Today’s Question: Do you use Smart Previews (or not) in Lightroom [Classic]?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, I do not use Smart Previews in my Lightroom Classic workflow. I generally rely on Standard (or 1:1) previews for my general image review, and the original source image files for processing my photos.
More Detail: Smart Previews in Lightroom Classic provide some potential workflow advantages, but personally I’ve not generally found those advantages to be particularly compelling.
There are two core advantages to building Smart Previews for your photos. First, Smart Previews enable you to work with your photos, including in the Develop module, even when the source photos aren’t available. For example, if an external hard drive that contains your photos is not connected to your computer, you could still work with those photos in the Develop module if you had built Smart Previews.
In addition, Lightroom Classic includes an option (in Preferences) to favor the use of Smart Previews in the Develop module in order to speed up overall performance when optimizing your photos.
Generally speaking, I have my hard drives available when I am working in Lightroom Classic, and so I simply connect the applicable hard drive when I’m working in Lightroom. Part of the reason I prefer this approach is that I am often combining tasks such as importing new photos while reviewing existing photos, causing me to need to have my hard drive connected in any event.
I’ve also not found that the use of Smart Previews provides a significant performance advantage when working in the Develop module. Part of the reason I’ve not seen a significant benefit in this regard is that I don’t actually tend to spend very much time working with my photos in the Develop module.
To be sure, there are advantages provided by the use of Smart Previews, and many photographers may want to build Smart Previews and enable the option to prefer their use for the Develop module. I simply have not found a benefit in my own workflow that makes me feel the extra storage space required by Smart Previews would be worth consuming to achieve what I consider to be modest benefits in my workflow.