As the years have gone by, Adobe has consistently improved upon the speed & performance of Lightroom, but somehow, someway, it still gets sluggish and starts slowing down your workflow. We’ve gathered 10 tips to help you speed up your Lightroom performance and increase efficiency while editing.

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Note: Before you start changing anything, make sure you have updated to the latest version of Lightroom.

These first four tips are things you should always be doing in Lightroom and will immediately increase your efficiency while editing.

Tip #1:  Enable Custom GPU Based Acceleration (ALWAYS)

Head to your Preferences (CTRL+,/CMD+,) and from the General tab switch over to the Performance tab. Select the drop-down menu next to ‘Use Graphics Processor’ and switch it to Custom from Auto. For some reason, Lightroom turns this off by default. Then, toggle the box that states ‘Use GPU for image processing’ which should bring up a small alert below that states ‘Full graphics acceleration is enabled’. To make sure your Graphics Card is supported, you can click the Learn More button and double-check.

Note: Before enabling, we’d highly recommend first updating your graphics drivers.

Tip #2: Store Catalogs & Work From Your Fastest Internal Drive (ALWAYS)

If you have an SSD or MVME drive, you are on the right track. I work off of a 2 TB SSD where I store all of my current work and Lightroom catalogs. This tip alone may single-handedly answer the question of how to speed up Lightroom performance since it isn’t running off of the laptop/computer drive which bogs down the software.

Tip #3: Update the Max Size FOr Your Raw Cache (ALWAYS)

For the Raw Cache folder, make sure you choose the fastest internal drive, and it can be the same place you’re storing your catalogs. Now, update the Maximum Size to 100 GB. We do this to ensure that the Raw Cache folder has enough space to accommodate all of the different previews and cache files it’s going to be saving. I set it to 100 GB just to be safe, but this number may be different for your depending on your typical file sizes.

Tip #4: RENDER Previews BEFORE CULLING/Editing (ALWAYS)

Smart-Previews

Always render previews before culling or editing. You can render previews during the import process however 1:1 previews can require a significant amount of time. So keep in mind that you can always import, then render 1:1 and Smart Previews from the Library > Previews menu.

Tip #5: Use Smart Previews While Editing (OPTIONAL)

In the same Performance tab, head down to the Develop section and toggle the box that says ‘Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing’. This will benefit you most while editing in the Develop Module because it will load Smart Previews when processing images instead of the original image files. If you notice there is a slight decline in overall quality when you are viewing the images in the Develop module, but when you export the images will be completely fine.

Tip #6: Reduce Standard Preview Size Resolution (OPTIONAL)

Pull up your Catalog Settings (Alt + CTRL + , | Opt + CMD + , ) and select the File Handling tab. These are Catalog specific settings whereas the general Preferences apply to all of the Lightroom catalogs, so any alterations you make in this dialogue box would need to be made for each catalog you open. A way to speed up Lightroom is to reduce the Standard Preview Size resolution per catalog from your default setting to 1680 pixels.

Tip #7: Do Not Write Automatically Write Changes Into XMP (OPTIONAL)

In Catalog Settings, switch over to the Metadata tab and de-select ‘Automatically write changes into XMP’. When this is toggled on, Lightroom is going to create an extra sidecar file every time you make an adjustment and change. Not only will it write the adjustment into the catalog, but also into a sidecar file. If you notice that Lightroom is operating at a slower pace as you make edits to images, this could be a way to boost performance. There are benefits to keeping XMPs, for example, if the catalog goes corrupt you have a second set of file settings as a backup, but it turning it off will speed up your Lightroom performance.

Tip #8: Turn off Automatic Face Detection (OPTIONAL)

In the same Metadata tab, you’ll see Face Detection towards the bottom of the dialogue box. This uses quite a bit of CPU power because Lightroom uses AI to jump through all of the images to try and detect faces.

Tip #9: Separate Your Shoots by Catalog (OPTIONAL)

For portrait, event, and wedding photographers that are working with large catalogs filled with different client images, I suggest separating your shoots into individual catalogs to avoid confusion and to improve Lightroom speed & performance. Despite what you’ve read online or what Adobe claims, Lightroom will slow down if you overload your General catalog. While later versions of Lightrooms are doing far better in this area, prior versions can see significant slow-downs when you are working with 20,000+ images in one catalog, so do yourself a favor and separate them out.

There are also other benefits of separating catalogs. For studios that shoot a significant volume of images, smaller catalogs stored in the same folder as the original images make it easier to transfer images through the network. In addition, having these catalogs separated out allows for multiple editors to work on different shoots simultaneously. For us, it just makes sense, but for you, this is one of those “see if it fits” type workflow decisions.

Tip #10: Focus On CPU, Hard Drive, GPU for Better Hardware Performance (LAST RESORT)

Watch our comparison of the 2019 iMac Pro vs a Custom Puget Systems PC in a Lightroom showdown.

We’ve mostly discussed how to speed up Lightroom within the settings and preferences in the software, but what if, even after doing all of these things, you are still faced with sluggish performance or excessive lagging? This is when you can look into making alterations to your hardware to see improvements in Lightroom’s efficiency.

CPU

If you’re looking at a new computer, when it comes to the CPU, higher clock speed is going to give you better Lightroom performance than more cores. Lightroom isn’t designed to utilize that many cores, so fewer cores, and higher clock speed is going to make a bigger difference.

Hard Drive

Use the fastest possible storage drive for the location of your catalogs. Ideally set up an internal SSD or an MVME drive for fast read and write times which will enable Lightroom to quickly access those files and write cache and preview information. Remember, external USB drives will dramatically slow down Lightroom performance.

GPU

Select a GPU that offers full acceleration when image processing. If you are looking to tweak and modify to create your own PC powerhouse, we recommend checking out Puget Systems. If you want something that is ready-to-go and you are familiar and comfortable with the Mac OS, then we recommend opting for an iMac Pro.

Try these out and see if this speeds up your Lightroom workflow! If you found these tips insightful, make sure you sign up here to get early access to the Lightroom Fundamentals Course coming soon to SLR Lounge Premium! This is an A-Z guide to get you to RAW processing mastery within Lightroom. Despite the name, this course, we’ll teach you things you never realized you could even attempt or accomplish using Lightroom.

In the meantime, you can watch our existing courses here and access our 2018 Preset System here. We are working hard on a revamp of our presets and will be announcing an exciting partnership soon, stay tuned!