~ Updated: 2018-03-14 (Original Post: 2017-11-21)

Adobe recently launched Lightroom Classic CC; we take a quick look at the latest performance increases and offer tips on how to get more speed in Lightroom



Is the new Lightroom Classic CC faster?

From my initial tests, Lightroom Classic CC is indeed faster than its predecessors. This has been confirmed by various other websites, including extensive benchmarks by Puget Systems. 

Obviously, Lightroom’s performance will be determined by your computer’s speed. From my own casual benchmarks, Lightroom Classic CC utilises more system resources, especially RAM (which is a good thing) than the older version. If you are in the process of buying a computer for editing or considering upgrading your current PC, we highly recommend you also read our article on The Best Computer for Photo Editing”.



Performance increases in Lightroom Classic CC

Update 2018-03-14: Adobe has released a new update, Lightroom Classic 7.2, around middle February 2018. This update includes major performance boosts to PC’s with 12gb RAM or higher in the areas of Importing, preview generation, improved adjustment rendering in the develop module as well as faster HDR / Panorama rendering.


In this next section we will be looking at what Adobe changed regarding performance in the new Lightroom Classic CC and how it compares to previous versions of Lightroom: 

1. Previews

Since Lightroom 1 (we’re now at version 7), Lightroom Previews has been a very important part of how Lightroom works. Unfortunately, the way Lightroom used previews became bloated and restricted performance. With Classic CC, Adobe has put a lot of work into speeding up every aspect of preview rendering. Let’s break it down and see what’s different: 


1. 1 Parallel Preview Generation

A new setting has been added under the performance tab of “Preferences” that increases the speed of creating all kinds of previews. If you have a quad-core or higher CPU, make sure the “Generate Previews in Parallel” option is ticked.


1.2 Embedded Previews

Adobe has added new functionality for the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview selection when importing photos. An embedded preview is the image you see on your camera after taking a photo. You can now opt to have Lightroom use the embedded previews instead of waiting for previews to be built.

Using embedded previews has a lot of advantages:

  • Lightroom prioritises folders you are actively viewing, giving those you are working on a higher priority. This speeds up the selection and culling process.
  • Although they are of a much lower quality than standard previews, they will appear in the filmstrip faster, since Lightroom doesn’t have to create a preview from scratch. This allows you to start culling and sorting as soon as you see your photos appearing on the film strip after you hit “Import”.
  • Faster zooming into photos.
  • It eliminates the “Loading” notification, as Lightroom doesn’t have to create a preview.

Lastly, there’s a new checkbox under the General tab of Preferences.  When selected, this tells Lightroom to replace the Embedded previews with Standard previews whenever Lightroom is idle and you are not using your computer.  It is unticked by default (as it slows Lightroom’s processing speed) but you may want to enable it whenever you are not using your computer.


1.3 Smart Previews

Since Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe added the functionality of using smart previews for editing, instead of full-size previews. To enable this feature, click on “Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing” under the Performance tab under Preferences. According to Adobe, this will allow for increased performance since you are working with a smaller file size, which also means it will look slightly worse while you are editing it. However, when exporting the image, it will be in full quality.

What is strange, in my opinion, is when you look at the Smart Preview performance benchmarks by Puget Systems, there is a 20-40% drop in performance between the older Lightroom CC 2015 and the new Lightroom Classic CC. It appears that Adobe has improved image scrolling performance so much, that Smart Previews are now a detriment to image scrolling speeds. Therefore, if you aren’t using smart previews for anything other than gaining slight performance when editing, we recommend you don’t use them within Lightroom Classic CC.


2. Lightroom interface speed improvements

  • For Windows, Adobe has made some speed improvements to Lightroom Classic CC’s backend graphics library. This results in faster image rendering in Grid, Loupe and Filmstrip Views.
  • Switching between Library and Develop modules have been optimised and should now be a lot faster.
  • Whilst in the Develop module, Lightroom will read the histogram data ahead of time. The result is faster responses when switching between multiple photos.
  • Lightroom Camera RAW cache improvement allows for faster rendering of high-resolution photos. This change is the most obvious when working with large images.


3. Catalog Improvements

When you start the new Lightroom Classic CC for the first time, you will be prompted to upgrade your catalog.  Adobe has made some improvements to the loading times of catalogs by compressing the develop history and metadata values. Take note that larger catalogs will take longer to upgrade, so make sure you upgrade whenever you’re not going to need your PC (it shouldn’t take hours though!)


