As a photographer, you know that capturing those amazing photos is just the beginning of the process. The second half of the battle comes the moment you stick those memory cards in your computer. Editing can take hours upon hours and the more time you spend before uploading and delivering the final photos, the more potential there is for things to go wrong.
That’s where smart previews come in.
If you’re not familiar with smart previews, they are a feature in Adobe Lightroom that allows you to edit your photos using a smaller, lower resolution version of your original file. This is especially useful if you’re working a camera that spits out huge files. By creating a smart preview, you can edit your photos without having to access the original file every time, which can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Since Adobe added them to Lightroom several years ago, smart previews have been a mainstay of my workflow. Here are why I think every professional photographer should be using them:
Back it up, back it up, back it up!
No seriously, back up your photos! Do it! This is probably the number one reason why I use smart previews for every shoot. My worst nightmare is losing photos and having to tell a couple that they are gone forever. I’ve literally had a recurring nightmare about this scenario. So one of the most important parts of my post wedding workflow is backing everything up in multiples places. Typically, I don’t go to bed after the wedding until photos are in copied to at least 5 different places. Overkill? Maybe, but again, too many is far preferable to the opposite.
Part of that process is creating smart previews after importing the photos into Lightroom. Now there is one caveat with this, smart previews can only export a low resolution version of the photos. Is this an ideal way to deliver photos? Definitely not! But would it be better than nothing? Absolutely!
It would take a wild set of events to get to the point where I lost all copies of photos but my Lightroom catalog, but it does still give me some piece of mind know there is one more layer of defense there.
Less spinning beach balls
Editing large, high-resolution files can be a real drag on your computer’s performance. By using smart previews, you can work with a smaller file size, which means faster rendering times and a smoother editing experience. Cutting off even a couple of seconds per photo can add up to quite a bit of time over the course of an entire wedding shoot.
Leave the hard drives at home
I do alot of work at coffee shops and on the road. If you’re also editing on-the-go or away from your main computer, using smart previews can make a big difference. You can create and work with smart previews on a laptop or other portable device, without having to carry around external hard drives. Then when you get back home, simply plug in whatever drive has the original files on it, Lightroom will sync it all up, and you’re good to export them.
This one admittedly doesn’t come in to play for my that often but if you’re working with a team of photographers or editors, smart previews can help streamline the process. You can easily share your smart previews with others, allowing them to edit and work with your photos without having to send over the original, and significantly larger, files. If you have an interest in outsourcing the editing of your wedding photos, this is also how most editing houses operate.
To learn more, I recommend checking out Adobe’s official walkthrough here to learn how to use smart previews.
There you have it. Smart previews are a super useful part of my workflow from speeding things up to providing one more line of defense against losing files. No go back up your photos.