Lightroom Tips

Relaunch and Optimize Your Catalog Today

I hope you had a great weekend. I just wanted to say a quick thanks for all of the great comments on Friday’s video post. I’ll definitely be mixing some of the Before/After videos here on the site. I’ve also decided to create (and already started working on) a “Lightroom/Photoshop Before and After” class and DVD for Kelby Training. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Anyway, on to the topic of today’s post. I was poking through the Catalog settings menu in Lightroom and realized I hadn’t optimized my catalog in a while. Adobe recommends optimizing when your catalog grows in size. What size you ask? No one really knows but I use 10,000 as a good number. It’s not big in terms of how big catalogs can grow, but it’s still a substantial number of photos. I usually optimize after I’ve imported a lot of photos (thousands) and also deleted a lot of photos. Lately, I’ve been doing some catalog maintenance (importing older photos and deleting a lot too) so I figured it was a good time to try it again. I can’t say that Lightroom was completely sluggish before I did it but I remember thinking to myself a few times that things should be happening a little faster. After I optimized it did seem like things moved a little zippier (I love that word!) then usual.

So give it a try when you have a few minutes today. For all of you number-crunching techie folks out there, I’ve not found statistics on exactly what percentage of optimization or zippiness (there’s that word again) you’ll get from it but it can’t hurt to try it out. Remember that at it’s core, Lightroom’s catalog is like a database file (let the snoring begin). And databases consistently need to be optimized and things moved around once in a while to help them perform better. So that’s pretty much the same deal here.

To optimize, go to your Catalog Settings dialog (Lightroom menu on a Mac and Edit menu on a PC). Go under the General tab and click the Relaunch and Optimize button at the bottom. Mine took about 5 minutes for a catalog with around 20,000 images in it so go grab yourself a cup of coffee (or coke zero) when you do it.



  1. Jaap Meijer 18 May, 2009 at 13:39 Reply

    Great, didn’t know the function. Have about 30.000 photos in LR2 en deleting rejected photos took more and more time. Now it’s fast again. Thanks.

  2. Dan Walsh 6 May, 2009 at 21:19 Reply

    Hi Matt;

    Just wanted to let you know that Nik Software’s ‘Sharpener Pro 3.0’ is now compatible with Lightroom. free updates are available for all owners of Sharpener Pro 3.0 or their Complete Collection.

    Matt, do you know of anyway to;

    1.) Resize an image inside Lightroom with having to export it to do so?
    2.) Apply a frame inside Lightroom?

    My workflow requirement fyg is;
    1.) Resize image to 720px (longest edge)
    2.) Apply sharpening
    3.) Apply simple frame 80px
    4.) Apply watermark
    5.) Export image for web (under 300kb)

    Would greatly appreciate any suggestions you may have. Cheers!
    – Dan

  3. Jonathan 6 May, 2009 at 00:37 Reply

    Great tip as always. I try to remember to optimize regularly but I forget often. Wouldn’t it be great if Lightroom would remind you to optimize regularly? Maybe 2.4??

  4. Pete Chaloner 5 May, 2009 at 21:12 Reply

    Hi Matt, definitely like the before and after video’s, good to see the whole workflow on some of your actual images.

  5. Gavin Treadgold 5 May, 2009 at 19:02 Reply

    Thanks for the tip. In conjunction with Lightroom Queen’s post about Hurrying Up Lr, I both optimised the catalogue and undertook some of Lr Queen’s suggestions. I also went and trimmed out 11GB of unneeded catalogue backups! I blogged about it here – Tidying up Lightroom. For me, optimising trimmed the catalogue by 20MB, just over an 8% percent decrease in size.

  6. Lisa Cirincione 5 May, 2009 at 10:42 Reply

    I make standard size previews when I import my pictures… and I keep my photos on a separate hard drive. I frequently like to to look at the catalog to organize and sort the library with just the previews, and I don’t need the hard drive hooked up to do this (great for plane trips).
    When I optimized my catalog, it deleted all the previews I had imported for pictures I hadn’t looked at yet. I had to go back in and waste time re-rendering previews for all of my photos.
    Not a big fan of optimizing.

  7. Louis Dallara 5 May, 2009 at 10:20 Reply

    Great job, really enjoyed the before and after. Learned tons of stuff.
    It went a little fast in PS.
    Thanks for a great job, sure wish I had know about the arches workshop,
    hope you get a mailing list some day.

