The Outsourcing Blog


How to Create Smart Previews in Adobe Lightroom

13 August 2018

A core part of our business is the ability to be able to easily edit photos from photographers all over the world. The hardest part of this is the actual size of a large number of images and internet speeds in being able to upload/download. Thankfully this has changed as internet speeds are now faster and also improvements in software have made this process more accessible.

When Adobe released Lightroom 5 they included a new option called ‘Smart Previews’. This simply renders a 3000px long JPG image of the RAW file when the previews are created (which you can do on import or any any other time through the library module). PMC utilizes these ‘Smart Previews’ so that we can edit your catalog of photographs without needing access to the RAW files. So how does this effect you? Well you do not need to upload many gigabytes of files (which will take days). On average a 1000 photo Lightroom Catalog with Smart Previews will only be around 1 to 1.5 gigabytes in size.

We have recorded a video with instructions on ‘How to Create Smart Previews in Adobe Lightroom’. Below you will find the ‘Video Guide’ and a step-by-step written guide.



To create and use ‘Smart Previews’  you will need to have a copy of Adobe Lightroom 5, Lightroom 6/Lightroom CC (2015) or Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. This is one of the few requirements we have for outsourcing your editing or culling with Plus Minus Collective.

Please familiarise yourself with this process as it is a necessary step in every job you send to us.

  1. The first step of creating Smart Previews in Adobe Lightroom is to have a brand new catalog for each new job. Once you have culled/picked the images you would like us to edit, simply make a new catalog in a convenient location. We suggest inside your local job folder as that is how we personally organized our catalogs.
  2. We require you to follow a naming format for each job (this makes it easier for us to edit and organize your jobs). The naming format is YourClientNumber-ShootDate -ClientNames (or Job Identifier). It is easier to use this naming format when you first create the catalog file.
  3. Open your new catalog and open the ‘Import tool (File -> Import Photos & Video) within Adobe Lightroom’.
  4. At this point it is best if you apply the ‘Editing Preset’ you wish us to use on this catalog. You can find this on the top right of the Lightroom import screen under the ‘Apply During Import’ tab.
  5. You can also build your ‘Smart Previews’ at this point in time, by selecting the option from the ‘File Handling’ tab at the top right of the Lightroom import screen.
    Note: This will create ‘Smart Previews’ for the images you have selected to import. If you plan to add and/or remove images from the catalog before submitting the job then you can skip this step. 
  6. Import your images and wait for the actions (preset application & smart preview generation if you selected it) to complete.
    (We also suggest you only render ‘minimal’ preview images during import, to save time)
  7. If you did not create ‘Smart Previews’ upon import, now is the time to do so (Once you have finished making any image changes within the catalog). To create the ‘Smart Previews’ you need to select all of the images (Ctrl + A shortcut) within the catalog.
  8. Once selected, find the top Lightroom menu, select the ‘Library’ dropdown menu and scroll down to the ‘Previews’ sub-menu. The ‘Previews’ sub-menu will expand and give you the option to ‘Build Smart Previews’. Select this option and wait for the previews to render for the images. (You can see the progress bar at the top of the program)
  9. Once Lightroom has finished rendering the ‘Smart Previews’, Open the Folder where you created the Lightroom Catalog. (This is where having an easy folder to access is handy!)
  10. Within this folder there should be two files named; “YourCatalogName” Smart Previews.lrdata and “YourCatalogName”.lrcat. Select these two files/folders and Compress/Zip them together.
  11. Once the compressed/zip file is ready, upload it to the “Uploaded” folder in the Google Drive Client Folder that we shared with you when you first signed up.
  12. Once uploaded, use our New Job Form to submit the new job to us.
  13. Pay the Invoice we send to you, once paid we will start editing your first job (we wont start editing until payment has been received).

Tip #1 – The ‘Smart Preview’ workflow is much faster when you create the Smart Previews when importing your catalog.

Tip #2 – Do not render 1:1 previews when importing your catalog and making the Smart Previews (it will prolong the process). Wait until you receive the completed catalog from us before rendering them.

Tip #3 – If you are experienced with Adobe Lightroom and already have a workflow for creating and setting up Smart Previews; then by all means continue as you already do. Simply follow our naming format and file preparation before uploading to us. 

If you have any trouble in following this guide; then please email us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top