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Lightroom smart previews and Dropbox

I use a desktop computer (iMac) as my primary storage and photo-processing kit. Backed-up of course to a portable hard-drive and the cloud. However there are times when I’m travelling (which happens a lot) or just want to sit away from the desktop and edit photos on my Macbook Pro.

The challenge is how to do this without transferring heavy raw files between the two computers.  I’ve found a neat solution involving Dropbox and LR smart-previews. Here it is in brief –

  • Ensure your Dropbox folder is set up on both computers (see Dropbox for help if necessary).
  • On your desktop LR, right-click the folder containing the images you want to work with and select ‘export as new catalogue’. Be sure to uncheck the box for ‘negative files’ and just leave ‘smart previews’ selected. It may not be possible to save the newly created folder direct to your Dropbox folder from LR, but save it somewhere you can find it, then drag it to your Dropbox.
  • Once Dropbox has synced to your laptop, open LR and choose the option under ‘file’ to ‘open catalogue’ and simply point to the catalogue in Drop box.

Your can now edit and make adjustments to the smart-previews as if they were the original raw files. There are two things to watch out for though – the smart-previews are not of the same resolution as the raw files, so you need to check any sharpening adjustments once they have been imported back to the desktop and applied to the raw files. Secondly, editing of smart-previews is not possible in Photoshop.

Once you are done editing, simply ensure Dropbox is synced back to your desktop, and within desktop LR, choose ‘import from another catalogue’, point to the Dropbox catalogue and import. All the adjustments made from the comfort of your laptop will then be magically applied to the raw files on your desktop.

To finish up, tidy up your Dropbox by deleting the catalogue you’ve now finished working with.

If you’re not ready to take a leap of faith with a folder full of photos, why not create a new folder in LR and just try the process out with one or two photos.

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