Smart Previews for Develop

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Today’s Question: In Lightroom > Preferences > Performance, do you recommend enabling “Use Smart Previews Instead of Originals for Image Editing” in order to speed up performance?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, having this option turned on can improve performance in the Develop module in Lightroom, especially if the source images are of a particularly large size in terms of resolution. If you have adequate storage space for the Smart Previews and your photos have a very high resolution, I would recommend turning on this option.

More Detail: The option to use Smart Previews in the Develop module rather than the original source image enables you to potentially streamline your workflow. Put simply, enabling this option can speed up performance when applying adjustments in the Develop module.

My testing has demonstrated that the performance improvement is generally rather modest. The benefit is more pronounced with images that have a very high resolution. In other words, if you’re using a camera that has a 40-megapixel sensor you can expect a more significant benefit compared to images captured with a 20-megapixel sensor. That is because the difference in the amount of data will be more significant with higher resolution captures.

Of course, you also need to consider the amount of additional storage space required for those Smart Previews. You can generally expect to consume around 2MB of hard drive space for each Smart Preview. That isn’t a tremendous amount of space, but it can add up.

It is also possible that the preview in the Develop module based on a Smart Preview won’t be completely accurate, since the original source image is not being taken into account when working exclusively with Smart Previews.

If you are seeing slow performance in the Develop module, with adjustments taking time to be reflected in your preview images, I would most certainly recommend turning on the option to use Smart Previews in order to help improve that performance.