I love Lightroom. It is an amazing tool that is able to do almost everything that I need when I edit, and do so in an organized way. The one problem that we’ve all had with it though is the lagging speed that can be infuriating. This past year, I spent a considerable amount of time with one goal: to do anything I could to speed up my editing process. I can honestly say that after implementing the following tips, my Lightroom is running as fast as ever and I rarely notice the lag that would torture me before. Here is a step-by-step guide to what I did.
Stop Working Off of an External Hard Drive
I have always worked off of external hard drives and try to keep as little on my computer’s hard drive as possible, but when I began the process of trying to speed up Lightroom, one of the first things I did was adjust my storage workflow. Although I still keep all of my images on an external hard drive, now when I am editing a session, I move a copy of the raw files that I want to edit onto a folder on my desktop which allows me to edit directly off of my computer’s hard drive. I titled this folder “Working Drive” and even gave it a different icon so it wouldn’t get confused with any other folder. I then import my photos into Lightroom from the working drive folder, and when I am finished with my edits I move them back off onto an external hard drive. For editing, I use an iMac Retina 5K (Late 2014 model) with 500 GB flash storage which is enough for me to edit multiple weddings at the same time using this process. This will likely look different for everyone depending on what computer you use and what amount of storage you have, but the adjustment to editing directly from my computer’s hard drive has made a huge improvement on speed.
Stop Culling in Lightroom
Culling in Lightroom, especially when it is lagging, is just a draining experience. There are much more efficient ways to select your photos. After a trial run, I invested in a software called Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits, Inc. In this software, you can cull through your photos about as quickly as you can click through them. When I am finished, this is where I take the step to copy my selected images from my external hard drive to my working drive on my desktop. All of this can be easily done in Photo Mechanic. As a wedding photographer, this purchase was definitely worth it. Although using a different software to cull my photos isn’t directly speeding up Lightroom, it does allow me to do this following step more efficiently.
Adjust Import Settings
Since I am selecting my photos outside of Lightroom, I am now only importing the photos that I want to use instead of an entire session. This is important, because the following settings will actually add to your import time, but will save you time in the long run. When you go to your import screen in Lightroom, you should have a number of options on the right hand side of the screen. First of all, in the “Build Previews” option, you will want to change it from “Minimal” to “1:1.” Lightroom lagging for me was the worst between switching images or zooming in. A large part of this is because of the preview size. The reason for this is because when a minimal image is loading or being zoomed in on, it takes time to generate the correct preview on your monitor. Importing at 1:1 essentially does a large part of this work from the start instead of doing it as needed and allows you to work more efficiently when viewing and zooming in on photos.
I also build smart previews when I am importing. Directly below the Build Previews option is a check box where you can select the build smart previews option. Smart previews are compressed previews that can be edited on their own and Lightroom will simultaneously apply the adjustments made to the original file. The benefit of this is that if you adjust your settings correctly, the develop module will display the more compressed smart previews rather than the larger original file, saving you time when you are making adjustments to your image. To edit the smart previews, select Preferences from the Lightroom menu, go to the Performance tab, and checkmark the option that says “Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing.” While both of these options will add time to your import process, they will save you significant time when you are actually editing. Just plan ahead on your importing, start the process, answer a few emails or cull through another session, and when it’s ready to edit, your process should be significantly faster.
Other Options to Try
Over time, I have applied several other things that individually may or may not have attributed to increasing Lightroom’s speed, but as a whole a combination of the following things have helped:
- Increase ACR Cache - A cache is a temporary storage area for currently active data. Lightroom uses this as its quickest option to load the most recently viewed or edited photos. Increasing the cache size will allow more files to be kept in the cache, which will then allow for quicker processing in the develop module. Again in the Preferences menu, go to the File Handling tab where you will find a place to adjust the Camera Raw Cache’s maximum size. Adobe suggests that raising the cache to 20 GB or more can dramatically increase speed. I personally raised mine much higher than that to 90 GB.
- Optimize Catalog - Optimizing your catalog is essentially cleaning it up. This process includes deleting unnecessary data, making the file smaller, and therefore allowing it to process faster. There is no damage in optimizing your catalog, and it can possibly help speed. To perform this operation, select the File menu and select Optimize Catalog.
- Save Some Adjustments for Last - Options like sharpening and noise reduction use Lightroom’s resources and can affect performance. Making these adjustments in the beginning or as part of a preset can possibly cause additional lag while your images are loading. As part of my process now, I edit all of my photos, and when I am finished I go through a second time and add sharpening and noise reduction to my images in batches.
- Remove Presets - If you notice in the Develop module, every time you hover over a preset it shows a preview of your image with that preset applied in the upper left corner. While these thumbnails aren’t large in size individually, hundreds or sometimes thousands of them can add up and affect performance. If you have presets that you aren’t using, remove them from Lightroom completely.
All of us (including Adobe) can agree that Lightroom’s speed is an issue. Even though fast is a relative word, the combination of these adjustments for me have increased the performance of Lightroom to a point where I no longer notice the issue and definitely don’t have the significant lag times that I was experiencing before.