Lightroom Tips

Tips on Tuning Lightroom's Performance

Happy Friday everyone. First, I’ve got a couple of seminars coming up in the next few weeks. I’ll be in Oklahoma City next week and Austin, TX the week after. Click here to check out the seminar page, watch a video about the seminar itself and sign up. I’d love to see you there 🙂

Next, I just found an article on Adobe’s website called “Lightroom Performance Hints“. There’s actually some really good stuff in it and I think it’s definitely worth reading. For me, I knew many of the things listed but I had no idea how much RAM impacts LR’s performance. I also never knew that my display size would affect performance as well. Luckily I mostly use my laptop and I don’t even have the higher resolution display. I’m plenty happy with 1440×900.

I often hear people with performance problems who use external drives. One of the points here, and something I always warn people of, is that Lightroom’s performance is directly affected by how fast the drive you’re using is, so keep that in mind.

I did find it odd, that one of the points on the tips page, talks about using the 2010 process version for faster performance. Really? So I’m supposed to go to a 3-year old process version to speed things up? I’ll pass on that one 🙂

It’s definitely worth a read though. Have a great weekend!



  1. Gail D 16 February, 2013 at 01:13 Reply

    I suffer from the external hard drive slowness issue, but I’m not certain how else to organize things given that I’m editing on both an iMac and a MacBook Pro, and I need my catalog and images to be readily accessible to both.

    I have also, from time to time, reverted back to the 2010 process version. It does speed things up for me, at least when I’m trying to preview presets that were developed using 2010 (LR3), and I have a lot of those. In fact, I’ve reverted to 2010 just to use some of my favorite presets from Matt because they were developed for LR3 and don’t render even close to the same in LR4.

    I’m maxed out on RAM, though, so no room for improvement there.

  2. stefan 29 January, 2013 at 12:43 Reply

    Thanks for the info Matt.
    Adobe should definitely start supporting hardware acceleration in LR ( they do in photoshop as far as I know). Current gaming video cards (windows) have plenty of processing power and memory that could be used.

  3. Noah Bershatsky 28 January, 2013 at 10:36 Reply

    Why don’t you and Scott talk with Adobe about implementing CUDA acceleration like they use in ALL of CS6. The are not relying on the processing power of graphics cards at all.

    It’s a waste of my quadro 4000 on a Mac Pro. I can zoom, pan, rotate, etc. smoothly in photoshop, but not Lightroom. The coding is poor.

  4. Charles 24 January, 2013 at 13:33 Reply

    Matt – totally unrelated, but related to LR – do you have any suggestions for a workflow to get images from LR to an iPad?

    One that I’ve done, and it’s cumbersome, is to export JPEG’s to a separate folder, and add them via iTunes. Works, but really cumbersome. Have tried Photosmith (very buggy iPad app).


  5. Ezekiel e. Photography 22 January, 2013 at 15:05 Reply


    First time on your blog. Im a wedding photographer based in Miami. This looks like an exciting blog that is packed with a plethora of amazing Lightroom info. As far as feedback on this post, yes an external drive really plays a huge roll on the programs performance. As a MAC Pro user I would love to use a drive with Thunderbolt capabilities but that is just a bit out of my league right now. Currently i am connected to a Western Digital HD using a firewire 800 connection, and depending on the actions being preformed it can slow down at times, especially when I apply a preset to a batch of photos. Anyway, I think I’m going to like this blog.


  6. JayM 21 January, 2013 at 10:24 Reply

    Thanks Matt. This appears to be an updated list from Adobe as I don’t recall seeing some of those suggestions when reviewing in the past. Among which is the increased accuracy of the spot healing brush when first in the workflow. I tend to do this anyway not for healing accuracy, but rather for speed – it completely bogs down when there are processing commands in front of it.

    All these tips aside, I still feel Adobe has much work to do on architecture efficiency with Lightroom. It’s a cumbersome program that more often than not feels like moving through molasses (and I’m running quad-core, 16GB RAM, 1GB video card, multiple fast drives, optimized catalogues). I’d love to see speed and performance as their main focus rather than feature additions for LR5.

  7. Deb Scally 20 January, 2013 at 09:58 Reply

    Am assuming the old process version isn’t as robust, so I guess logically it might make sense, but yes… i agree with you that there’s no question about the tradeoff… who would opt for less enhancements just for faster speed?

  8. Cheryl 19 January, 2013 at 18:46 Reply

    Thanks for the tip. I also find it odd that Lightroom suggests you use the 2010 version, but then they also say you should check to make sure you update to the latest version of Lightroom.

