Update from George: Before you spend a lot of time noodling around with this technique, maybe read Victoria Bampton’s comment on the posting below. Seems there has always been a much easier way of accomplishing the same thing!
How many times have you wished you could send someone a raw file so they could actually look at your settings, and maybe adjust them with you in a conference call or something? Of course the trouble is that many times the raw file is simply too large to e-mail, and throwing it up on an ftp site might be inconvenient. Maybe you’re traveling and simply don’t have the bandwidth to send the whole raw file. Or even a compressed DNG version.
Or worse, you have a client or a relative who keeps sending you 20MB attachments just so you can see their settings. I get this all the time, and sometimes it’s not even a raw file. Just yesterday I received an e-mail with an attached JPEG file that was 6100 x 4600 pixels, just to ask me a retouching question. That’s 8MB in my mailbox, when a 150kb file 1/10th of the original width would have done just fine.
It was when researching Smart Previews for my new Lightroom 5 Develop videos that I stumbled onto an elegant solution to this problem. If you want to send someone a raw file in an e-mail, complete with your Lightroom settings, you can now do it with an attachment that is less than 2MB, using a Smart Preview.
It’s this easy. First, if you’ve created Smart Previews for your master catalog, you’re never going to go into the Smart Previews.lrdata package and find the one you’re looking for. So, start by selecting the one image in the Library grid, and exporting just that one image as a new catalog.
In the Export As Catalog dialog box, make sure you have these two items checked ON, and navigate somewhere easy to remember for the new mini-catalog, like your Desktop.
Don’t bother with exporting “negatives”, or previews.
Once the catalog export is complete, you can quit Lightroom if you like, and go find and open the new catalog folder. Right-click on the Smart Previews.lrdata file and choose Show Package Contents… (on Windows, it’s just a folder, so just double-click it to open it…), and then dig a couple of folders down, until you come to the DNG file.
Once you find that, drag it out of the folder onto your desktop. (You won’t be able to open it in Camera Raw while it’s stil inside the .lrdata package unless you’re on Windows.) You’ll probably want to rename it (but keep the .dng extension!), and while you’re at it, notice how small it is. The 2560 pixel wide DNG’s created from my 5D MKIII are usually less than 2MB. Then, just drag it onto the PS icon, or back into Lightroom, so see what you’re dealing with.
Finally, here’s the interesting part. If you have never saved your XMP settings out to a sidecar file or into the original source DNG, then the resulting Smart Preview DNG won’t have any settings contained within it at all. But if you take time to save your settings out to XMP just before you export the new catalog creating the Smart Preview, then both the current settings for the raw file, and… all your snapshots will be saved into the Smart Preview DNG!
Now you can e-mail your editor or whomever, a < 2MB raw file, with all your settings, in a format that's easy to download and look at. I wonder if I can now teach my cousin to do it this way?