Lightroom is by far the most popular and easy to use image editing and management tool in the business. Unfortunately, the software is also known for its performance and speed issues, especially in the latest updates from 2018.
This is a short and sweet guide to cleaning up your system, doing a bit of housekeeping, a bit of tweaking here and there to speed things up. The ultimate goal is to make Lightroom run faster and in the process make our editing process a much better experience.
#01 Optimize hardware and Stop Working Off of an External Hard Drive
Regardless of whatever you may have read about the brilliant resource optimization capacity of Lightroom CC, the software will only run as fast as your machine supports it. And there is no denying that a fast machine is imperative for running Lightroom or some of the other photography tools such as Photoshop.
An older laptop is likely having a slower processor and certainly an older generation of the same. The device is also unlikely to have a SSD drive. Both are necessary for faster booting of the editing application as well as faster processing time. This is especially useful when batch editing a large number of files or compiling a series of images for creating time-lapse.
Even with a seemingly quick machine if the hard drive is of a particular type, it may hold you back. Additionally, if the hard drive does not have enough storage processing and accessing speeds would be slow.
If you are in the market looking for a laptop, because that is the most convenient of options, look for Intel Core i7 8th Generation processor with at least 8 GB of RAM. If you are looking for upgrade convenience, then a desktop will be the better option. A desktop allows much better configurability and upgradeability than a laptop, especially when you consider the future.
If you have to use your external hard drive (we strongly recommend using it), try and use one only with a USB 3.0 or a Thunderbolt port. These will ensure faster access speeds.
Another trick to speed up things is to put your Lightroom catalog files on a SSD drive. Lightroom catalog and preview files (the files that Lightroom actually shows you) go in the same folder and having all of them on a fast SSD means much faster access.
#02 – Optimize Catalog file
Speaking of catalog files and optimizing them, now is the time to look at how to optimize the Lightroom catalog. One of the tricks to use is to check “Embedded and Sidecar Previews”. This particular tip is brilliant for people who often complain that Lightroom takes ages to pull up a preview when they try to review the images they have imported in the Develop mode.
Incidentally, Library is the best mode to preview your images. When you check this the previews which are there in your camera are also imported. This allows you to press the right or left arrow key and shift through all the images at blazing speed. No more painful waits.
An important thing to note. If you do import the embedded previews from the raw files as opposed to building Lightroom previews (explained in point #06), you may not like the look and feel of those previews. Why? Because the RAW file has a different embedded preview image to the one that Lightroom builds using the various default settings. The two are bound to be different and depending on your taste you might like one over the other.
Another interesting tip is to ensure that Lightroom is tuned with the graphics card on your computer. If this is not done you will have issues like jittering and weird glitches.
#03 - Increase the Cache Size
A simple thing as increasing the Camera RAW cache can go a long way into improving the speed and performance of Lightroom. To increase Camera RAW cache all you have to do go to Preferences and increase the cache size by manually typing a number (GB). By default it is set to 1 GB, but you can always ad additional space. Lightroom will use this extra space to store the original images in this cache and create a finer quality preview than what it normally does. The simple thumb rule being, larger the cache size more the number of images you can store.
#04 – Pause Address and Face Lookup
Two interesting features on Lightroom CC are face recognition and address look-up based on the GPS data that is embedded into the images. Lightroom does a fair job with both. But while doing it, the software will hog a lot of resource and in the process slow down editing performance.
The best thing, that is if you want Lightroom to continue doing this, is to make sure it pauses both the functions while you are actively editing your images. In order to pause both these actions click on the top left corner where you name is displayed. A drop down menu displaying the active tasks will be demonstrated. Choose the ones that you wish to pause.
#05 – Toggle Using Systems Graphics Card
Adobe supports the use of the graphics processing chip inside of your computer for optimum processing. The whole ideology of using graphics processing chips, which are mainly used for video rendering, is that they are better at handling certain aspects of video editing.
However you have to keep in mind that the whole process involves probably a bit more work for the computer. This is because the select functions which are allocated to the graphics chip (yes, not all functions are outsourced to the graphics chip), have to be first redirected from the processing chip and then after the processing is complete have to be redirected back to the CPU. An awful amount of directing and redirecting, and that too for not all the processes, that are actually outsourced. So at the end of the day the major processing is still handled by the CPU.
