In addition to optimizing the computer, you can optimize your Lightroom preferences and catalog settings for best performance.
Note: this post will be updated in May 2021.
Lightroom is usually updated every 2-4 months, and these updates frequently include performance improvements as well, so it’s worth staying up to date.
If you have a CC subscription, open the CC app to check for updates. If a new update has been released but isn’t available in your CC app, click the cog icon and select Check for App Updates. If you have a perpetual (standalone) license, go to Help menu > Updates.
Occasionally, an update introduces new bugs that aren’t spotted before release, so it’s also worth knowing how to roll back, just in case you do run into problems. If you’re not completely comfortable with this process, you may be safer to wait until the update has been available for a few days, just in case any serious new bugs surface. Keep an eye on my What’s New blog posts for the latest news.
Optimize the Catalog
Over the course of time, with many imports and deletions, the data in Lightroom’s catalog can become fragmented and spread across the whole database, making Lightroom jump around to find the information it needs. The File menu > Optimize Catalog command “tidies up” and sorts it all back into the right order, bringing it back up to speed.
It’s worth running the catalog optimization whenever you’ve made significant database changes, such as removing or importing a large number of photos, or any time you feel that Lightroom has slowed down. There’s also a checkbox in the Back Up Catalog dialog to automatically run the optimization each time you back up your catalog, which saves you having to remember.
Enable Graphics Processor checkbox
We’ve already discussed the GPU in the last couple of posts. As a reminder, if you’re using a standard resolution screen, you probably want to turn it off. If you’re using a 4K or 5K screen, you probably want it turned on. If you’re using a smaller retina/HiDPI screen (e.g. a MacBook Pro), try it on and off and see which you prefer. The checkbox is found under Edit menu (Windows) / Lightroom menu (Mac) > Preferences > Performance.
Auto-write XMP off
By default, all of the work you do in Lightroom, such as adding keywords or Develop edits, is stored as text instructions in the Lightroom catalog. If you need to make the metadata available to other programs, such as Bridge or Camera Raw, you need to store it in/with the files using a metadata format called XMP. Some users also use XMP as an additional (but incomplete) backup of edits.
If you frequently edit your photos in other software such as Bridge, writing changes automatically saves you having to remember to do so. However, it can have a notable impact on performance, especially if the photos are stored on a slower drive. To check and change your auto write preference, go to Edit menu (Windows) / Lightroom menu (Mac) > Catalog Settings > Metadata tab > Automatically Write Changes Into XMP. If you choose to turn auto-write off, you can manually write to XMP at any time by selecting the photos in Grid view and selecting Metadata menu > Write Metadata to Files.
Render the Best Previews & Cache Settings for Your Needs
Finally, Lightroom uses a number of different types of previews and caches, and it’s worth gaining a basic understanding so you can optimize the settings for your own workflow. We’ll discuss this in the next post in the series.