Smart Previews in Lightroom 5

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What are Smart Previews?

Current digital cameras take massive raw photos! While most sit around 20MBs, some can hit upwards of 60MBs each! After a day of shooting, you can find yourself with a few gigabytes of photos. Instead storing photos on a computer’s hard drive, many users choose to use an external hard drive for their photos.

Here’s the problem. If you’re a laptop user, your internal hard drive space can be quite limiting. Storing all your raw photos will fill it up very quickly! So if you decide to store your photos on an external drive, you previously had to bring that drive with you to edit your photos.

No more with Smart Previews!

In Lightroom 5, your raw files no longer need to be online in order to edit them. When Smart Previews are generated for your photos, Lightroom stores a ‘slim’ version of the original, allowing you to edit your photos, even when the massive raw file is offline!

Enabling Smart Previews

There are a few ways to build Smart Previews. When you are importing your images, check the “Build Smart Previews” field in the File Handling Panel, as seen below.

Lightroom 5 Smart Previews

Additionally, if you would like the “Build Smart Previews” checkbox enabled by default, in your Lightroom Preferences, you can turn on “Build Smart Previews During Import“.

Lightroom 5 Smart Previews

What about for existing photos?! Don’t panic! Under the Library > Previews menu, you can choose to build Smart Previews for your existing photos!

Lightroom 5 Smart Previews Menu

Working with Smart Previews

In the case that the original image is offline, the Smart Preview comes to the rescue to take its place. This is only until the original comes back online, of course. During this time, you can continue to make adjustments to your image, which Lightroom 5 will remember, and once the original image makes an appearance, the adjustments you made to the Smart Preview will be applied to the original, as well!

Notes About Smart Previews

– Exporting as an ‘Original’ is not available while a Smart Preview is active, as the original file needs to be online.
– Smart Previews can be published (Facebook, email, etc).
– Quick develop works with Smart Previews.
– Zooming to 1:1 may seem different, as Smart Previews tend to be smaller than the original image.

Learn more about Lightroom 5! Click here!

  • Wyndham Hollis

    Useful point to note: If you are creating smart previews on Import, LR does it when the import process ends not during it, so don’t panic if looking at a file that has just been added to the catalog describes it as the original.