Convert LR/Cloud Images to Smart Previews
Reduce amount of “paid for” storage used by LR/Cloud
This article is intended for people using Lightroom Classic along with Lightroom (cloud). It does not apply to people just using Lightroom (cloud). It is something to consider before buying more cloud storage from Adobe. In almost all cases (unless you’re filling the Adobe Cloud with things other than images synced with LR/Classic) you don’t need more than the 20gb minimum no matter how many synced photos you have stored in the Adobe Cloud.
When images originate in one of the Adobe Lightroom Cloud (LR/Cloud) based applications (LR/desktop, LR/Android, LR/iOS, Lightroom.adobe.com) the full size original images are stored in the Adobe Cloud and those images consume a portion of your paid for cloud storage space (initially 20gb or 1tb depending on plan). This includes images taken with the Lightroom app or the Lightroom Camera app on portable devices and also includes images imported into any of LR/Cloud based apps.
However, images that originate in Lightroom Classic and are synced to the Adobe Cloud do not count against your paid storage allocation. These are surrogate or proxy images which are actually a special kind of DNG file called “Smart Previews”. See this article for more information about syncing images between LR/Classic and LR/Cloud apps, including a section on what syncs and what doesn’t. But, for image editing, Smart Previews can be used just like the original file it is standing in for. In other words they are quite usable in Lightroom Cloud based apps – and they are free.
In my case, I have 2,300 images in 73 albums in the Adobe Cloud which are all Smart Previews of (mostly RAW) files in LR/Classic. These take up 145mb of my 20gb storage which is less than 1% of my paid for storage.
In order to replace the Originals in LR/Cloud with Smart Previews, you first have to delete the originals from the Adobe Cloud which frees up the storage space. Then you use LR/Classic to re-populate those same images with Smart Previews.
CAUTION: If you have “shared” a Collection/Album (e.g. “Make Public” in LR/Classic), when in this process images are removed from the synced collection/album they are removed from the shared link but when re-added to the same Collection/Album as a Smart Preview they will re-appear in the shared link. However if in this process you un-sync the collection, the previous URL becomes invalid and when you re-sync the collection you will have to “Make Public” again which will generate a different URL
CAUTION: Images in Adobe Portfolio web pages will not be affected by this process. But if you un sync a Collection (which deletes the Album in LR/Cloud) and if that Album was used as the source for a page in Portfolio, you will no longer be able to refresh that page in Portfolio from Lightroom”. If this happens you will need to delete the page in Portfolio and re-add it.
There are basically two approaches to replace “for fee” originals in the Adobe Cloud with “free” Smart Previews. Which one you choose is personal preference which should be influenced by your current mix of Originals and Smart Previews already in the Adobe Cloud, how many LR/Classic collections you have set to sync with LR/Cloud, and the impact of the cautions above.
One approach is to replace your entire LR/Cloud library of images all at once regardless of the mix of Originals vs. Smart Previews already in LR/Cloud. This approach is far less tedious than the next approach, but will consume more network traffic as it will also replace images that are already Smart Previews and therefore do not need to be replaced. As this method involves removing all images from the Adobe Cloud as well as un-syncing all collections, the two cautions above are both in play. But unlike the second approach it will not require you to re-populte images in your synced collections. It is the preferred approach if the number of originals in LR/Cloud is large compared to the number of Smart Previews or if you have lots of collections synced with the LR/Cloud. But if you've shared lots of collections or have lots of Portfolio pages based on synced collections you may want to consider the other approach.
The second approach is more surgical, with more manual steps and is more tedious than the first approach. It will only replace the Originals in the LR/Cloud and it will leave those that are already Smart Previews alone. This approach is better if you only have a small percentage of images in the cloud that are originals. It may also be preferred if you’ve distributed links to your shared (make public) collections/albums and don’t want to have to give everyone new URL’s.
