for batch exporting where you may adjust lots of images in one go. The benefit with publishing to hard-drive is that if you suddenly decide you want to adjust the white balance across all the images in a set you can do so in lightroom, click re-publish and all your 'Exported' JPEGs will be updated without the need of you manually exporting the files.

Of course, this will only work if lightroom know where to find the Published 'Exported' files. So, if you move them or edit them outside of lightroom this link will be broken, but in general it’s a great tool.

Edit, fixed annoying typo!

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  • Thanks for the reply! That totally makes sense. However, I wish it allowed proper support for presets—otherwise I would have used it over Export options – Skeleton Bow Aug 5 at 13:42
  • No problem @Skeleton Bow, What sort of presets are you talking about? and what sort of process do you currently run with the standard export tool? – Jack Soldano Aug 5 at 13:47

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