Optimize Lightroom to Run More Efficiently With These Seven Tips

One of the most common Lightroom complaints is that it runs too slowly. However, there are steps you can take to improve your experience. This great video outlines seven such tricks.

Perhaps the single greatest trick I've found for speeding up my Lightroom experience is creating 1:1 previews during the import process. You're going to need them for editing anyway, so doing it while you have to wait for Lightroom to ingest all your images makes much more sense than interrupting you editing flow down the road. Just be sure to go into your preferences (Catalog Settings, File Handling, "Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews") and ensure that they're automatically deleted after a certain period of time, lest you'll end up with way too much disk space being taken up by previews you likely no longer need. Yes, it adds time to your import process, but I'd much rather get all the waiting done in one chunk. Turning off "Use Graphics Processor" was the other missing puzzle piece for me; nowadays, Lightroom runs perfectly smoothly on my Mac, and I have no complaints. 

What do you do to speed up your Lightroom experience? Share any tips you have in the comments! 

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On my Mac the use of the GPU acceleration option causes some tools and functions to speed up while causing others to slow down, and in the case of the Spot Removal tool, to slow down to it being practically unusable and unusable when using it to draw areas. When you draw areas it moves in a very slow and jerking motion that can not follow your mouse movements accurately. So say you drew an S shape, you would see lines making up the S shape instead of smoothly flowing curves. It's a truly awfully implemented option, but no surprise coming from Adobe.

Leigh Smith's picture

Yeah, the spot removal keeps getting slower and slower. But turning off noise reduction, sharpening, etc while editing might help some.

I don't use sharpening and noise reduction in LR. To address the spot removal tool problem, I simply keep the GPU option disabled. Maybe one day Adobe can figure it out.

David Bengtsson's picture

Wait? Why would it run faster when turning off the GPU acceleration? Sounds like it is poorly implemented then sadly.

Or is it just a problem when using low powered GPU's? Like laptop ones that usally are quite less powerful?

Read my post above. My situation is not unique. My experience is on a fully equipped i7 iMac. Poorly implemented is putting it nicely.

Leigh Miller's picture

The fact that there are so few (good) alternative RAW processors/Catalogue applications shows just how Adobe finds it's way on the majority of Photographers desktops...They do need to start cleaning up the code though.

Ariel Martini's picture

1:1 previews are good but take too long to render and are only better than standard previews if you want to zoom in lots of images. Also note that the previews are used only to select/cull on the library module, and not on develop module, although this procedure speeds up develop a little bit by filling the camera raw cache.

Much better than building previews, though, is building smart previews and using them to develop (last part of the video). The smart preview is like a resized raw file, about 2000px wide. So using this instead of the original RAW file makes everything much faster. On the other hand you lose control over zoom and detail (sharpening/noise reduction) while developing, or if you crop too much. But the exported output will be just as fine.

So the best practice would be: before selecting/culling build standard previews. After filtering out the unwanted ones, build smart previews, and then proceed to develop.

About GPU acceleration: it slows down the loading of the image (every time you move to the next image on develop module), but speeds up a lot when tuning the image by moving a slider.

Michael Comeau's picture

Does Lightroom really have widespread performance problem or is it just a vocal minority? (Hint, hint: run a poll...)

FYI, I use Capture One Pro with a 2011 iMac and it runs fine with 24 megapixel files.

Leigh Smith's picture

I've been using LR for years, and it has a few issues every once in awhile, but not nearly as much as I hear other people having.

which size of RAWs, what computer hardware, what screen size, what kind of postprocessing ? (light/heavy ? global/local ?)

I too have switched to C1 for RAW processing and file management. I have found it to perform better than LR on my 2016 MBP with max GPU.

The GPU thing isn't a huge surprise. A few years ago, Adobe migrated from the Nvidia-only CUDA assist to the open standard, OpenCL. Nvidia tends to emphasize CUDA (as it guarantees Nvidia gpu usage) while AMD emphasizes OpenCL. Regardless, in LR, GPU assit can help in some tasks, but others are affected (as noted). However, the AMD GPU tends to do better mitigating the slowdowns.

None of this would be an issue if Adobe just made a competent multi-threaded engine.

Lightroom is so slow that I don't know what words to use ...
just selecting images can takes as much as 5 seconds. I've totally lost the joy of editing images.

Now I have to find the will to learn C1.

I've never heard of it being that slow. I would check into hardware issues, like a failing drive, and of course a reinstall.

tried it all. all new hardware. only LR that gievs me grief. it helps a little to reset prefs. but I really don't want to do that every week. LR ran fine on my mac mini 2012

Leigh Smith's picture

Yeah, sounds like there are other issues and it's not LR. Or maybe you just have it set up / using it weird

There are some C1 tutorials out there that should help. Getting the UI set up like LR helped ease the transition. The only think you may be dissatisfied with is might be file management / making selects and picks. This has been the hardest thing for me to get used to.

tried it all. all new hardware. only LR that gievs me grief. it helps a little to reset prefs. but I really don't want to do that every week. LR ran fine on my mac mini 2012.

It shouldn't take anywhere near that long when you select images. I work with large image files in LR, around 130MB, and they respond and open up almost instantaneously. I'd keep looking into the problem. It would be a real shame to abandon your preferred software if you didn't have to.

I find that good catalog management helps speed for me. I keep the file small by creating a new one regularly. The generating 1:1 previews is brilliant. With small catalogs, it makes a difference.

Rob Mynard's picture

My biggest tip would be a huge cull of your presets. i don't know the reason for it but for every preset you have in your develop window it takes fractionally longer to open an image. When I first got Lightroom I went on a "free preset" spree and then complained that Lightroom was so slow. After culling back to just 10 or so, user presets, it runs fast and smooth.