How Much Space Do Lightroom Smart Previews Really Take Up?

Starting in Lightroom 5, Adobe released something called a Smart Preview. It’s basically a preview of your photo, that’s big enough to let you work on your photos even if the drive they’re on isn’t connected. Here’s a screenshot of the option in the Import dialog.

smartpreviews1

It’s a great option for people who like to stay mobile because they don’t always need to keep their external drives with them. So what’s the tradeoff? Why not build a Smart Preview for everything? Well, they take up space on your computer’s hard drive (or whatever drive has your Lightroom catalog on it). But how much space? Well, after running some tests, I’ve found that it’ll roughly take up anywhere from 2-5% of the actual photos themselves. So, for example. If you’re uploading 1 GB of photos and you choose the Smart Previews option, you’ll have a file called “YourCatalogName Smart Previews.LRData” that’s about 25-50 Mb in size.

How To Delete Smart Previews
A good practice to get in to is this. Let’s say you’re working on a photo shoot and you want access to work on it even if the drive the photos are on isn’t connected. Well, building Smart Previews would be a great option. But then let’s say you’re done working on that shoot after a few days and don’t need the Smart Previews anymore. Well, you can just go to the top menu (in the Library module) and go to Library > Previews > Discard Smart Previews.

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Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for this tip, Matt! Since LR 5 came out I’ve wondered how big the file space would be and how to get rid of them! My 15 inch Macbook Pro retina has a 250 GB ssd in it. So I only have my programs installed on it. I use a 1tb G drive to store my vacation photos and photowalk photos. So, I would save my photos on the G drive and then wait to get home before processing them on my Desktop. So my question is if the Smart Previews are stored on the Laptop how do I get the changes I’ve made to them to my desktop? As you can see I’m not a great computer wizard! :-)

    Thanks,

    Dennis

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Dennis. Your changes get synced back up with your photos whenever you actually attach the hard drive that the photos are.
      Hope that helps.

      Post a Reply
      • Ahhh! The light comes on. See, I told you I wasn’t a computer dude! :-)

        Thanks Matt, appreciate the info!

        Dennis

        Post a Reply
      • OK, I’m clearly less of a “computer dude” than Dennis. What I don’t understand about your answer to him is …

        His program is on his laptop; his photos on his external drive; and, his concern is how to get his smart previews onto his DESKtop.
        He assumed his smart previews are on his LAPTOP (not his external hard drive). Am I correct in understanding that to be wrong?
        Do the smart previews attach themselves to the photo (like an xml file)? Is that what you meant by it would automatically sync (cuz the necessary file/info stays with the photo, not on his laptop where the program is)?
        I’m just wanting to be sure I’m understanding since this is a question I also needed an answer to!
        Thank you!

        Post a Reply
  2. Is there any way to selectively delete Smart Previews? I have this problem of creeping disk storage for Smart Previews, but sometimes need one shoot and don’t need others any more.

    Post a Reply
    • Yep. Select the photo and go to the Library > Previews > Delete option.

      Post a Reply

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