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Is Your Adobe Lightroom Slow? Here’s The Reason! Easy Tips for Speeding Up Loading & Processing in Lightroom 3, 2.6 and Other Versions

Adobe’s Lightroom software is great for processing many photos quickly. However, there are a few reasons why Lightroom is slow for most users, even if they feel familiar with it. These problems are easily solved with just a few changes in the Lightroom preferences / settings / configuration.

Rendering Previews

Trying to render previews on the fly is the #1 reason Adobe Lightroom bogs down and feels frustratingly slow for almost all users, but the best part is it is easily fixed! Even with fast computers and plenty of RAM, high megapixel RAW files take quite a while to be processed so they can be displayed in full quality on screen. This is where previews come in–you can force Lightroom to render all the previews for any photos all at once so when you are working through multiple photos, the previews will already be processed and ready to display.

How to render previews for photos already in your collection:

  • Select all photos you would like to preview
    (Ctrl-A selects all photos in the current folder, OR click on the first photo, then Shift-Left Click on the last photo and all photos in the range will be selected)
  • Go to the Library drop down menu at the top of the screen
  • Select Previews, then “Render Standard Previews” or “Render 1:1 Previews”
  • All selected photos will then have their previews rendered. This will take a medium to long while so go do something else in the meantime.

How to render previews when you import files:

  • Lightroom 3: Click the import button, then on the right side of the screen you will see “File Handling” – this contains the option to have previews rendered automatically whenever you import.
  • Lightroom 2: In the Import pop up dialog box, locate the Initial Previews setting and choose Standard or 1:1.

Should you choose 1:1 or Standard Preview rendering?

  • 1:1 – select this when you will be quickly using the develop view for manually processing many photos at once. However, 1:1 previews take a VERY long time to initially render. Expect to be waiting for 30 minutes for a couple hundred photos to render (depending on megapixels, computer speed, etc).
  • Standard – this should be your default choice. Once standard previews are rendered you will be able to quickly go through your photos in the Library view, which is great for culling out bad photos or if you only plan to edit /process a few. Initial render time is something like 1/10th of the time 1:1 previews would take.

I am not sure why Adobe has not yet worked in either different default settings or added in some prominent help text that explains this at least the first time you import photos. The only official information about this is in Adobe’s Lightroom performance problems TechNote. This is an extremely common problem and this is the reason Lightroom gets a bad name for being slow.

Change Standard Preview Resolution

Standard previews will generally be your ideal choice. To maximize the perfomance to quality of using them, you should select the proper resolution for your screen. Go to the Edit Menu > Catalog Settings > File Handling tab. Here you can change the Standard Preview resolution. Generally, a 19″ monitor should use 1024 pixels, a 22″ monitor 1440 pixels, 24″ monitor 1680 pixels, and any larger monitors should use the maximum 2048 pixels. (These are general rules, check into your specific monitor’s resolution, then subtract about 20% from the width resolution to find how big standard previews will be likely to be displayed.)

If performance is still an issue, try using the lowest 1024 setting regardless of your monitor size. This is still a good quality for using the Library grid view.

Disable Nvidia’s Nview Desktop Manager

Also mentioned on Adobe’s Lightroom performance problems TechNote.  This can cause some driver/software issues and bog things down.

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13 Comments

  1. HI,
    even if I create the 1:1 previews it takes around 3 sec. in the develop module for the picture to “load”. I already have a fast computer Quad core, 4 GB ram and HDD’s with around 100 MB/s. What exactly is going on when LR shows me “loading” in the development module? If the 1:1 preview is already rendered there is no reason to touch the RAW file and loading the preview with no adjustments shouldn’t take so long, am I wrong?
    Andreas.

  2. Me too Andreas. No reason for this machine to work so slow as it does under LR Develop module. Simply unusable for my high volume needs. I’ve tried everything including 13Gb Ram, 275mb/s SSD drives, Quad core processor, etc. No Luck, no clue why…

  3. Add me to the list. Brand new AMD X6 1090T, 16GB RAM, 7200rpm SATA II drives, and it’s still slow, slow, slow.

    Re-rendering the previews at 1680 pixels does seem to help a bit, however, at least in Library.

