One type of article that I love to write is tips for Lightroom and Photoshop. These programs have so many little known features, shortcuts and tips that can really save you time. Part of using Lightroom that I had struggled with for awhile was the performance. I used camera RAW for years for my post production and loved the speed of it compared to Lightroom. But just like anything there are many different ways you can boost the performance with Lightroom and today I want to cover a few tips to optimize the performance of Lightroom.

Lightroom Performance Tip #1 – Build 1:1 Previews from the start.
Lightroom uses previews of your photos when you are viewing thumbnails in most of the views of the application like the Grid view, Loupe view, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web modules. When you first import the images you have the choice of setting the preview type, I always choose to have my previews built as 1:1 previews. This will take longer when first importing your images but allow you to move through the photos when working on them much quicker. I always import my shoots into Lightroom at the end of the day or before I am going to work on something else. This way I don’t mind that the import takes longer and have the previews all built in the best quality size.

You can also set the standard preview size by going to Lightroom –> Catalog Settings –> File Handling. Here you should set the standard preview size to be the closest amount to the longest edge of your screen resolution. You can also set the preview quality which I set to medium and how long you would like to keep the 1:1 previews. If disk size isn’t an issue you should keep the previews for at least 30 days or indefinitely.

Once the previews are discarded nothing happens to your images but Lightroom will need to build the previews on the fly when you go to view the images so will slow things down at that time.

lightroom catalog settings

Lightroom Performance Tip #2 – Increase the Camera RAW cache.

Another really quick way to increase the performance is to up the Camera RAW cache. To modify this go to the Lightroom –> Preferences –> File Handling tab and enter any amount in the Maximum Size field for Camera Raw Cache Settings section. You can also change where this cache is stored. I store mine on a internal SSD drive and have 50gb of space reserved for this Cache.

Lightroom Performance Tip #3 – Run Lightroom in 64-bit mode. This only applies to Lightroom 3 and depends on the operating system you are running. This allows Lightroom to access more RAM so can really speed up performance. In 32-bit Lightroom you can only access a max of 2 GB of RAM but with a 64-bit machine this limit is removed. Now you can have 4GB or more of RAM which will help speed up Lightroom a lot. Lightroom should automatically be in 64-bit mode if your computer is 64 bit capable and running a 64-bit operating system. You can verify that it’s running in 64-bit mode by doing the following:

To check this on Windows:
Open up Lightroom and view the title bar.
See if “x64” appears in the title. If so you are running the 64-bit Lightroom.

To check this on Mac OS:
Go to the Applications folder and click Adobe Lightroom 3.
Click on Command + I.
In the General options, make sure that Open In 32-Bit Mode is deselected.

Lightroom Performance Tip #4 – Leave autowrite XMP turned off.
Since Lightroom is a non destructive way of editing your photos all of the changes you make are stored in a XMP file. You can have Lightroom write the changes you are making to the XMP files as you work or manually. Setting to manually save the XMP data will give you a speed boost and can be done in the Lightroom –> Catalog Settings –> Metadata menu. From here just click off the Automatically write changes to XMP box.

What I do is once I finish the shoot and before I export the files i’ll select all in the Library module and click Command + S. This will quickly write out the XMP files.

lightroom catalog settings2

Lightroom Performance Tip #5 – Go SSD. SSD or Solid State Drives have been falling in price lately and offer an amazing performance boost. It really is amazing how much of a boost you get with performance with a SSD drive. I didn’t measure anything when I made the change but would say that overall my machine has a 4 times increase in speed with my SSD drives. It’s almost like getting a new computer and I definitely recommend it.

That’s it, a few quick ways to improve the performance you get when using Lightroom. If you try these out let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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