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2.5 Build Smart Previews for Untethered Edits

All along, I’ve been extolling the values of keeping images on an external drive. The problem comes when you unplug that external drive and take your work away from the desk. The perfect bridge to this gap is Lightroom’s Smart Previews, which allow you to keep working when you’re unplugged. Learn to build them in this lesson.

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2.5 Build Smart Previews for Untethered Edits

Earlier, we talked about keeping images on an external hard drive. In the past, if we disconnect that drive, we couldn't keep working on the images. We'd get a message, as you're seeing here, that the photos are disconnected or missing. The answer to this problem is Smart Previews which are smaller versions of your image files. They live in the same folder as your Lightroom catalog. You might not have room to keep all of your images on your laptop's hard drive, for example, but Smart Previews are much smaller and allow you to keep working even when you're disconnected from the external drive. You can see here just how much smaller the Smart Previews are than the original files. Of course, we're going to keep our original image files as well. But Smart Previews just help us bridge the gap to keep working when we disconnect from an external hard drive. My suggestive workflow is to keep your images on an external hard drive and built Smart Previews to let you keep working no matter where you are. And as I mentioned earlier, my Dropbox always holds my Lightroom catalogs so that I can keep it sync and keep working no matter which computer I'm on. To build a Smart Preview, you need to be connected to the original images. Let's build a Smart Preview for an image by going to the Library module and selecting some images. I'll press Cmd+A on the keyboard to select all here in my workspace, or you can press Ctrl+A on Windows. Then go to Library, Previews, Build Smart Previews. Lightroom will go ahead and build the Smart Previews in just a few minutes and then we'll see in the histogram that the smart preview has been built. Now right now, it's showing that I have 30 original images but here in just a minute it'll also build the Smart Previews and you'll see those represented here as well. Now once that finishes up, you'll see here under the histogram that if I hover over this icon, there are 30 original images plus Smart Previews built. And at any moment, I could disconnect my external hard drive and not even have access to my original images and keep working and editing away all my images. This is exactly how my personal workflow is set up. My external hard drive with my image files, lives on my desk, but I can pick up my laptop at any time and keep editing them, no matter where I'm at. Another way to build Smart Previews, is when we're importing images. On the File > Import Photos and Video option, you'll see here on the right side that we can tick Build Smart Previews under the file handling section to automate this process. One last thing, let's go ahead and look at how to find all images that still need a Smart Preview built for them. We can use metadata filtering to do just that. Let's go ahead and click All Photographs, and then I'm gonna hit the Backslash key on my keyboard to open the metadata option, if it's not already open. Once I click metadata, all we need to do is choose Smart Preview Status from the drop down option and choose the images that say, No Smart Preview. This shows all images that don't currently have a Smart Preview built and I can easily Cmd+A and repeat the process by going back to Library, Previews, Build Smart Previews to bridge any gaps in my workflow. You'll need to build those Smart Previews for any new image you add to your Lightroom catalog so I highly recommend doing it on import, as I mentioned just a minute ago. This brings us to the end of this lesson. Smart Previews are one of my favorite features of Adobe Lightroom because they help us bridge a gap. It allows us to keep our images on an external hard drive but keep them available to work with no matter where we're at. And I'd highly recommend implementing them in your own catalog.

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