4. Performance when creating HDR’s and Panoramas

Update 2018-03-14: As a result of the latest update to Lightroom Classic CC, computers with more than 12gb RAM will take advantage of new CPU and memory optimizations which visibly increases HDR and panorama rendering.

Lightroom Classic CC is faster than the previous versions in almost every aspect. Unfortunately, while rendering HDRs and Panoramas, we noted a significant performance drop in Classic CC. According to Puget Systems; HDR rendering is 15 – 25 % slower, while Pano rendering is up to 20% slower in Classic CC. However, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts.  With the performance increases you get in all other areas, slower HDR and Panorama rendering is a rather small price to pay!


Tips on getting more speed in Lightroom Classic CC

We offer a host of tips on getting more speed in Lightroom Classic CC; from hardware tips to Lightroom settings:  


1. Get a CPU with faster clock speeds over many cores

From my own tests, and from benchmarks available on the net, it is clear that both Lightroom and Photoshop prefer CPUs with faster internal clock-speeds over slower- clocked, multi-core CPU’s. You will get better performance from an affordable quad Core i5 running at 3.8GHz, or a Core i7 running at 4.2GHz than a ridiculously expensive Core i9 with 18 cores running at 3.2GHz.

If you are using Photoshop and Lightroom for your editing, and not using other high-end applications that require many cores, you can stick to the more affordable i5 or i7 CPU’s. Saving money has never been a bad thing!


2. Graphic Acceleration: Enable or disable?

The jury is still out on the issue of graphics acceleration: whether or not Lightroom Classic CC has been fully adapted to make use of your graphics card’s hardware.

The GPU is not used for any regular tasks. It is only used when editing photos in the develop module. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to benchmark, as you will rather get a “feel” for how responsive the filters and brushes are when editing.

My initial tests show that both radial and graduated filters, as well as the brushes, seem a lot smoother if you enable graphics acceleration on a capable graphics card. However, my tests revealed that other tools, like the healing brush, are excruciatingly slow with hardware acceleration turned on. Obviously, your experience and needs might be different than mine. I, therefore, strongly recommend that you run your own tests: edit a few images using brushes, filters, and the spot removal tool with graphics acceleration enabled. Then test the same edits, with graphics acceleration disabled.

In a nutshell, GPU acceleration is entirely dependent on your graphics card, CPU and the resolution of your screen. I.e. 

  • If you are using a full-HD screen and mid-range or integrated graphics card with an average CPU, you are better off disabling graphics acceleration. Turning it on will most likely make your Lightroom slower.
  • If you are using a Retina, QHD or 4K screen, with a powerful high-end graphics card, you will want to turn graphics acceleration on in order to see any major difference in performance.


3. Get more RAM

The easiest and most efficient way to speed up your Lightroom is to simply upgrade your RAM. We recommend getting at least 16GB of RAM. While Lightroom is running, it can use up to 8gb RAM consistently and can reach up to 16GB RAM when performing strenuous tasks like creating an HDR, Panorama or Exporting photos. Based on this, you can never have too much RAM. The more you have, the better!


4. Run your Lightroom Catalog and Preview folders on a fast SSD

Since SSD drives have no moving parts, Lightroom can access the catalogue and previews immensely faster than the conventional hard disk drive.

When you aren’t using full-sized previews, Lightroom needs the original photos for processing. When using full previews, you won’t see much of a difference. Considering this, you should have both your catalogue and your previews on your SSD, as Lightroom is constantly accessing them.

The ideal setup would be to have everything on an SSD – your catalog, previews and your original photos. This will result in the biggest improvement. Sadly, as of writing this article, SSD’s with capacities larger than 250GB are expensive, which makes keeping your photos on them rather impractical.


5. Optimise your Catalog frequently

The catalogue is a database which consists of several tables of recorded data. By simply going about your normal daily tasks, these records are constantly being changed or deleted. Think of it as emptying the recycle bin. When you optimise your catalogue you permanently delete all those deleted records that just take up unnecessary space. This makes your catalogue size smaller, which in turn makes the system run faster.


6. Keep your Catalog and Preview Folder in the same folder

When installing Lightroom, it puts the catalog and preview cache together by default. However, it is common to move your cache to a dedicated cache drive. This is counterproductive as Lightroom regenerates the previews every time if they are not located in the same folder.


7. Increase Lightroom’s Cache size

Whenever Lightroom generates previews, it places them in the Camera RAW cache. By default, the cache size is 1GB and as soon as the limit is reached, the oldest data gets replaced by the newer data. As 1GB can be used up rather quickly, it seems rather pointless and you won’t see a difference in performance. By increasing the cache to around 25GB, you increase the amount of data that is accessed regularly, which dramatically improves your performance.

