Top 5 Tips to Optimize Lightroom Performance

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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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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  1. very useful, have changed some settings….

  2. Good suggestions! Can you comment on the following:

    1. What do you use for the preview discard period? I have mine set to 30 days.

    2. I have my cache located on another drive (different from where the Lightroom resides which is usually the C: drive).

    3. I have my catalog on the same drive as Lightroom. Would it help to relocate this to another drive?


  3. Thanks for the comment! Happy to answer your questions.

    1) I also keep my 1:1 previews for 30 days. If you have enough disk space I think its a good idea to keep these for awhile since you will have a better performance boost if you don’t need to re-render the previews.

    2) The speed of the disk where you have the cache is really the key, I would make sure its on a fast disk (preferably a SSD drive) to really maximize performance.

    3) Not really, again the speed of the drive is going to be key.

    Let me know any other questions that you have 🙂


  4. hi there!

    thanks for this article. already increased my camera raw cache and see a difference. I’m on Windows 7 64bit, but my Lightroom 3 is not running 64bit? Not sure why or how to get it to run 64bit…any idea how I can switch it?


  5. How can I check that lightroom 5 is running at 64bit?

  6. Lightroom will be in 64-bit mode automatically if your computer is a 64-bit machine and the OS is 64-bit. If you want to check in Lightroom just follow these steps:

    To check Lightroom 64-Bit on Mac
    – Open up a new finder window. Head on over to the Applications folder and click the Adobe Lightroom icon (just single click, not double to open the file).
    – Press Command-I (this is the keyboard shortcut to get info).
    – In the General options, make sure that Open In 32-Bit Mode is deselected.

    To check Lightroom 64-Bit on Windows
    – Open Lightroom and look at the title bar of the application.
    – See if “x64” appears in the title.

  7. I have Lightroom 5 installed on an x64 pc with x64 Win7.
    However, the title bar doesn’t show x64.

  8. Hi Mark,
    thank you for your advices.
    From LR2 to now (LR5) I am thinking about a few questions:
    – what do you prefer – use one big catalog or use more than one catalogs, divided by years or projects or??
    – when you upgrade LR how do you import catalog(ues) – simply leave as is and alow upgraded by the SW itself or ??
    – if you use more than one catalog how do you search pictures with keywords

    Thanks in advance for your answers.

  9. Hello Ivek,

    Thanks for the questions 🙂
    Personally I have always preferred having more than 1 catalog to keep things quicker and just to mentally break things apart. I still have a few big catalogs but keep work vs. personal in separate catalogs and depending on how busy the year is break the catalogs into 1 or 2 year chunks.

    When I upgrade I do leave it as is and allow Lightroom to upgrade the catalog.

    Since I break things into multiple catalogs that are very different (again mainly 2 catalogs for work vs. personal) the keywords I would search for in a personal image are always different from a work image so this never comes into play.

    It also depends on how many images you shoot in a given year. Since I can shoot over a hundred thousand images in a year for work and lots of personal misc. images it’s easier for me to keep them separate. But if you shoot a lot less then one large catalog will work fine.



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