My catalog is currently 120k files and the .lrcat is around 8gb. I want to *finally* sit and cull, tag, geolocate, select, export... this past 20 years of photography, whatever amount of time it will take. Not in a hurry at all, I know it will take a few years or so.
A couple weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea generate smart previews for every picture, just to be able to work on the archive without the drive where masters are stored. This way I hope to work faster and only from the SSD disk where my Lr files are.
My question is: is it good practice or are the smart previews made for another use? Will I gain some speed compared to using the HDD? Or am I crazy for generating so many previews (around 100gb)?
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That's pretty much what Smart Previews were made for, though there was an underlying need for it with cloud sync coming when they were first introduced. Obviously Smart Previews take up space on the drive, but nothing like the masters. There's even a normal workflow option to use only Smart Previews even if the masters are available in Preferences.
The final observation is that you'll still be missing a level of detail in edits, but for general edits and ratings, Smart Previews are fine.
Some thought's to consider.
Smart previews are used to edit images in the Develop Module, when the original images are not available.
Most of what you wish to do can be done in the Library Module, which does not utilize smart previews but uses regular previews.
The export process requires access to the original images to produce higher resolution images than the smart previews. I believe smart previews are around 2400 pixels on the long side.
I don't think photos on an SSD will produce a noticeable speed change. In fact, studies show the speed change is trivial. I would imagine the same is true for Smart Previews. Lightroom Classic speed is relatively unaffected by disk speed.
The real benefit of smart previews is that you can do editing and add keywords when the original photos are on a disk that is not attached. There can also be speed improvements when editing. I doubt there will be speed improvements from Smart Previews in culling.
If it’s very important to be able to often work without the originals, and you have plenty of space for all the Smart Previews, and you have no need to see the full resolution of the images (like for critical previewing of sharpening and noise reduction), then there’s nothing wrong with generating Smart Previews for everything.
But it won’t necessarily speed things up, because after the one Smart Preview benefit of potentially opening an image faster into Develop, while editing an image the main I/O happens with the Camera Raw cache, so the medium that is on (usually your system volume) is what determines the I/O speed.
Thank you all for your answers. Let's see how it works, maybe it makes no difference after all.
I was hoping I could navigate an old folder with no previews instantly, because having the files drive connected makes it built previews. And some days I reprocess a couple hundred images from a dozen folders, and that takes a lot of time to preview the regular way.
I'm still really unclear about what your concerns are here. At the start, you talked about culling, but now you say "And some days I reprocess a couple hundred images from a dozen folders". If you are editing, then it is likely that you will see some benefit in speed from Smart Previews. If you are culling, I doubt you will see anything more than a trivial and unnoticeable speed difference.
Sorry, I meant:
"I want to *finally* sit and cull, tag, geolocate, select, , edit, export... this past 20 years of photography, whatever amount of time it will take."
I've been shooting daily for the past 3 years, and weekly for more than a decade now, so I have like a ton of images to browse, so some days I cull, some days I edit, some days I export, make collections, clean keywords... a bit of everything.