Additionally, please note that not all systems will benefit from outsourcing of the processing tasks from the CPU to the GPU. In some cases instead of any increase of speed, the opposite happens. It is imperative, thus, to know in advance whether redirecting the functions from the CPU to the GPU will actually quicken up performance or slow things down.
As a general rule if the resolution of the system is high and is paired with a high performance GPU then offloading some of the functions might actually see better performance. Comparatively, with lower resolution monitors there is less performance improvement, even a drop in the overall performance.
#06 – Standard Previews on Import
Another trick that you can use during the importing step is to use the standard preview option. This is of course an alternative method to the one that is mentioned above. Choosing standard preview will definitely slow down the whole process of importing of images. But on the bright side you get the advantage of speed when previewing the images inside Lightroom.
The library module is by far the best option when it comes to previewing your images. The fact that it builds the previews from the RAW files as you open an image to preview means the overall experience is adversely affected. With this step, Lightroom builds the previews from the images which are already imported and present on your hard drive. This enhances the speed of the previewing process, compared to what it would have been had the preview been made from the raw files.
#07 – Turn off Autowrite XMP
There are many reasons why you should have Autowrite XMP turned on. One of them being if your Lightroom catalog is ever to get corrupted or misplaced or downright get deleted for some reason, you still have a way to salvage all the changes that you ever did to your images. When you choose to use Autowrite to XMP, Lightroom creates a separate .xmp file that saves all the changes you do to your RAW file in that file. This is a non-destructive way to keep a track of the changes and to access them if you ever need to and edit them if required. You have all the changes you ever did on an image file right there on that separate .XMP file. The best thing is this file can be read by many other image editing applications beyond Lightroom.
But there is one reason why you might want to just leave it unchecked! And that reason is simply to save on computing power. If you leave auto-writing to XMP file you would leave Lightroom to continuously allocate a part of the resources to make changes to the XMP file after every modification that you do to the image file. This happens while you are making changes. Lightroom will continuously keep writing the changes to the .XMP file.
If you have a computer that is a bit older and or has less computing power than is the optimum requirement for working with Lightroom, you can choose to leave this option unchecked.
#08 – Stop Culling in Lightroom
We are guilty of doing this far too often. Many among us prefer to import the full memory card in to Lightroom and then cull and do whatever we need to do after that. If Lightroom is already running slow and your system is huffing and puffing, there is no point in further burdening the system with a comprehensive culling routine.
For those who would prefer to cull before starting the main edit function, you can use any dedicated culling tool that previews the image in full size to check for stuff like sharpness and focus to decide whether to keep them or throw them away. After that you can choose to only edit the selected images.
Just in case you are wondering what would be a good software to cull your images, try and take a look at Photo Mechanic. This is a pretty easy to use software that allows you to cull your images very easily.
#09 – Edit Images Sequentially
Sequential editing, as the name suggests, is all about editing a series of images one after the other in the same order as they were shot. Lightroom will always load the images in the same order as you shot them. Additionally, what it does is it loads the images immediately after and before the image that is active being edited, into memory. This means faster loading when either of these two images are pulled up next for editing.
Editing images sequentially has some additional advantages as well, and that is you have a clear idea of the lighting conditions, white balance, and other stuff for a series of images which might have been shot within a few minutes of each other. This helps in during the editing process because you can copy and paste development settings from one image to the ones immediately before and after. Of course if the composition changes or the scene changes this technique will not work (copying of development settings).
Additionally, sequential editing is recommended because if you keep hopping from one image to the other without any order whatsoever, you have a higher chance of implementing a wring edit. Your mind keeps a record of things as they happen. Editing sequentially triggers that memory and helps during the post-processing phase.
#10 – Apply Develop Edits in an Optimal Order
Lightroom is a mixture of tools and techniques that can transform an image in no time at all. But each incremental change takes that much longer to take effect. This is a a major reason why it may appear that your images are taking longer to edit. Actually, the series of changes that you have applied takes puts the develop module through the grind trying to affect them within a reasonable time frame. Optimal order denotes following a recommended list of steps for applying changes. Such as spot healing comes before everything else does. Next you should work on lens corrections, and other manual adjustments such as the horizon line adjustment and so on. The exposure adjustment changes, contrast and white balance adjustments which are global in nature can come after this. Followed by the global adjustments are the local adjustments. Under this you have things like gradient filters. And finally you can use tools such as noise reduction and sharpening before exporting an image out of Lightroom.
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