How to Setup a New Lightroom Catalog for Faster Editing and Performance

Canyonlands Nikon D750 20mm 1.8 f/8 1/80 sec ISO 400

Canyonlands Nikon D750 20mm 1.8 f/8 1/80 sec ISO 400

Speed Up Your Lightroom Develop Module With These Simple Settings


Whether you edit on a high end workstation desktop or an ultra portable laptop, Lightroom can slow to a crawl after chugging through hundreds of raw files. These steps will help get your Lightroom zooming through images again, especially in the develop module where you spend most of your time editing. 


1. Catalog Settings

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Go to File/Lightroom > Preferences > General > Go to Catalog Settings > File Handling

Set "Preview Size" to auto (generally your monitor resolution)

Set "Preview Quality" to High

Set Automatically Discard Previews to 30 days

These basic settings ensure Lightroom will show your images at the best quality while viewing photos in the library or develop modules. 


2. Camera Raw Cache Size

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Go to File/Lightroom > Preferences > File Handling

Set "Camera Raw Cache Size" to 20+ gb (the more the better)

This is the file Lightroom creates to manage all of the files created during editing. Because Lightroom never edits the images directly, these are all temporary files. The default setting is pathetically small leading to lots of slowdown once you edit more than a few photos at a time. Giving it 20 gbs or more will let you edit for hours at a time. If you are editing a full wedding or thousands of photos I recommend bumping it up even more to the 50-100gb range.


3. Performance

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Go to File/Lightroom > Preferences > Performance

Check "Use Graphics Processor" 

Check "Use Smart Previews instead of Originals"

These settings let your computer use it's full resources on smaller files, giving you a huge jump in performance. 


4. Import Settings

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At the top of the Import interface select "Copy as DNG"

When importing, it's important to set up your files in the best manner for Lightroom to easily manage them. The main way to accomplish this is to convert your raw files to .dng. Dng files are still raw image files, just a universal file type developed by Adobe to be future proof and not rely on camera makers file types. Because Adobe developed the dng standard, their programs handle the files faster. Dng files are also typically more compressed and use less space on your hard drive, which is another benefit.

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On the right panel in the import interface select "Build Previews: Minimal" and "Build Smart Previews"

The next two settings here will make use of a previous option we turned on under performance; "Use Smart Previews for editing". Smart previews are much smaller files and load much quicker, but when you export your images the edits will all apply to the full size raw file. For previews, we're only building minimal because we already set the develop module to use smart previews instead, so no need to waste time on import building the 1:1 previews.


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