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You've Got Mail

"Oh, yes, wait a minute Mister Postman…"

It's been some time since those lyrics came out of speakers everywhere. Yet, mail, in its many forms, is still an important means of communication. Today, of course, we use email. In previous versions of Lightroom there was an email export preset that helped to gather images that we could attach to our emails. We soon discovered that some email clients would accept the output of the export preset and we added them as the Post-processing action and that smoothed the workflow a bit.

Lightroom 4 Beta has added an email feature which promises to develop into a nice workflow solution. At first glance it is still very much in the beginning phase. That is it is marginally useful. However, the fact that the Lightroom team has added the feature is encouraging. So let's take a look at how it works.

Suppose we have done some headshots for an up and coming actor. We've talked about the shots and he has asked to see the final image, a soft proof, and a black & white version for a poster. We select the images in preparation for emailing smaller versions in order to get some feedback.

Click for full size imageOnce selected we get to the new Email Photos… feature by right clicking on one of the images and choosing it from the contextual menu.

Click for full size imageYou can also reach it from the File menu.

Click for full size imageLastly, you could use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Command+M (Shift+CTRL+M in Windows). This will open the email dialog.

Click for full size imageAt the top you can add a Cc field, Bcc field, or access your address list (1). You can set up multiple email accounts to send from and choose them from the dropdown (2). There are full formatting features available as well as an optional ruler (3). The images you have chosen appear below the message body. If you have captioned your images you can elect to include those captions as descriptive labels (4). And, finally, you can decide what size and quality the images should be when attached.

All this is pretty neat. One of the things at the moment that makes this a bit less useful than it could be is the address list. Right now it is a totally independent list that does not read from your address book, doesn't automatically remember addresses you send emails to, and has no provision for synching to any other address list. Disappointing. But as I said, this is a first step.

Back to our example. Here is our finished email to the client.

Click for full size imageOn the receiving end we can see the email, the 500px medium quality images, complete with descriptive labels! (I've cut off the image but trust me, all three were attached. )

Click for full size imageIf the attachment presets provided don't meet your needs you can define your own. When you are in the email dialog pull down the Preset menu and choose Create new Preset option.

Click for full size imageThis will bring you to the familiar Export preset dialog.

Click for full size imageHere we've created a preset that adds our watermark to the images. Save your preset. Now when you are in the email dialog that preset is available.

Click for full size imageNow our images have a watermark!

Click for full size imageI mentioned that you could set up multiple email accounts. If you click the From dropdown you will see an option to go to the Email Account Manager.

Click for full size imageOnce there you can define a new email account by pressing the Add button.

Click for full size imageLightroom can fill in the server details for you for AOL Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. If you are setting up an account on your own server choose Other and provide the details. Put in your address and password then press Validate.

Click for full size imageIf everything is in order your should see the green light and Validated will appear below the account name. Now that account is available from the dropdown in the email dialog.

One more thing to note. If you choose a native email client (such as Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) then the message body field will not be presented. Instead, once you fill out the remaining options Lightroom will hand off the email to your email client for you to enter a message and send.

It's a start! I hope this feature gets some attention from the team and grows in its functionality. In any event, give it a try and let me know what you think.