Which Previews to Build


Today’s Question: Another instructor recommended using the “Embedded & Sidecar” option for Build Previews when importing into Lightroom Classic to maximize performance. Do you think that’s the best option for previews?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do not recommend using the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option when importing into Lightroom Classic, but instead recommend the “Standard” preview option.

More Detail: When you import photos into Lightroom Classic you can choose what type of previews you want to have built. Those previews are what are used to browse your images in the Library module, for example. You can even view your photos even if the source files aren’t available (such as when an external hard drive is disconnected) based on those previews.

The available options for previews are Minimal, Embedded & Sidecar, Standard, and 1:1 (meaning full resolution). The way I look at it, you can think of Standard previews as being the required minimum previews when browsing photos in the Library module, meaning when you’re browsing photos if a Standard preview doesn’t already exist Lightroom Classic will build one. There can be a brief delay in building the preview, during which time you will be looking at a lower-resolution (and therefore lower quality) preview. You might even mistakenly think the photo is out of focus because of that preview discrepancy.

In other words, Standard previews are going to be built for your photos eventually, so I feel it is best to get that work out of the way right at the point of importing new photos into Lightroom Classic. That means selecting the Standard option from the Build Previews popup when importing photos.

Note, by the way, that the 1:1 previews are only needed when you zoom in beyond 100% for a photo. Those previews will be generated on the fly as needed, but if you tend to zoom in beyond 100% for most of your photos, you may want to choose the 1:1 preview option on import. Just note that by default those 1:1 previews will be deleted automatically after 30 days, though you can change that setting on the File Handling tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.