    Sigh…

  4. OMG, I feel your guys pain, I thought I was the only one. I’ve just invested $6000 in a new canon 5D mkII with L series lens for wedding photography and I find I can only edit around 15-20 full RAW images at a time before LR slows to ant pace. 20 secs between actions and mouse clicks. SOOOOOOO FRUSTRATING!!!! I’m starting to miss client deadlines. Was gonna invest in more ram for my laptop but if you’re having trouble with 13GB or even 16GB of RAM I won’t even bother. Dumb.

  5. Hey Luke, How much RAM do you have now? The reason I ask is that my computer is never as slow as you’re claiming. RAM does help. More importantly is a fast hard drive. You might also want to invest in a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black 7200rpm drive as well. If you’ve already dropped $6000 on camera equipment that makes 20MB+ files, you’re going to need to invest in your computer no matter what software you run.

  6. Thanks Sean, yeah I’ve Googled the crap out of this issue and I realise that Epic amounts of RAM are needed. I have 2010 model HP pavilion (I know, I know, not the greatest of hardware but the specs are pretty good: 640GB hard drive with 6GB of DDR3 RAM with an i5 processor. Pretty good for a laptop. Anyway, removed around 70% of my current LR catalogue and makes no difference. Don’t know if this helps but I changed the LR cache from 1GB to 30GB it seemed to go a lot faster after shutting it down and restarting again. Having said that, I was only editing a small number of images and it’s speed is passable with low workload volumes. Thoughts?
    Luke

  7. Btw the $6000 price tag is in New Zealand dollars. Just in case you had heart attack over 5D prices :)

  8. Luke, your bottleneck is most likely your laptop hard drive. Laptops usually use the slow 5200 RPM hard drives (saves on battery and heat). Each large RAW file has to be located then read off that slow hard drive whenever you go develop a new photo.

    If you’ve spent this much on equipment, you may want to look into a desktop with at least a high end 7200 RPM drive with a large cache. Also consider a SSD (solid state) hard drive for the desktop, which you could copy your current set of photos to before starting work on them in lightroom.

    Also make sure your hard drive isn’t in use in some other background program, such as a virus scan or windows indexing or file sharing. Trying to do two things at once will slow a hard drive down exponentially.

  9. Yeah I’m very particular about not having background programs running. I always close everything before opening LR. I’m not sure what the hard drive speed is and I hadn’t thought it would make the difference needed. In any case, the laptop’s off to the shop tomorrow to get 2GB more RAM and if that doesn’t help then I’ll look into a desktop. Any suggestions for a consumer? I’d have no idea what to buy. Best manufacturers if I decided to have one made to spec?
    Luke

  10. I wouldn’t put too much faith in going from 6GB to 8GB RAM. In fact, you should save your money, especially if you’re having a shop do the work. It’s not going to make that much difference if you’re not multi-tasking much.

    As Albright mentioned, the hard drive is way more likely causing the bottleneck. You can get a faster drive for a laptop (like one mentioned in my earlier post or an SSD like the OCZ Vertex 2 or Vertex 3) but if you’re not needing the portability, I’d recommend a desktop. It’s the route I eventually took and I don’t regret it at all. Get a tablet for mobile computing and a solid screamer desktop for real work.

    I have an SSD for my main boot drive and three 2TB hard drives in RAID 0 for my media (well backed up of course). This is where I saw the greatest improvement in speed, not processor or RAM.

    Despite everything I’ve done, Lightroom is still a bit of a dog. They really need to optimize their code.

  11. Thanks Sean/Albright, appreciate the tips, I’ll check with the guys tomorrow about upgrading the hard drive to faster one. Crazy times.

  12. Hey fellas, update on the new RAM, works better than expected. LR only lags ever so slightly after a while now. I was able to edit a whole crapload of my sister’s wedding photos shot with a 1D mkIV on full RAW. Much relief. Also enquired about getting a 7200 drive put in and was pleasantly surprised at the lowish cost. Might head down that road soon or take the plunge and build a desktop. Thanks guys! Appreciate all your input.
    Chur chur
    Luke

  13. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh thank you so much

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