How to use Smart Previews in Adobe Lightroom!

Over the last several years, Adobe Lightroom has become the de facto editing and asset management application for wedding, portrait and event photographers. Its intuitive layout and powerful editing controls make the post-production process--although time consuming--fairly painless.

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Adobe Lightroom catalogs work by establishing a link between the proxy/preview you see in LR and the original image stored on your hard drive.  As image file sizes have increased, so has the need to store them on external hard drives.  But what if you're traveling and want to work on an image in your LR catalog but the drive with the original file isn't connected?  We've all loaded catalogs only to see [!] on a thumbnail and get the dreaded "FILE IS OFFLINE OR MISSING" message.

Enter Smart Previews!

Smart Previews allow you to edit any RAW file in LR, all without the original RAW file connected to your LR catalog!  

Think of Smart Previews as standard previews on steroids!  A Smart Preview is actually a lossy-compressed .DNG file.  You have virtually all the editing power with Smart Previews that you have with connected RAW originals, without the massive file size.  White balance, color correction, HSL, exposure, etc., can all be manipulated in the Develop panel. 

However, since the Smart Preview is only sized at 2540 pixels (long edge), edits which require a 1:1 view for their accuracy--sharpening, noise reduction, grain--are not going to be as accurate as they would if they were made on original RAW files.

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On Import

There are three ways to create Smart Previews.  The first is when importing images into a LR catalog, you'll see the "Build Smart Previews" box in the upper right corner.

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Library Module

You can also create Smart Previews in the Library module by selecting Library>Previews>BuildSmart Previews

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Catalog Export

Finally, when exporting a catalog of images, you can build Smart Previews by ticking the box in the export dialog.

If you're a busy photographer and you outsource your image culling and post-production to--ahem--RAW Honey Studio, the preferred format of your image assets is Smart Previews!

To get your assets ready for RAW Honey post-production, follow these steps:

  1. Before you import images into your LR catalog, create a "Collection" for the shoot.  If it's a wedding, it may be something like, "John-Jane-MAIN".
  2. Import the images from your shoot into your LR catalog.  You can have LR automatically place the images into the collection you created in step 1 by checking the "Add to Collection" box, then selecting from the list the catalog you created.
  3. Click Import.
  4. Next, create a "Collection Set" for the shoot.  For example, if you're a wedding photographer, the title of your set may be "060118 John + Jane".  This naming convention keeps the Collections panel organized.
  5. Now, drag and drop the Collection ("John-Jane-MAIN") into the Collection Set ("060118 John + Jane"), so that the Collection is a subdirectory of the Set.

Okay, so now you're ready to send us your assets!  Here's how:

  1. Right-click your Collection Set and select "Export this Collection Set as a Catalog..."
  2. Specify the name and location of the exported collection.
  3. For the checkboxes at the bottom of the export dialog:
    • UNCHECK "Export Negative Files"
    • CHECK "Build Smart Previews"
    • CHECK "Include Available Previews"
  4. Click Export Catalog.

You can then upload the folder of assets to the private Dropbox folder we've sent you.  Now, since you're not culling and editing, you can take advantage of all the free time you'll have!

If you're a busy photographer looking to free up your life, give us a call!