How to Use Lightroom Faster
Do you find that every version of Lightroom runs slower and slower, no matter how new and powerful your computer is? If you're like me, you love editing in Lightroom but hate how sluggish the performance can get. To be blunt, it runs like a snail in hot molasses. Here are 10 tips to speed up Lightroom and get you breezing through your editing again.
1. Increase ACR Cache
The cache is basically the quick access memory Lightroom uses to load your photos and adjustments, meaning a bigger one allows it to store and recall this information much faster without having to redo the processing for each file. This setting is perhaps the biggest adjustment you can make to allow Lightroom to utilize your computer's resources better. The default setting is a paltry 1 GB, but upping it to 20-25 GBs will give Lightroom a lot more breathing room and let you zip through images at a much higher rate. You can find this setting under Preferences -> File Handling.
2. Render 1:1 Previews on Import
Preview files are what Lightroom generates and displays in the develop module for each of your files. The larger the preview, the more detailed the photo will appear. If you've ever switched photos and noticed a blurry file, a few seconds of lag, then a clear and sharp image, that is Lightroom generating the appropriate size preview for your monitor. If you render 1:1 (the largest) previews on import, you can skip this step every time you switch to a new image. This will cause your import process to take a while longer, but it will more than make up for it when you are actually editing your images, so just go have some coffee and let your import finish. I use 1:1 previews on my desktop, as it is a pretty high end performance machine that can handle large files well. This option is at the top right of the import dialog.
3. Use Smart Previews
Smart previews are the opposite of 1:1 previews, in a way. They are separate files that let you edit your photos even when the actual raw files are not present, say if you store them on an external drive and it gets disconnected. The beauty of smart previews is that they load and process much faster than full size files. You can do all of your editing on the smart preview files, then plug the external drive back in and sync everything to the full size files for export. I use smart previews on my Macbook Air, which is a few years old at this point and would be sluggish with full size files from the Nikon d750. You can generate smart previews on import just like 1:1 previews, or you can generate them at any time in the Library module.
4. Optimize Your Catalog
Your catalog is basically a long list of every photo and every adjustment you've made, as well as the organization of folders, names, ratings, and every other parameter you can adjust in Lightroom. As you can imagine, things can get messy quick, especially when your catalog grows to the tens of thousands of images size. This option will go through and clean up your catalog file, which can let Lightroom retrieve and write information much quicker. Think of it as a defrag for Lightroom, cleaning up the clutter and getting rid of unnecessary mess. To do this, go to File -> Optimize Catalog and let it do its thing.
5. Use Your Videocard for Processing
Modern video cards can handle an amazing amount of processing, especially those with larger amounts of RAM. If you have a dedicated video card, this setting can offload some of the processing from your CPU to your GPU and let them work together to do everything faster. This can make things like the adjustment brush tool much smoother and speed up the develop module in general. This setting is under Preferences -> Performance. If you have an older computer or laptop without a dedicated graphics unit, you may be better off leaving this option disabled (as I have on my Macbook Air).
6. Make a New Catalog
As mentioned above, catalogs can get unwieldy and messy after a while. This can be one of the number one culprits of why Lightroom might be running poorly for you now when it previously had no issues with speed. If your catalog is 20,000 or more images large, you might want to consider starting a new one to give Lightroom a clean slate. I do this every couple of months and I always see a big difference when I start a new one. I have an old catalog with close to 50,000 images in it that takes forever to process anything with. To start a new catalog, just go to File -> New Catalog. Be sure to always backup old catalogs just like you would back up your raw files.
7. Convert Raw Files to DNG
DNG is the raw file format built by Adobe, meant to be a universal file type for editing software and keep files independent of camera manufacturer changes in the future. DNG stands for "Digital Negative", and just like true film negatives, it's meant to be a long lasting standard that will preserve your files even if a camera maker stopped supporting their old raw files. The benefit of DNGs for Lightroom is that they can increase performance for some, since the format was designed by Adobe themselves and made to be easy for editing programs to work with. I convert all files to DNG when I import to Lightroom. This option is at the top of the import module.
8. Apply Presets on Import
If you have a go-to preset you use as a base for your editing, applying it during import can cut out yet another step in your workflow and let Lightroom do the crunching while it imports and organizes your files. I love this option, as it lets me see a closer to finished product when I'm culling in the library module, then all I have to do in the develop module is fine tweaking of things like exposure or adjustment brushes. On the right panel of the import module, look under Apply During Import -> Develop Settings and select your preset.
9. Use an SSD
SSDs, or solid state drives, can perform computer tasks up to 30 times faster than traditional disc based hard drives. Everything you do in Lightroom can be sped up by using an SSD, from importing (copying files), editing (writing information), to exporting (saving new files). Most Mac computers have transitioned to SSDs as a primary drive these days, and it's a common feature in high end PCs as well, but if you don't have one it is a very simple process to add one to your desktop, but a little trickier to add one to most laptops. Either way, they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to saving you time and speeding up your computer in general, not to mention the Lightroom performance increase.
10. Optimize Your Hard Drive.
Whether you use an SSD or an HDD, there are a few things you can do to ensure they perform the best for Lightroom's needs. All hard drives perform better when they have plenty of free space to work with. If your drive has less than 25% of it's space free, all of those temp files and caches Lightrooms creates and uses can cause things to really bog down, or worse, crash. Advanced tools like Photo Merge can be especially storage space hungry and cause issues if you don't have enough space free. I recommend keeping at least 30% free and transferring files to an external drive when you get beyond that to make room. If you use a traditional HDD, defragging regularly can help the lifespan and performance of your drive. Both Windows and Mac machines include disc utilities to defrag and clean hard drives. Note, if you use an SSD do not bother defragging, as they don't have the same platter system HDDs use and reorganizing the files on an SSD will do nothing to help performance.
Got any other tips to share?
If you know any other ideas to speed up Lightroom, please share below. Let me know if these tips help you as well.
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