If you edit on a laptop, particularly if you’re regularly travelling and using an external hard drive to store your images, you’ll know what a pain it can sometimes be to carry those external drives around with you, let alone hook them up on a whim – like, when you’re travelling on a plane or a train, for example. But without connecting them, you can’t edit your images. Lightroom simply won’t let you. Or will it?
In this video, Anthony Morganti gives us the solution with his “Ultimate Guide” to using Smart Previews within Lightroom. Smart Previews essentially allow you to keep editing your images even when the device on which the original image files are contained is not connected to your computer. Very handy if you’re often travelling and don’t always have the ability to plug in your external storage.
While portable SSDs are tiny these days – seriously, portable storage has gotten really small – it can still be a hassle to have to deal with cables and devices flying around when you’re crammed into a train or plane seat and you want to do some work. So, it can be nice sometimes to just pull out the laptop, flip up the screen and be able to get on with doing some work. Smart Previews allow you to do that.
Even though you don’t have your full-size original files in the system while working with Smart Previews, you can still export that preview out to a file of up to 2.5K pixels along the longest edge if, for example, you want to post it to social media. And then when you do need to work on the full-size original images again, all you need to do is plug your drive in and it’s all automatically synced up.
Smart Previews work by creating tiny compressed DNG raw files of your original images, which take up virtually no room at all in comparison to the originals but still provide the full native raw editing capabilities of the original. They’re not a perfect solution, as 3rd party plugins that require access to the original file to process them won’t work without… well, without access to the original file. So, you’ll need to plug your drive back in for those. But for native editing within Lightroom itself, it is a good solution to let you work on your images without having wires and drives dangling all over the place.