Replacing the paid storage original files in the Adobe cloud with Smart Previews can be divided into two phases. The first is to find those original images that are using up paid for storage. This is needed for approach 2 but is optional for approach 1. The second phase is replacing original cloud images with Smart Previews that do not count against your storage allocation. The steps in phase 2 are different for approach 1 vs. approach 2.
It should be noted that you will not lose your full size original files in LR/Classic no matter which approach you choose to use.
Phase 1 - Finding Original images in Adobe Cloud
This phase is required for approach 2 (surgical) but not for approach 1 (do them all). It is used to identify which images in the Adobe Cloud are “originals” (e.g. you pay for their storage space) and have that information available in LR/Classic.
- In the Lightroom Desktop App (cloud app, not Lightroom Classic), if the left panel is not open, open it by clicking the icon in the upper left corner
- In LR/Classic create a synced regular collection called “Originals in Cloud” and let this empty collection sync to the cloud which will create an empty album there.
Alternatively in Lightroom Desktop App (cloud based desktop app, not LR/Classic) click the “+” on the albums line to add a new album and create one called “Originals in Cloud” and let it sync with LR/Classic where it will become a Collection.
- Then in the left Panel of the LR/Desktop app, select “All Photos”.
- If the filter bar is not open across the top of the middle section, click the funnel to open it
- Select filter “sync status” and select “Synced and backed up” These are the ones taking up paid storage.
- Still in the Lightroom Desktop app, with the filter active, drag all the images from the grid to the “Originals in Cloud” album.
- Let the sync process reflect this change in LR/Classic. Check the “Originals in Cloud” Collection and wait for the images to show up there. You’ll know it is done when the image count in the LrC collection matches the image count in the LR/Desktop album.
After the sync process finishes, the “Originals in Cloud” collection in LrC will contain the images that are taking up paid storage in the Adobe Cloud.
Now, turn off Cloud Sync on the “Original in Cloud” collection in LR/Classic.
Phase 2 Convert Images to Smart Previews
Please note, that this process may involve the removal of images from all of your synced collections as well as the “All Synced Photographs” special collection in LrC and at the same time will also remove them from all Albums (including All Photos) in LR/Cloud. The steps will then add them back as Smart Previews which do not count against your paid storage.
As discussed earlier, there are two approaches you can follow here. The first approach will remove all synced images from the Adobe Cloud regardless of their type and then add them back as Smart Previews. The second approach will only process images which are originals in LR/Cloud.
Approach 1 – Replace ALL LR images in cloud with Smart Previews
In this approach, you don’t need the “Originals in Cloud” collection in Lightroom/Classic, and all these steps are done in LR/Classic.
See “cautions” near the top of this blog if you have shared collections or albums or have loaded Portfolio with images from LR/Cloud as this approach affects both situations.
- If you want to re-add all the cloud images that this process deletes from the cloud, you will need to be able to identify them after they are removed from the “All Synced Photographs” special collection. So, create a new regular collection called “To Re-Sync” and copy all the images in the “All Synced Photographs” special collection (in the Catalog panel) to the new “To Re-sync” collection. Do not sync this collection with LR/Cloud.
- Un-Sync all your synced collections. You may want to make a list of them as you go or perhaps put a color label that you don’t use for something else on each one so you’ll know later which collections to re-sync with LR/Cloud.
This will remove the images from the corresponding albums in the Adobe Cloud but will leave the images in the All Synced Photos special collection in LrC and in the All photos album in the Cloud apps. This method will affect images that were already using Smart Previews in the cloud as well as those using Original images in the cloud.
- Now go back to the “All Synced Photographs” special collection and remove all the images from it. This will remove all those images from the Adobe Cloud. Wait for the sync process to complete.
- Once the Sync process is complete, take all the images in the “To Re-Sync” collection created in step 1 and drag them back to the “All Synced Photographs” special collection. This will upload a Smart Preview for each one to the Adobe Cloud. This could take a while depending on how many images we’re talking about.
- Take each of your previously synced collections and turn “Sync with Lightroom” back on.
