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Creating and Using Lightroom Smart Previews – A Quick Tutorial

for photographers

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the blog! I’m so excited to join the blogging world, sharing some of my tips, lessons learned, travel experiences, and struggles on here. Hopefully this can be an edifying and encouraging place to hang out!

Today I’m to walk you through one of the most frequently asked questions that we editors get:

“How will I send an editor my photos??”

The short answer: using the wonderful technology of Adobe Lightroom and the internet!

To begin with, let’s figure out what Smart Previews are and how to create them!

Smart previews are a thing unique to Lightroom. It is a way for you to be able to export huge catalogs (hello, 10 hour weddings) as a muuuuch smaller, more reasonably sized file. Say about 2GB of data versus 50+GB!

The program keeps all of the most important data so that when the files are imported into Lightroom by your editor, they are seeing basically the exact same quality that you are with your huge files! Crazy, isn’t it?

The main differences between Smart Previews and regular files:

  • Editor will not be able to export high quality images from Smart Previews

  • Editor will not be able to zoom as far in on Smart Previews as you can with original files

Bonus points for Smart Previews protecting your work though. 😊

How do you create this wonderful thing? Go ahead and open up Lightroom and I’ll show you how. It’s super easy.

  1. First, in Lighroom select all the photos you would like to export as Smart Previews. You could go in and select specific ones in a folder or if you want to export all images in the folder, you can do this easily by right clicking the folder in the Library module and choose to “Export this Folder as a Catalog…

    If you had specific ones selected, go to File > Export this Folder as a Catalog…

  2. Name the file and choose where to export it. (Which I did not do in below picture… oops.)

  3. You should see a few options as check boxes. Make sure the Export negative files option is unchecked. Make sure the other two ARE checked as shown below:

Click save. You just created a catalog of Smart Previews!

Whatever edits, ratings, or flags you put on any of the photos in the catalog will show up when they are imported into Lightroom again by your editor.

Now when you go to the file where you saved the catalog you should see three files:

  1. Previews.lrdata

  2. SmartPreviews.lrdata

  3. and the Lightroom catalog folder

There are many ways to transfer the files back and forth, but the most popular one by far is Dropbox. It’s free and it makes it super easy to create folders for the different catalogs and keep track of what is edited and what is not.

To import the edits to the files after an editor has worked with them:

  1. In Lightroom, click “File > Import from Another Catalog…

  2. Select edited catalog

  3. Select “Replace: Metadata and Develop settings only”

Edits should import the photos and you can now export them as jpegs and send them to your clients as normal.

And that’s it! Wasn’t that quick and easy? I tried to make it very clear and concise, but if you have any questions you can shoot me a message or let me know in the comments.

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