This week I thought I’d blog about something a little bit different than photography itself. This week’s post is all about ways to improve Lightroom’s performance for when your Libraries are 30,000+ photos for a single year like mine are.
One of the first things you should be doing is using an external drive for ALL your photos. Don’t put your photos on your OS drive as it will fill up and max out too quickly along with all your software. I personally use a 4TB external drive with USB 3 for best performance and as soon as I finish a shoot, I copy all the images off my cameras memory cards and into this drive by year, month and day. Once that is done, you have to import them into Lightroom, now the way to improve Lightroom performance is to use SmartPreviews all the time. SmartPreviews takes your large RAW files and makes small versions of them for Lightroom to use and in turn make scrolling through Lightroom’s Library Module and loading Lightroom faster. Notice the red circle around SmartPreviews?
There are two way to deploy SmartPreviews, the first is on Import, so when Importing, under the Import dialog where you can add Copyright info, Keywords and such, check the box to use SmartPreviews. As Lightroom imports your RAW files it will then run the SmartPreview builder and make SmartPreviews of all your new images. The second way to activate SmartPreview in an existing Library of images is to select ALL images from the Library Module and then click the Library menu item, go down to Previews, and then choose Build SmartPreviews. In the below screenshot, you see deploying SmartPreviews from the Library Module.
Now since you are deploying SmartPreviews for an existing Library of images in the second option it will take some time for them to complete, especially if your Libraries are huge like mine, but the nice thing is, once it’s done, it’s done and you can move around in Lightroom so much easier. The only catch is when you have SmartPreviews of an existing Library, you will now have doubles of every image, in a way, but the way around this is unplug or just unmount your drive as you work in Lightroom and make your edits and exports. You only need the drive mounted when you are adding new images from your camera and when you want the edits permanently saved to the original RAW file, then just mount the drive and Lightroom will sync the edits AUTOMATICALLY, that is a NO BRAINER 😉
Now, the next thing you can do to improve Lightroom performance is increase Lightroom’s cache. For those of you who don’t work in I.T. like I do for my day job, cache is a portion of your hard drive that Lightroom uses to augment the memory in your system. So if you are editing say a batch of 1,000 50Mb RAW files. That’s 6GB of files you are working with at once time and let’s say your laptop only has 4GB of RAM, how does Lightroom work under these conditions? By using some of your say 1TB hard drive as cache to supplement your system RAM. Now by default, Lightroom only uses 1GB of your disk drive for cache, which is nowhere near enough, so bump that setting up to 50GB. How do you do this? Well, click Lightroom, then Preferences and on the pop up window, click the File Handling tab and at the bottom you see Camera RAW Cache setting, in that box delete 1GB and type in 50GB. Why 50, well, I have tested 20GB and with both an SSD drive and a regular hard disk I noticed no improvement, but at 50GB I noticed improvement. In the screenshot you see I have mine set at 100GB, that’s because I have 12TB to work with so I figured why not double mine from the 50GB I recommend to you. Can you use 100GB, sure, but make sure you have ample space free on your system drive to do so first. The below screenshot shows changing the Camera RAW Cache size.
That’s it folks, two ways to improve Lightroom performance in your workflow!