Embedded and Sidecar Previews

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Today’s Question: What do you advise about the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option when importing photos into Lightroom? I import my photos as DNG.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In short, I recommend never using the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option when importing photos into Lightroom. Instead, I recommend always using either the “Standard” or “1:1” option.

More Detail: Put simply, Lightroom will always generate a “Standard” preview for any photo you browse within Lightroom. In addition, a “1:1” preview will always be generated for any photo you zoom in on. The only real question is therefore whether you want to generate those previews when you initially import the images, or whether you want to let Lightroom generate those previews as they are needed.

As a general rule, I recommend generating previews before you actually need them, so that your browsing experience will be more pleasant (meaning less frustrating).

At a minimum then, I recommend choosing the “Standard” option for previews when you import photos into Lightroom. When in doubt, this is the preview option to select.

Therefore, the only other question is whether you should generate “1:1” previews, so you won’t need to wait for previews to be generated for images you zoom in on. To me this is really a question of how frequently you zoom in on your images.

Personally, I don’t tend to zoom in on a very large percentage of my photos. I can review the overall images using the “Standard” preview, viewing the image at a full-screen size without zooming in further. I only zoom in when I have selected a potential favorite image I want to work with, and I want to check for sharpness, noise, blemishes, or other issues.

If you tend to zoom in on many (or most) of your images, I suggest building the “1:1” preview option on import. But for most photographers I think the “Standard” option is perfectly good. But I never recommend using the “Embedded & Sidecar” or “Minimal” options.

Note, by the way, that the latest update to Lightroom Classic CC (formerly Lightroom CC) includes a refined workflow for the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option. While this may help streamline overall performance in some cases, I still very much prefer (and recommend) using only the “Standard” or “1:1” preview options upon import to Lightroom.