How Much RAM Do You Need for Lightroom?

Photographers can almost always use more RAM, particularly when they start working with larger and more complex files. How much do you really need for Lightroom, however? This interesting comparison video takes a look at operating times for the application when using 8 GB of RAM versus 32 GB of RAM to see how much more efficiently the program can run with some extra muscle with which to work.

Coming to you from Signature Edits, this great video compares the speed of Lightroom when using 8 GB of RAM versus 32 GB of RAM. At the bare minimum, Lightroom requires 4 GB of RAM to run, but of course, this may not be enough in practical terms when it comes to day-to-day needs. Many operations in the program are rather resource intensive, and this in tandem with ever-increasing file sizes can cause the program to really bog down and make working difficult, particularly when you are working with large sets of images and trying to find a workflow rhythm, even if you are technically working with enough RAM for the program to at least boot up and run. Check out the video to see if a RAM upgrade can make a difference in your work.

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29 Comments

Alexander Petrenko's picture

This is not RAM, this is not CPU, this is not GPU, this is not SSD that helps LR run faster... This is something undiscovered yet...

Motti Bembaron's picture

So you are not one of the many (MANY) users, me included who have some serious LR issues, both Mac and PC users.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You had these issues and discovered something. Tell us.

chrisrdi's picture

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chrisrdi's picture

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chrisrdi's picture

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Charles Gaudreault's picture

If you have 64gb of low-grade RAM its probably not going to help if you have 32 gb of high-grade RAM it's probably going to speed up your workflow a lot !

Motti Bembaron's picture

LR issues are not RAM issues, this program has to be redesign from scratch. M.2, 32GB RAM, i7 Intel etc. and I have the same issues on this computer that I had on my previous one.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

Those performance issues were the reason, I dropped Adobe. This Software really needs a redesign from scratch.

Jozef Povazan's picture

Ditched LR for C1 3 years ago, none of my macs has more then 16GB RAM and I can run C1, PS and Photomechanic + more at the same time no issues at all with iMac running all of them smooth :)

bill bane's picture

LR is a pig with memory and Mr. Cooke does not know what he is talking about.
With LR, many functions can bring down your computer if you are short of memory. I have 32GB of memory and a large library. LR software engineers are starved by their unethical executives.

Nick Rains's picture

Works absolutely fine for me. 32GB ram, 360,000 images.
Given that there are, in fact, plenty of users for whom it *does* work well, LR clearly *can* work well. You just need to figure out why that is.
BTW, make sure 'Automatically write to XMP' is turned off.

Jonas Karlsson's picture

Same here. I do all my editing in LR so i bought a single threaded cpu (i7-9700k), an m2 ssd, 16 ram and a new gpu and its lightning fast for me. I average 12 seconds per image (weddings) and edit 750 images in around 2.5 hours.

Reginald Walton's picture

I always write to XMP and don't have any issues.

Nick Rains's picture

That's just a possible source of slow-downs if you leave it checked AND do a lot of brush work on your images. If you don't, no problem.

Black Rock's picture

Paying Apple tax is bad enough, now I have to pay Adobe tax ?

Thanks but no. Capture One just works better, I get more accurate color, better details, not to mention the speed.

David T's picture

Only thing that's slower in C1 is Export to JPG, for some reason. Everything else is faster. Maybe because they run more in-depth algorithms on the RAWs.

Reginald Walton's picture

I guess I'd like to know what people having issues running LR are using b/c I run LR with no issues. I used to have 16 GB RAM on my Windows machine and then got an iMac with 16 GB of RAM and it ran with no issues. I now have an iMAC with 32 GB of RAM and no issues and with over 30K images in my catalog. Maybe I just need more images in the catalog to see slow down performance?

David T's picture

It's kinda random but affects tons of people.

Colorblinded Photo's picture

Definitely random. On my old system the problems came and went or at least varied in severity at times depending on the version of LR and not much else as far as i could tell.

stuartcarver's picture

I use a 2015 MBP 13" running an SSD and 8GB or RAM, Capture One works as fast as i need it to and i also use various other pieces of software on there (mainly DJ software) with no issue. Its also got a dual core processor, not quad core.

I think a combination of processor, fast SSD and RAM are key to getting best performance out of your computer, most people seem to assume that 'just put 16GB of RAM' in will solve the issue when in fact its only a small part of the process.

There are also things you can do within the OS to streamline how much memory is being utilised by the program.

Colorblinded Photo's picture

If only more RAM could consistently resolve all of Lightroom's various performance issues.

On my old i7-3770K I had 32GB of RAM and the program & catalog on SSDs and sometimes it was just unbearably slow, including delays when doing spot removal that would cause it to misread where I clicked or drew a line (sometimes producing crazy shapes).

I will say my new build running LR with the same catalogs and files with a Ryzen 3800X and 32GB of newer/faster RAM with nVME SSD drives has so far been performing better, but I am not holding out any hope that LR won't find a way to screw that up.

David Pavlich's picture

When I bought my PC, it came with 12 gigs of RAM. I upgraded it to 16 and then read an article about GPU use. I fixed that and the combination of both did help substantially.

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

Forget Lightroom, wait till you try to run Google Chrome with more than one tab open!

Bill Christian's picture

Sometimes it takes me over a minute to import one file in LR.

stuartcarver's picture

Its entirely possible thats nothing to do with RAM and could be a number of other things.

Nick Rains's picture

Why would you want to import one file? Regardless, mine come in off a card at about 100MB per second - that's about 2.5 files per second from a 24MP camera. Something wrong there...

Bill Christian's picture

I might take some photos and I need one, like of a product I'm working on or of my cat. I always copy to my hard drive and remove cards before I import in LR, or things get really slow. So then I try to import one image and sometimes it takes a minute before it starts. I'm wondering if it it scanning lots of files or drives and needs more RAM, as I tend to have a lot of programs open. I might use RawTherapee sometimes to open one file to save time as it can open one image quickly. I like the functions in LR though.

Nick Rains's picture

If you launch LR it will try to reconnect to any and all images that have already been catalogued. This might be why it feels slow. LR is not meant to be used as a casual browser - it's a catalogue app. If you want opening speed, use Photo Mechanic.

The idea is that you use LR to Import all your images as you shoot them. Once that's done (once) it's perfectly speedy. Many people confuse LR with a browser, which it's not.