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Could Speeding Up Lightroom Really Be This Easy?! (No Hardware Purchase Required)

By Kishore Sawh on October 29th 2015

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Lightroom like many of the best tools in any trade can be both friend and foe. What Lightroom is currently able to do, and where it’s going, is actually quite astonishing, but the major issue we have with it as photographers is the way it goes about doing it what it does behind the scenes. It’s a complete resource whore, but it doesn’t ‘flex’ as much, so even as it devours your resources, its performance doesn’t run parallel to what you put in.

For instance, when I’m on the road, I’m currently using a mid 2015 MacBook Pro 2.9GHz i5 with 16GB RAM and a decent enough graphics card, plus a solid state drive. So, for all intents and purposes, speaking as a non-gamer, this thing should purr like a kitten on ecstasy (or in ecstasy?), and it does. Mostly. It really does handle about anything I throw at it with aplomb, and the only time it ever coughs is with Lightroom. Why, WHY Adobe?

Well I could go on and on here but there’s no point because for better or worse, until something else comes along that makes our lives invested in Lightroom an easy switch and just as powerful, it is with Lightroom we stand. But must we stand for poor performance? The Adobe team must be hella tired of hearing the same complaint, and as such, they seem to come up with some stock responses. One of which has been getting a bit of attention recently. The story goes that a disgruntled LR user contacted customer support to spit venom and bile but was sedated when the Adobe support person told them to increase Lightroom’s cache file.

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Hmm. Here’s what Adobe has to say on their site for guidance on optimizing Lightroom’s performance:

Every time you view or edit raw images in the Develop module, Lightroom generates up-to-date, high-quality previews. It uses the original image data as its foundation, and then updates the preview for any processing or adjustments that have been applied. The process is a little faster if the original image data is in the Camera Raw cache. Lightroom checks the cache for the original image data and can skip early stage processing if the image data is cached.

By default, Lightroom sets the Camera Raw cache to 1 GB. If you increase the cache size, it can store more image data, which in turn speeds the generation of previews of those images. Some Lightroom users find that increasing the Camera Raw cache to 20 GB or more can dramatically speed performance in the Develop module.

I’ve seen this before, but hadn’t decided to give it a shot until now, and I’ve done so on a computer running an SSD and one running a 7200RPM standard HD. So, up until this moment, I’ve bene using my 1GB cache and felt a bit of apprehension that I may feel like an idiot if this trick worked. Luckily and unluckily, it didn’t make a huge difference to me.

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Upping my cache to 20GB initially proved no discernible difference in the computer with the SSD and maybe something hardly noticeable in the other. So deciding to up it again, I’ve set them both to 50GB and again no real discernible difference with the SSD computer, but with the other I was actually noticing faster scrolling speeds, faster rendering of previews, and a faster working in the develop module.

What To Do

Now, I haven’t measured these things scientifically, but it was certainly obvious through use, and all I can say is try for yourself, since it’s dead easy to do. All you do is go to Lightroom Preferences > File Handling (tab) > scroll to the bottom to see the Cache settings and update there. I should mention that I had to restart Lightroom to see the difference, so perhaps you’d be served best to do the same.

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[REWIND: Adobe Issues Lightroom Statement | Bringing Back & Fixing Features]

I should probably say now too that I’m not a tech wiz and don’t pretend to be, so I don’t know what your system must be running to see the benefit from this, or what setting a 50 or 100GB LR cache means for the rest of your computer activities, but I must say, I can’t imagine this is the final solution. That said, if you’re struggling with speed, give it a shot – just run it up the flag pole and see if your system salutes.

And if you’re really in the mood to stop wasting time and grab LR by the neck and control it like you invented it, well I suggest you check out the Lightroom Collection. You will not find a finer and faster way to develop true Lightroom mastery. Find it here.

