The power of Smart Previews in Lightroom.

When you create a smart preview in Lightroom while importing or after importing from menu, what exactly have been done by Lr?

Lightroom creates a lossy, small dng copy from the primary DNG or from the original RAW file. The size of the file could be in the range of 1-3 Megabytes and the longer side of the smart preview file is 2540 px. Imagine you have raw file ranging from 25 megabytes to 35 megabytes and it is duplicated smartly to a much smaller size. The smart preview file been saved inside the Lightroom catalog itself, along with the instructions you might apply while developing. As the name denotes, this is one of the smartest ways of working with Lr. Keep your primary/original raw files in external HDD and create smart previews while importing it into Lr.

What are the advantages in working with smart previews?

  • Your Lr suddenly starts working in blazing fast, since it needs to deal with a small file.
  • For developing and exporting, you don’t have to connect your external HDD/NAS drive for small-sized exports. All the exports can be  done from the dng file itself as long as the longer edge is kept not more than 2540 px. Or in other words, to print till 5” * 7” size.
  • A lot of HDD space savings in your computer, especially when you are working in a laptop with SSD.
  • You are always having a copy of all your photographs with you in the form of smart previews. When you meet a potential client, you are always ready for an instant slide show of your work (provided you have done some base work with the intention so, like keywords). Assuming you are using a laptop, if it is a Desktop/Mac the question does not arise at all.

Other things to note with regards to smart previews

For full-sized export or larger than 2540px, you need to connect your external drive / NAS.

  • All the metadata and develop settings are updated with your original file as soon as you connect your external drive.
  • The file details are displayed below Histogram, whether you are working with the Smart preview or with Original file or with both.
  • Smart preview-Lr
  • Purely Photography
  • If you do not need smart previews which you have created earlier, you can discard it. To do the same, just click the small rectangle symbol below Histogram. In the dialog box which pops out, click discard smart previews.
  • When you are working in Library module – Whether the file is an original or smart preview can be seen in the film strip or from the grid view, looking at the right top of the grid cell. A small filled rectangle with dotted line on its periphery will be displayed if it is a smart preview.
  • PurelyPhotography
  • If you wish to edit your images further in other apps like Photoshop, Silver Efex, or any other external apps, you need to connect your HDD as it is required to create a separate psd, tiff or jpeg file to work with.


My latest way of working in Lightroom:

  • Copy the RAW files from the camera’s memory card to Desktop. (Format the memory card in camera before the next shoot)
  • View the RAW files via Faststone viewer (free version) and delete the unwanted ones. Further discarding will be from Library module by simple flagging and unflagging method.
  • Make a copy of the folder to the external HDD’s Lightroom folder [this folder is a primary organised one and linked with Lightroom catalog. Lightroom → 2014 → November → (Shoot name)] and cut paste the folder from desktop to the backup drive.
  • Fire up Lightroom and start the import process [Just Add the folder to the catalog with 1:1 preview and smart preview creation].

Cheers & Happy Photographing.

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