For laptop users that may struggle with limited space, we recommend a cache of between 5 and 10 GB.


8. Purge your RAW Cache

The reason why Previews might cause Lightroom to slow down could be for several reasons: 

  • The cache file becomes bloated with old previews you are no longer using.
  • Your cache becomes corrupted.
  • Lightroom tells you it is unable to read the cache.

By frequently purging Lightroom’s RAW Cache, will recover disk-space while speeding up your workflow. This is particularly relevant if you’re no longer working with photos that are currently sitting in your RAW Cache. Obviously, by clearing the cache, while still working on those files, will have an adverse effect on Lightroom’s performance. You can purge your cache under the “Camera Raw Cache Settings” of the “File Handling” tab in “Preferences”. 


9. Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews

1:1 Previews take up extra disk space, and might slow down your Lightroom experience unnecessary if you’re not working on those files. If you are disciplined and typically finish working on photos within a specific period, you can tell Lightroom to automatically discard 1:1 previews after 1 Day, One Week, or, 30 Days. Personally, I have set mine to “Never” simply because I frequently work on older photos for class materials. However, if I find my Lightroom Preview Cache becomes bloated and larger than 100GB, I will set it to discard any 1:1 Previews after 30 Days. Thereafter, I will change it back to “Never”. You can set the 1:1 Preview Cache by going to the “File Handling” tab under “Catalog Settings” and click on the drop-down list “Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews:”. 


10. Manually delete the Previews.lrdata file (Extreme cases)

In extreme situations, i.e. where disk-space becomes a serious issue, or if you get error messages during operations that generate previews, you might need to manually delete the Previews.lrdata file, which is typically stored in a file next to your catalog. Be sure that you do NOT delete the Catalog File! By deleting the previews cache manually, you will lose all your previews and Lightroom will regenerate new previews for files you are working on. 


11. Power Management (Windows) 

By default, your computer tries to balance power usage and performance. This doesn’t allow your hardware to run at its full potential and could cause your computer to slow down tremendously. To ensure your computer is always running at peak performance, you will have to enable “High Performance” mode in the Power Options from the Control Panel in Windows: 

Getting more speed in Lightroom Classic CC | Set your Windows Power Plan to "High Performance"

Getting more speed in Lightroom Classic CC | Set your Windows Power Plan to “High Performance”


12. Reduce the number of Develop Presets you have

The navigator in the Develop module generates thumbnails for every preset, which can reduce performance. This is most evident when you have more than 2000 presets. You can avoid this type of performance issue by reducing the number of Develop Presets you have, or by simply limiting it to those you use the most often.

While we are on the topic of presets, it would be very helpful if Adobe could implement some form of folder structure for develop presets. Currently, they are simply sorted into a single hierarchy. Creating a parent – sub-folder system would most certainly speed up the time it takes to browse through all your presets.


13. Restart Lightroom periodically after using it for some time

It is essential to restart Lightroom regularly. After working for a few hours in Lightroom, especially if you’re working with high-resolution files, HDRs, or Panoramas, you will notice it starts to slow down to a crawl. If you pick up any lag, simply restart Lightroom, and it will be back up to speed again.


14. Delete your Lightroom Preferences

Sometimes, after following all the advice above, Lightroom simply needs a fresh start. Before launching Lightroom, press and hold Shift + Alt (Shift + Option + Delete for Mac users) and launch Lightroom. A dialogue window should appear prompting you to reset Lightroom’s Preferences.

Take note that all preferences will be reset to Adobe’s default values after you upgraded, so make sure that you go through each of the following settings and restore them to how you had them set up:

  • General
  • Presets
  • External Editing
  • File Handling
  • Performance
  • Catalogue Settings

Tip: To make your life easier, take screenshots of all your preference settings before resetting them.


15. Disable Facial Recognition

Having facial recognition enabled can slow down Lightroom, as it is constantly searching for faces while moving through the film strip. Disabling it goes a long way to getting more speed in Lightroom. 


In closing…

We are delighted to see that Adobe has improved the overall performance in Lightroom Classic CC dramatically, compared to previous versions. Implementing the above tips will assist you in optimising your Lightroom workflow and speed. You should also check out the articles linked below for more information related to Lightroom performance:


Learn Lightroom

Learning Lightroom: If you’re new to Lightroom, or would like to use Lightroom more effectively; check out our 2-Day Lightroom Workshop