Smart Previews in Lightroom 5

One of the new features in Lightroom 5 that I was excited to hear about was smart previews. With smart previews you have the ability to import your photos and have Lightroom build a lossy 2540 pixel DNG file that is stored with your catalog not with the original files. This gives you a high quality image to work with but at the same time saves a lot of space vs. a RAW file. So if you wanted to import a group of RAW images from a shoot and build them as smart previews you can leave the RAW’s on an external drive and work on the smart preview files on your computer. For anyone with a smaller SSD drive that travels a lot this can be pretty helpful.

To create smart previews check the box when importing a new set of files.

smart previews lightroom 5

Once these render you don’t need the original RAW files anymore to edit the images. In this example I imported a folder of RAW images from a external drive and then once the smart previews where created I then ejected the external drive. You can always see the status of what you have access to in the develop module under the histogram. Here you will see if you have the Smart Preview and Original file available.

smart previews lightroom5

Since these are high quality DNG files you still get a good resolution but at a fraction of the size. In the test folder that I imported it had 123 RAW photos that took up 1.70GB of space. But the smart previews only were 126MB, that’s less than 10% of the original size! And to get an idea of the quality you still get with these previews check out this side by side comparison. This is a 100% crop of an image with a JPEG of the original on the left and a JPEG of the smart preview on the right. Very little difference between the two even though the smart preview is very small in size.

smart previews compare

Smart Previews are really easy to use and a great addition in my opinion to Lightroom 5. What do you think about these new previews? Let me know in the comments below!

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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