- If desired, you can now delete the “To Re-Sync” Collection.
Approach 2 – Replace only ORIGINAL images in cloud with Smart Previews
As described above, get the images stored as originals in the Adobe Cloud into an “Originals in Cloud” collection in Lightroom/Classic. Do not sync this collection
Then do the following:
- If some or all of the images in the “Originals in Cloud” collection are also in other synced collections you need a way to know which synced collection(s) they are in before you proceed so that you can put them back into those collections when you are done. If you don’t care about getting these images back into those other collections and their corresponding albums then skip this step.
Use any method you like to identify which synced collections images are in so you can put them back later. To see what collections any one or more images are in, select the image(s) and right click on one of them and select “Go to collection” and it will show you a list of the collections that those images are in. This list includes both synced and un-synced collections.
There are several methods to keep track of which collections which images belong to. I’m sure there are other methods and there may also be plugins that will automate some of these methods or provide other methods but here are a few that don’t require a plugin. The key is that you have a way to know which images need to be re-added to which synced collections without relying on those collections themselves.
- Select each synced collection which contain images you’re going to convert, select all the images in that collection, create a keyword with the collection name and add that keyword to those images. It doesn’t matter if all those images are or are not also in the “Originals in Cloud” collection.
- Create a non synced collection matching each synced collection containing the same images.
- Take screen shots of the grid of images for each synced collection. Make sure the file name is showing (and is legible) in the screen shot
- Make a manual list as you go
- Follow step 1 in approach 1 to create a collection called “To Re-sync“ which is a copy of the “All Synced Photographs” special collection. This will be needed in case there are any Originals in LR/Cloud that are not also in some other synced collection.
Do not sync this collection.
- Select some or all of images from the “Originals in Cloud” collection. With them still selected switch to All Synced Photographs special collection in the Catalog Panel
- Those images will still be selected. Click the Backspace (delete) key to remove them which will remove them from all of your synced collections and will completely delete them from all LR/Cloud apps freeing up paid for storage space in the Adobe Cloud. Wait for the “removal” to fully sync to the cloud.
At this point your individual synced collections and the All Synced Photographs special collection will still contain images that already had Smart Previews in the Adobe Cloud but will no longer have images where the Cloud contained Originals. (see cautions at top of this blog)
If you go back to the “Originals in Cloud” collection, select all the images, right click on one and move the mouse to “Go To Collecton”, you should not see any of your synced collections listed.
- To get the removed images back into the Adobe Cloud as Smart Previews. Take all the images in the “To Re-sync” collection created in step 2 and drag them up to the “All Synced Photographs” special collection. This will upload Smart Previews of those images that were previously deleted in step 4 back up to the Adobe Cloud. It may take awhile.
- Now we re-populate the synced collections with the images that were removed in step 4. Depending on which method you used in step 1 you should be able to isolate the images which should go into each synced collection so just drag them there. Repeat this step for each such collection.
Keeping it clean
Now that none of you LR/Classic images which are synced to the LR/Cloud are using up your paid storage, you may want to adjust your workflow to keep it that way. I know everyone’s workflow is different, but here’s how I handle images that originate in the LR/Cloud ecosystem such as my phone.
- Image enters LR/Cloud ecosystem (e.g. I took it with the LR Camera App)
- Next time I’m using LR/Classic, those new images automatically sync and show up in a designated folder on my LR/Classic machine (you specify this folder in the Lightroom Sync tab of the Preferences menu)
- I select all the images in this “From LR Cloud” folder and then switch to the All Synced Photographs special collection and remove them. As I don’t add them to albums using LR/Cloud apps I don’t have to worry about them also being in synced collections in LR/Classic.
- I then move them to the same folder(s) I would have put them in had they been imported from one of my DSLR cameras.
- From then on they are no different than any other image I’ve imported and if my regular workflow winds up adding them to a synced collection, they will be sent up to the Adobe Cloud as Smart Previews.