  8. Carolyn Fahm 5 May, 2009 at 08:56 Reply

    I can’t wait for your Before and After course on Kelby Training. Now that we have the Lightroom basics down, having a master course by you is the next step to take our own work to the next level. I was amazed by how much more proficient I have become from what I learned at Photoshop World from the great Lightroom track – yours included.

    Regarding the issue of one or several catalogs, I noticed that Terry White advocated using multiple catalogs in his “Evening with Terry White” training. I just broke up my huge catalog and am planning to do the same for the remaining photos left behind. If I ever need to combine images I can always export them as a catalog and merge them into another catalog. Things were just too unwieldy with unrelated images all in the same giant catalog.

  9. Sven Rikner 5 May, 2009 at 08:33 Reply

    Hi Matt. Sweden again. Great tip again. I run Lightroom on a PC with 4 GB of RAM and a dual core processor. I think it works a little slow sometimes, especially when I move between panels. Do you have any optimizing tip on that it would be great.

    Great blog!

  10. ElliR 5 May, 2009 at 02:23 Reply

    @ Robert. What I do is press and hold CTRL + ALT (PC) whilst mousing on the Exposure slider. This turns the image black and I then move the slider until the brightest parts of the image first start to appear. Repeat the same key actions when moving onto the blacks slider only this time the image turns black and you adjust until the darkest parts of the image first start to appear. On a Mac it would be CTRL + Option I belive.

    @ Matt. Any possibility of you doing a video demonstrating the differences between the Exposure and Brightness sliders? You might need to consult with your Adobe buddies first on this because what is stated in the Help file (the theory) isn’t exactly what is appearing, or indeed happening, in practise. Thanks.

  11. Rich C 4 May, 2009 at 23:11 Reply

    I break my catalogs up, but I’ve got some approaching the 8,000 mark. I definitely give the optimization a whirl. Didn’t even notice the option……

    Thanks for another great tip!

  12. jay B 4 May, 2009 at 20:51 Reply

    Robert-Peter Westphal – you can correct the color cast by hitting the “J” key in the develop module as a first step. This enable you to see where you lose detail in both the shadows and highlights. Move the exposure slider until you like the highlight setting. Move the blacks slider until you have the black point set. Then use the brightness slider to get the overall photo to the right brightness. Don’t worry about the brightness until the end. Works like a charm. Hit the “J” key again to turn it off.

  13. Dilip Barman 4 May, 2009 at 17:32 Reply

    My main catalog is larger than 20,000 but it gets reoptimized periodically when I do my more-or-less weekly automatic backups. I also backup the catalog file itself at least once a day. I had never done a manual reoptimization, though – thanks for the suggestion.

  14. Dmitry 4 May, 2009 at 15:07 Reply


    Very interesting and helpful blog! Thank you!

    I have a question. The LR is realy nice program for editing photos but I see that LR not so good for quick viewing and sorting photos. Maybe I don’t know right ways to do this. Could you create post about viewing photos?

  15. Ben 4 May, 2009 at 14:51 Reply

    I actually use a new catalogue for every project I work on which keeps nice and zippy all the time. The catalogue files seem pretty small so I can’t see the benefit of using one massive catalogue.

  16. Sacha 4 May, 2009 at 12:46 Reply


    I think wasted space is generated when you remove photos from the catalog. I look at it as ‘holes’ which remain in the DB. So whenever you deleted hundreds of photos I would recommend to optimize the database.


  17. Robert-Peter Westphal 4 May, 2009 at 12:09 Reply

    Hi Matt, in Capture NX2 you can activate double threshold, move the slider underneath the histogram until you see the first black and white spots appearing in your image and set a white and black point. When doing so, the contrast of your picture is optimzed an dfurthermore any colorcast is completely removed. Is there any way to do the same or receive the same results in Lr ?

    Many thanks and best wishes


  18. Ricardo 4 May, 2009 at 11:57 Reply

    Hi Matt:
    I have try his a couple of times, but my catalog is getting bigger and bigger, and therefore slow. I may have missed it, but I was wondering if you can have more than one catalog, if they work independently (faster), and how is the best way to organized them?
    Thanks a lot for the great tips,

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