Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC has recently updated to 8.1. With any new software release, there are new features. This new version is no different. Some of these options can speed up your workflow or speed up performance in general.
Whether you're updating existing software or setting up a new installation of Lightroom, version 8.1 offers quite a few options for improving performance and refining your workflow. One downside, if you're like me, is that this version requires Windows 10. I've been dragging my feet on updating from Windows 8 for years, but the features offered by Lightroom and Photoshop finally prompted me to get a new installation of Windows setup. Besides specific settings, the update promises improvements to batch operations and switching between the library and develop tabs.
With a new install, one of the first settings to fix for performance is the Camera Raw cache. By default, Adobe has it set to a tiny few GB. With SSDs no longer limited to 64 or 128 GB, the default should be higher. No problem, however, as you can easily turn it up. Here, I've set it to 30 GB and made sure it was located on my SSD for best performance. If you have a choice of locations, NVME SSDs are the fastest, followed by SSDs, and finally hard drives. One good upgrade to consider, if you're still using a spinning disk as a boot drive, would be adding an inexpensive SSD, which have recently fallen to less than $40 for 240 GB.
For some use cases, you can enable smart previews in lieu of originals for editing. This should speed up adjustments in the Develop tab, but will require more time and storage up front to create the smart previews. This could be a great option if you are using a laptop with images stored on an external drive, as it preserves the ability to edit images without access to the originals. If you do enable this, make sure to set Lightroom to render smart previews at the time of import to make things more efficient.
In the catalog itself, you can reduce the preview quality and make sure the standard preview size is set appropriately for your monitor.
The new photomerge to HDR and panorama improvements are a welcome feature. I merge some panoramas as a test before exporting to Autopano Giga, so the faster render performance is always good.
The new version has created some useful options for refining the very static Lightroom workflow. While still not as customizable as Capture One, for instance, you can now rearrange panels in the Develop Sidebar.
I've rearranged my panels to prioritize the settings I adjust frequently, which is saving quite a bit of scrolling already. It is unknown if disabling any of the tool panels offers the same improvement in performance that removing modules like Book or Slideshow supposedly did.
If you have a fresh install of Lightroom, you may need to reset your default develop settings. By holding Alt and clicking on reset in the develop panel, you can set new default develop settings. Also, you can finally hide Lightroom's useless presets. By clicking the plus sign next to presets and selecting "manage presets," you can hide unused presets, allowing any presets you do use to be front and center.
I've been working in the new version of Lightroom for a few days now. It still has the Lightroom quirks, but I appreciate the small measure of customization and improvement. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription, there is no reason I've found not to upgrade. Keep in mind, a new install typically needs all new settings for the best experience.
Lead image by Chuttersnap.