  9. Tony Romano 19 January, 2013 at 12:56 Reply

    Hey Matt, thanks for referring the article. Three things stand out in that article that are interesting for me. One, their suggestion of Order of Operations, I think most people haven’t considered doing spot healing before exposure adjustment. I find this suggestion anti-workflow. Second, placing the .lrcat on a SSD drive should improve catalog performance, however, I know a lot of people, including myself who keep the catalog on an external drive with the Master Photo Store and two additional drives for backup/archive, SSD external drives are still pricey. I suspect people may have to change their workflow to follow this tip or shell out some extra cash. Finally, shutting down Lightroom forces two things to happen, unloads all your files and flushes all their internal memory caches including any memory management issues. So while I agree these tips may help, some more effort on their part to improve performance would be nice. After all, that is a feature too! Since Lightroom is such a popular application, a point release that is focused on performance improvements might be cheered!!


  10. Susan Scharenberg 19 January, 2013 at 09:43 Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Matt. Very useful. I have a sense that there’s a ton of good info at, but finding it sometimes takes persistence and patience. Yet another reason I so appreciate your blog — you serve stuff right up to us and make getting good info so easy.

  11. Duane Pandorf 19 January, 2013 at 09:21 Reply

    I’ve recently switched from using Aperture to Lightroom and have enjoyed Scott Kelby’s latest book on using Lightroom in setting up my new workflow. In doing so I’ve also made some modifications to my almost 6 year old MacBook Pro.

    I’ve added a 128 gig SSD for my main drive. I have all my applications on this drive including of course the operating system. I also removed the DVD and replaced it with a 750 gig 7,200 rpm drive where I’ve located my Lightroom photo library. I’m limited to 4 gig of ram with this machine so I’ve already maxed that option.

    Per Scott’s recommendation in organizing my photo library I have kept my catalog and preview files on the second drive inside my Lightroom photos folder.

    However, per the suggestions you’ve linked to I have now moved my catalog and preview files to my SSD and put those files in a folder titled Lightroom and placed that folder in my Pictures folder.

    I had to reindex my photo library but I do see some speed improvement by doing this.



  12. David Bump 19 January, 2013 at 05:44 Reply

    Thank you! The order of develop operations was completely new to me–I’d never thought about the accuracy of spot healing declining after other adjustments, but it makes sense.
    On external drives, it does depend on the drive speed, and in some cases, you can get better performance, not worse, using an external drive. I’m using a Core i7 with USB 3, and I notice a significant performance boost in Lightroom when I’m editing images stored on my Silicon Power 1TB external drive, even though my internal drive is 7200rpm, and SATA. I double checked with some free disk speed tools, and it’s not my imagination, that external drive is faster, and I’m sure it also helps that the RAW cache and catalog are on one disk, and the images on another, so there can be simultaneous I/O on both devices for one operation, rather than queued I/O on one device.
    All of that said, I’m also on a laptop like you, and it’s not always convenient to have an external drive connected.

  13. Duane Pandorf 18 January, 2013 at 20:52 Reply

    I’m still working with an almost 6 year MacBook Pro. I recently substituted the main hard drive with a 128 gig SSD. I then removed the DVD and replaced it with a 750 gig 7,200 rpm hard drive. I have my OS and apps on the SSD and my LR catalog/previews/images on the 750 gig drive. I also have an external 750 gig 7200 rpm drive that I back my photos drive to.

    Reading the suggestions it would seem I could get a performance improvement if I were to move my Catalog.ircat and Previews.Irdata to the SSD. I’ve kept my catalog and previews data inside my main LR folder to keep everything organized per Scott’s latest LR book.

    There’s not much else I can do to speed up my current machine as I’ve already maxed out the ram too.

    BTW, I’m really enjoying the switch to LR from Aperture especially since Leica works directly with Adobe to ensure the DNG images straight out of the camera are optimized along with great lens profile support.

  14. Sam 18 January, 2013 at 15:33 Reply

    For me display size affects performance a lot 🙁
    But it seems not everyone is affected by display size, so probably there are differences due to computer configuration. In other words: Some graphics adapters might work better than others.
    Now if we’d only knew wich ones… 3D-Acceleration has no effect…

  15. David Parrott 18 January, 2013 at 12:35 Reply

    Hey Matt, just thought I’d add to that hard drive bit that not only does the speed of the drive matter, but how you’re connecting it.

    A drive hooked in through e-sata will outperform one using Firewire 800 which will outperform a drive using USB 2. Keeping in mind that a connection type’s max theoretical speed is less important (all things being equal) than it’s real world max burst and sustained speeds, and latency.


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