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The question is simple:

Should I add bin/magento catalog:images:resize to our Continuous Integration script, running it on every deployment? Or is it's intent solely to run incidentally (since resized and cached images are also generated upon saving a product)?

Also: does it re-generate all images every time you run it? Or does it detect images that are already resized / cached properly and skips those?

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Only incidentally.

Generally, product images are cached while saving the product. However, the magento catalog:images:resize command enables you to resize all images for display on your storefront. Situations where this could be necessary might be:

  • After you import products, which might have images of various sizes
  • If images were resized or deleted manually from cache

Each image assigned to a product must be resized in accordance with image metadata defined in a module’s view.xml configuration file. After resizing an image, its resized copy is stored in the cache (/pub/media/catalog/product/cache directory). Magento serves storefront images from cache.

Source: http://devdocs.magento.com/guides/v2.0/frontend-dev-guide/themes/theme-images.html#resize-catalog-images

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