Besides optimizing your computer and Lightroom settings, you can also save yourself a lot of frustration by thinking ahead and allowing your computer to do many of its processor-intensive activities at a time when you’re not using the computer. Let’s look at how to apply workflow tweaks.
Use embedded previews at import if you’re in a hurry
Most cameras embed a JPEG preview inside a raw file at the time of capture. To view the photos without having to wait for Lightroom to build its own previews, extract the ready-made previews while importing, by selecting Import dialog > File Handling panel > Build Previews > Embedded & Sidecar. They can be replaced later, when you’re not using the computer.
Build previews overnight
In the previous post, we learned about the different kinds of previews and caches that can be used to speed up Lightroom. You’re going to need rendered previews, but you don’t have to sit there waiting for them! Decide which size rendered previews you’ll need, then set the standard sized or 1:1 previews building overnight, or at least while you go and make a drink. The same goes for smart previews, if you want to use them to speed up the Develop module. While Lightroom’s rendering previews, it’s using a lot of the computer’s processing power, so you’re better off doing something else while it works.
Apply presets before rendering previews
While we’re on the subject of previews, think about Develop settings you apply to all or most of your photos. There’s no point rendering the standard or 1:1 previews and THEN applying a preset, because the previews will need to be updated again. Apply your presets or sync your most-frequently used settings first, and then build your previews to save wasted effort.
Reduce the window size
The size of your preview area makes a significant difference to the interactive performance, especially in the Develop module. The lower resolution the preview, the fewer pixels Lightroom has to compute, and the quicker it runs. If you don’t mind a smaller preview, you can reduce the size of the Lightroom window, enlarge the panels to make the preview area smaller, use Reference View, or simply select a smaller zoom ratio (e.g. 1:4 / 25%) in the Navigator panel.
Pause background tasks
Lightroom runs a series of background tasks, including Sync, Face Recognition and Reverse Geocoding. These use additional processing power, especially for Sync and Face Recognition. So, if you’re struggling for speed, it can be useful to pause these tasks while you’re working in Lightroom. To do so, click on the Identity Plate in the top left corner and press the Pause buttons in the Activity Center. Then click on the Sync icon in the top right corner and pause that too. Don’t forget to start them again when you’ve finished.
Use optimum slider order
In the Develop module, regardless of the order in which you move the sliders, the end result is always the same. The one exception is spot healing which can be affected slightly by lens corrections and also by overlapping spots. There is, however, a slight performance advantage to using the tools in the following order:
- Tonal Adjustments (e.g. Basic panel, etc.) can be done at any stage, but are often done first.
- Spot Healing.
- Lens Corrections (Profile, Manual Transform sliders, Upright, etc.).
- Local Corrections (Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter).
- Detail Corrections (Noise Reduction, Sharpening).
If you apply some of these settings (e.g. the lens profile or noise reduction) on import using a preset or default settings, but you’re struggling for speed, you can temporarily disable the panel using the panel switch on the left, and then reenable it when you’re finished.
If the History panel becomes extremely long, particularly with local brush adjustments or spot healing, it can slow down Lightroom’s performance. It also inflates the size of the catalog considerably. You can clear the History for individual photos by clicking the X button on the panel, or you can clear the History for a large number of photos by selecting them and navigating to Develop menu > Clear History.
Clearing the History doesn’t remove your current settings. It only clears the list of the slider movements/adjustments you made to get to the current state. Even if you clear the History, your current settings remain, and if you want to change them, you simply move the sliders.
Use pixel editor for intensive local edits
In the first post of this series, we learned the difference between non-destructive parametric editing (Lightroom) and pixel based editing (Photoshop). Extensive local adjustments, such as detailed adjustment brush masks or large/numerous spot heals, are better suited to Photoshop. While it may be possible to do them in Lightroom, they won’t be fast. It’s also worth noting that the Auto Mask setting in the adjustment brush has a significant impact on performance too.
Close extra panels
If you’re really struggling for speed, you can also help by minimizing the work Lightroom has to do.
This includes closing panels such as the Histogram panel, the Navigator panel, the Develop Detail panel 1:1 preview, the Keywording & Keyword List panels, the Metadata panel and the Filmstrip. Closing the Collections panel and then restarting Lightroom also saves having to count the smart collection contents, which can slow down metadata entry on large catalogs.
When you’re moving photos to a new folder, start the move and then switch to an empty folder or collection. Then, Lightroom’s not having to constantly redraw the Grid view while it’s working. You can also turn off the thumbnail badges in View menu > View Options.
Leave exports for when not using computer
Finally, leave large exports for times when you’re not using the computer. It’s a processor-intensive task that can slow down the fastest of computers, due to the complex calculations involved.
Next week, the final post in this series… a summary of where to look when you’re suffering speed issues in specific areas of the program.
For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.
Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.
We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!
Originally posted 17 October 2016, updated June 2021.