Retroactive Previews

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Today’s Question: I have always used ‘Minimal’ under File Handing as part of the import process in Lightroom. However I have been working through your new Lightroom CC course and noticed that you use ‘Standard’ and I have certainly noticed an improvement in the time for opening previews in Lightroom. Is there any way that I can convert old imports now from Minimal to Standard, and is there anything to be gained by doing so?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is a significant improvement in the speed with which you can browse your images if you have built the Standard (or 1:1) previews for your photos. You can build these previews retroactively by choosing All Photographs from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module, choosing Edit > Select All from the menu to select all images, and then choosing Library > Previews > Build Standard-Sized Previews from the menu.

More Detail: You can think of the Standard preview size in Lightroom as being approximately the size of your monitor display, though the actual size varies depending on the current setting in the Preferences dialog. The Minimal (or Embedded & Sidecar) option for building previews during import will often be of a lower resolution. The result is that if you haven’t build Standard previews for your photos, Lightroom will likely need to generate them on the fly as you browse your images.

When Lightroom needs to build previews as you are browsing your photos, the process can be slow and frustrating. The photo will initially appear somewhat soft, and then will update when Lightroom finishes building the preview. That can take a few moments, which can certainly seem like a long time when you just want to review a photo.

If you generate Standard previews for all photos, Lightroom won’t need to build the previews on the fly, so browsing will be much quicker. Note that this relates to the Library module, not the Develop module where a preview is always updated as needed based on the source image and the adjustments you’ve applied.

If you hadn’t built previews for all images during the import process, you can most certainly generate those previews later. Start, for example, by selecting all photos in your entire catalog. You can do so by choosing “All Photographs” from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module and then choosing Edit > Select All from the menu. To build the previews for all of the selected images, choose Library > Previews > Build Standard-Sized Previews from the menu. Lightroom will then review all of the selected photos and build previews for any images that don’t already have them.

Note, by the way, that if you tend to zoom in on most of your photos, you may benefit from building 1:1 (full resolution) previews rather than Standard previews. Personally, I don’t tend to zoom in on a high percentage of my photos, so I use Standard previews rather than 1:1 previews as a general rule.