10 Useful Tips to Speed Up Lightroom


The more you work with photographs in Lightroom, the more the program slows down. Today we will tell you how to improve the work of Lightroom without buying a new computer.

Each year RAW-files become larger, and every Lightroom version even more resource-intensive. The problem can be solved with the help of the wise optimization of the program.

10 tips on how to improve the performance of Lightroom from @BeArtpresets

1. Use optimized import settings

After the import, Lightroom makes a photo preview for a quick review. To speed up the work without overloading a computer, choose a Minimal value. Usually, the half of defective photos can be sorted without zooming them. And you can selectively create the preview for other pictures.

Minimal – this is the JPG of small size installed by your camera in the RAW-file. This is the fastest way to create a preview. In a Library module, you see exactly the minimal preview.

Embedded & Sidecar – this preview are slightly larger than minimal but are also generated by the camera. Requires a little bit more time.

Standard – this is the first preview that allows seeing a photo on the full screen. Its size is defined in catalog's settings (more on this later). Namely, if you want to increase photos to full screen- choose this one.

The preview of the whole image. This process will take the longer time, but this will allow you to zoom in the photo not waiting until it will upload. When you open a photo at 100%, Lightroom generates a preview of this size.

2. Increase the size and location of the cache folder

Cache is a temporary data that a program saves not to the storage, but to the hard drive. Consequently, the more space you will provide, the easier it will be to work for you. To do this go to the menu Edit-Preferences (Win) or Lightroom – Preferences (Mac) and open a tab File Handling. Here you can set the size of the cache folder. If a hard drive allows - set 20 GB at once. This should be enough for your needs. In this section of settings you can also clear cache by clicking “Purge Cache”.

In the same tab, you can choose a folder for the cache. The primary hard drive on which the operating system is installed works consistently, writes files, updates data, so it's loaded with work.

If you have several hard drives, then it's better to place a Lightroom cache folder on the drive that doesn't have operating system files. This will speed up the work because the hard drive won't be busy with other tasks. By the way, it's also better to keep a folder with the catalog on a separate disk.

Do not place the cache folder at an external USB-drive. Firstly, the speed of the external drives is too small. Secondly, the speed of USB-connection is not enough for fast recording. It's cheaper to buy a second hard drive that connects via USB.

3. Choose the size of the standard preview

As I have written before a standard preview is required to view an image on the full screen. For example, if you have a screen with resolution 1920x1080, you need to choose the most appropriate size, namely 2048 pixels.

Go to Edit - Catalog Settings (Win) or Lightroom – Catalog Settings and select a tab File Handling. And set the required preview size.

Preview Quality is the quality of the preview; it can be safely set to Medium.

Moreover, you can specify the maximum period for preview storage 1:1, upon the expiration of which the data will be deleted. Initially, this period composes 30 days.

4. Turn off the automatic recording in XMP

While processing in Lightroom you don't change the RAW-file, but only the applied settings. The full information about these settings is stored in the Lightroom catalog and separately in XMP-file.

If you open a folder with RAW and XMP in alien Lightroom or Camera RAW, you will see all the changes of the photo; they will automatically download from XMP.

I always save the data in XML, and even if the file with Lightroom catalog will lose, all processing data will be saved together with RAW-files. Moreover, one XMP-file is approximately 7KB.

Saving XMP has a disadvantage – every time a photo is changed the information is automatically recorded to the file, what slows down the work of the drive. In particularly, if you change 20-30 photos at a time.

To turn off an automatic recording go to the menu Edit – Catalog Settings (Win) or Lightroom – Catalog Settings and choose a tab Metadata. Remove the check mark from the point automatically write changes into XMP.

I recommend saving data in XMP manually after the post-processing. To do this choose the required files in the section Library, go to the menu Metadata and select Safe Metadata to Files.

5. Optimize Lightroom catalog

Lightroom regularly records changes to the catalog file (file with .lrcat extension). After a while, the speed of the catalog file slows down, in particular, if its amount exceeds 10 000 files. The data related to deleted files is storing and some other unnecessary information.

Optimization of the catalog will improve the performance. For that go to the menu File – Optimize Catalog (Win and Mac) and start optimization. It may take several minutes depending on the size of the catalog.

6. Leave more space on a hard drive

The cache of Lightroom contains temporary files and photos' preview. However, a computer, as well as operation system also, has its cache, in Windows, it's called swap file.

The more free space there is on the drive, the more it can be used to store the temporary cache files. When free space ends, the part of the data is deleted and is replaced with the new data, however, you may face a problem if you require all the files that can't be stored on the drive.

The experts offer to leave 25% of your hard disk for the swap file of the operation system.

7. Learn and use Lightroom hot keys

Lightroom interface is quite complex and multi-layered. Therefore, using the mouse and the trackpad to get to some menu points can significantly slow down your work. Use shortcuts to quickly move to the necessary tools and perform the required action.

In order to quickly display a list of hot keys of the module in which you are, you can go to the menu Help> Lightroom Module Shortcuts or use the shortcut CTRL + / for Windows and CMD + / for Mac.


8. Use Lens Correction at the end of the processing

Lightroom has a library profile for many lens manufacturers. It is used for Lens Correction tool, that eliminates optical distortion and vignetting, especially for wide-angle lenses. Sometimes it improves the image and sometimes not.

If you decide to use Lens Correction for a particular photo, use it at the end of the post-processing, after you have done the basic correction. Many controls and tools in Lightroom work slow, for example, Adjustment Brush or Spot Removal, if Lens Correction tool is turned on.

9. When shooting use smaller files.

In the most situations while shooting you won't need all 18, 22 or 36 megapixels of your matrix. Depending on the objectives of shooting, sometimes you will require only 10 MB or even less. Your computer will run much faster with RAW-files of smaller size. If you don't need a full-size for your task (for example, publication on the Internet), select a lower size of RAW-file in the camera.

10. Choose a proper PC / MAC

Investing money in a new computer makes no sense, as not all of its aspects are important when working with Lightroom. Let's see what actually matters:

Processor. With each movement, with each zooming of the photo, Lightroom makes the processor compute the original RAW-file and make a preview from it. If your processor is not powerful, enough it will lead to the long hanging off the program, delays in displaying the changes in Develop module and will slow the process of switching over between photos. A powerful processor will allow avoiding this; also it will significantly increase import and export of the pictures. That is why while choosing a computer for Lightroom – pay particular attention to powerful processor.

RAM. If you have it enough in your system, the Lightroom will not work faster. However, if it's not enough, you will see the difference. Today it's better to have no less than 16 GB of RAM.

SSD vs. HDD. According to tests, there is almost no difference in export, import, switching between the shots when using SSD and HDD storage, as all these tasks load the processor, not the storage. However, you may feel, how faster Lightroom will start and the photos will be scrolled in the library when using SSD – the higher speed will make the whole system faster, not only Lightroom.

Large monitor. Technically this doesn't speed up the work, and on the contrary slows down: a large screen resolution requires large thumbnails what loads the processor. But it's more comfortable and faster to work with a large monitor as you won't need to increase the tiny details every time, and the side panels that interrupt the view and at the same should constantly be at hand.

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