Sources: Adobe, PetaPixel

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

13 Comments

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  1. Natoyi Lively

    I was running my 6gb ram, 600 gb hd intel core i5 computer at stock LR setting then bumping it to 25gb did nothing for me, bumped up to 60, and still did nothing for me, when i bumped it to 100gb, i noticed a difference. I probably have about 80gb of photos on the computer, and only 20 in the catalog.

    hope this helps someone

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  2. Brandon Ericksen

    Setting the cache to the hard drive, although the default setting, is hard on an SSD. I loaded my workstation with 32gb of ram, then used a program called SoftPerfect RAM disk to create a temporary harddrive in the RAM that is created everytime I start the computer then I ride the lightning B-)

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    • Dave Haynie

      That’s not a bad idea, given that I have 64GB RAM in my system, which is hardly touched by Lightroom (it’s actually there for Autopano Giga… when merging dozens of raw 16-20Mpixel photos, you needs your RAM).

      Just grabbed Softperfect RAM disc, and it looks pretty good. Only question: they don’t explicitly state if the RAM disc is allocated statically or dynamically. Easy enough to figure out once in use, but do you know? One of the things I miss, all these years later, is the AmigaOS’s built-in RAM: disc, which was purely dynamic… it grew or shrank by use.

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    • Brandon Ericksen

      I believe it is static, I set all programs that I can direct the cache to the RAM Drive. I should mention that as far as I know a RAM drive is faster than any harddrive even M.2’s but because of RAM being volatile memory when you shut your computer off everything on the drive is erased.

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    • Dave Haynie

      A RAM disc is as fast as a drive can possibly be on any computer. Think about a good SSD… the SATA SSD on my main PC does about 480MB/s, the PCIe SSD on my laptop does about 1.2GB/s. The DDR3-1800 memory in my PC peaks at about 15GB/s. Per channel, with four channels in use, that’s 60GB/s. Now, sure, that’s a best case. Still, if you run a benchmark on a ram disc, you’re basically benchmarking the overhead of the various kinds of communications that have to happen in a PC’s OS to run the file system and device driver. The RAM speed itself is so far, it’s going to be a tiny percentage of that time.

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  3. marcel bauer

    might have to give this a try

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  4. Peter Georges

    I’ve got a 6 core 4.2ghz system, with separate fast SSDs for the LR library, photos and cache (200gb set in the cache).

    It’s still slow.

    The biggest speed benefits come from more overclocked cores and SSDs but it’s definitely still laggy when you just want to rush through dozens of high res raw images in develop mode.

    I’ve been tempted to try a PCI-e SSD to see if that helps since they’re 4x faster.

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  5. Dave Haynie

    Never adjusted mine… it defaulted only 1GB. I have photos larger than 1GB… might make a difference. At least it defaulted to the SSD and not the Drobo…

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  6. Jon Ellis

    Have to say I tried this on my 2 ssd laptop and it sped up the development module but a long way! Once I had zoomed in on a shot and LR had loaded it, the next time I zoomed in it was instant.. Wonder how my main rig would benefit from this?

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  7. Ben Young

    I don’t have any issues with speed when using Lightroom. How so? What have I done with my computer?
    Well, unfortunately my solution is not for everyone. If you’re using a macbook or laptop then you’re going to be a limited.

    About a year ago I was researching into what sort of machine was best for me for photo editing.
    At the time I was using a laptop and considered a new one. But, I don’t travel with my computer and almost always sit at the same desk when editing. So I ended up buying a stationary machine. The main reason was because of physical disk drives.

    When I’m using Lightroom I’m actually using 4 different physical disk drives.
    C: drive is used solely for the operating system and installed programs.
    D: drive I’ve configured Windows so that all user folders are placed on D:
    E: drive’s sole purpose is to exist as my Lr catalogue
    F: drive is used solely as my Lr Library

    I was blown away by the speed increase when I set up my new machine when compared to the old.
    It’s been a while now and though I don’t feel blown away (I guess the novelty has worn off) I don’t feel Lr has slowed down any.
    Like I said, it’s not a solution for everyone, but if you have the possibility to install an extra disk drive or two then it’s the way to go.

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    • Ben Young

      I thought that I’d add an observation about disk drive usage.
      When using Lightroom, it is my D: drive (Windows user data drive) that seems to get hit the hardest.

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  8. Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    I’ve had mine at 100GB for a long time now (well over 2 years) and it made no difference at all. Very unfortunate :/

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  9. Gregory Davidson

    I had mine set to 20gb… but upped it too 50gb… not sure how much of a difference it makes. Especially since my cache folder only has 200mb of data in it.

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