4 ways to speed up working in Lightroom

A slow Lightroom is a photographer's worst nightmare.

Most of us have been there, waiting for photos to render so we can actually SEE what we are trying to edit, trying to figure out what else to do while your photos import or export or carefully resisting the urge to rage throw your computer against the wall when it takes 5 seconds to go from one photo to the next.

I’ve been there, I get it.

But there are lots of things you can do to make sure your Lightroom doesn’t get bogged down and works blazing fast so you don’t have to spend money on a new computer.

Boom! I just saved you $2k, you’re welcome.

A slow Lightroom is a photographer's worst nightmare.  But there are lots of things you can do to make sure your Lightroom doesn’t get bogged down and works blazing fast so you don’t have to spend money on a new computer. Boom! I just saved you $2k, you’re welcome.  |  Cinnamon Wolfe Co

1 | Create a separate catalog for every wedding, year or category that you shoot

SO many photographers have no idea that they don’t have to keep every single thing they have ever shot in the same catalog in Lightroom. Problem is, when you set up Lightroom for the first time, it creates the catalog for you seamlessly behind the scenes and you don’t really even know it’s happening. This is why so many people never even realize they can create more than one catalog.

Keeping one catalog for everything can make things easier for organization purposes depending on what you are shooting and how organized you need to be with those photos. I would argue however that most photographers don’t need that robust of a system of organization and can create separate catalogs either per wedding, per year or per type of work that you do.

If you are a wedding photographer who shoots over 10 weddings per year, I would recommend creating a new catalog for each couple and keeping their engagement and wedding photos in that catalog. Then just keep those catalogs wherever you keep and store the RAW files for that same couple.

If you shoot less weddings than that and or shoot other types of portrait sessions, I would recommend creating a new catalog every year and naming it accordingly. For example: 2017_LR.lrcat, 2018_LR.lrcat etc….This way as long as you remember what year you took the photos you’ll be able to access them quickly.

Keeping separate catalogs helps Lightroom work quicker because a catalog file is literally a catalog of every change you have made to the RAW photos you have imported. When you get up into the thousands upon thousands of photos in ONE catalog, thats a lot of information for Lightroom to process every single time you open up that catalog.

Keeping separate catalogs with less information in each one will help your Lightroom to run smoother and faster.

2 | Utilize 1:1 previews when importing + Use smart previews and unplug your RAW files

Preview files are the files that Lightroom generates when you import so that you can actually see what you are working on in Develop module. If you are having issues where it’s taking a while to render the preview when you go from photo to photo, your preview files might be too small so it's taking longer for them to display properly on your monitor. Generating 1:1 previews upon import will help solve this problem.

Also, creating smart previews for your files upon import will enable you to be able to work on your images without the RAW files actually being attached to the computer you are working on. The best thing about Smart Previews is that they load much faster than regular previews AND you can work on them without the RAWS attached. You can edit your files on the smart previews and then plug your external with the RAWS back in to export.

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3 | Only import photos into Lightroom that you are keeping - cull first

Once photomechanic came into my life a whole new world opened up to me with regard to being more choosy about the photos that actually make it INTO Lightroom in the first place.

A lot of photographers import everything into Lightroom from their SD/CF card and then go through the culling process either selecting the winners or rejecting the losers. From there, they go through and edit all of the final photos.

What if the only photos you ever bring into Lightroom were winners?? Think of the space that would free up!!!

If you cull in photomechanic (which was designed to render your images lightning fast) and then only bring in the winner photos to Lightroom you will be saving space in your Lightroom catalog every single session. A lot of my editing clients shoot 4-5k images on a wedding day but only end up giving 1200 to a client. Importing photos into Lightroom and having it build previews and smart preview for photos that are never going to be edited anyway takes HOURS that you don’t have in your business.

Simply don’t bring them into Lightroom in the first place.

4 | Apply presets upon import + delete old presets that you no longer use

Applying a base preset to your images upon import is a small but mighty feature that a lot of photographers miss when they start using Lightroom initially.

If you find that you are constantly making the same changes to an image, OR if you apply a preset to every single one of your images before you start tweaking them, simply select the option in Lightroom to apply the preset when the photos are being imported. This won’t necessarily make Lightroom work faster, but it will make the overall editing process faster.

Also, if you have lots of presets installed that you are no longer using (we’ve all been there right? Buying tons of different preset sets hoping that they would magically make every image we shoot utter and total perfection….no? Just me?) ahem….anyway…..

If you do have extra sets of presets that you installed that you no longer use because you ultimately decided on one set that you like the best or you ended up making your own base preset that you use, take the other presets out of Lightroom. You don’t have to delete them off your hard drive, but you can uninstall them until you might need them again.

Having extra things in your Lightroom that you aren’t using is always going to affect the speed of the system. Save yourself a few seconds (hey! they add up…) and get rid of extra stuff hanging around that you no longer need!