How to Speed Up Lightroom:

Lightroom Slow? Chapter 1:


Lightroom. I have worked on it since it came out and am a professional tech geek. Last week a few Betties asked if I could help them out with making Lightroom (LR) run faster. I decided maybe I could help everybody out. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

I have one Catalog with 417,265 photos in it and it runs fast. There are a bunch of reasons for that and I will explain all of them, but let’s start today, with Catalogs.

Catalogs are the containers that hold all of the information that ties your photographs to the corrections you’ve made on them, as well as the organization in the extremely powerful Library.

Creating a new Catalog for every shoot is a form of organization that if you like it, stick with it, but it could be causing all of your problems.

The problems with having more than one Catalog are:

  1. You have to open every Catalog to create a “best of” or look at your work as a whole.
  2. Keeping track of all of the Catalogs and organizing them is a nightmare.
  3. The Catalogs themselves are very large in size, so by making repeated Catalogs you are probably taking up more space on your hard drive then you would with having one Catalog.
  4. You can only use Lightroom Mobile with one Catalog
  5. And lastly, you are not actually making Lightroom run faster, but you are definitely making working on your photographs harder! Back in LR 5 having less Catalogs was a way to speed up Lightroom, but it’s not true with today’s version.

Direct from Adobe:

“Although you can have multiple Lightroom Classic catalogs, try to work with just one.”

Having one or two Catalogs is what is suggested by all the top experts. I am a member of KelbyOne, which I highly recommend for tutorials and very up-to-date information about Photoshop and Lightroom as well as photography in general.

Most of you don’t know me and probably won’t trust this if your workflow is to create catalog after catalog, so here is the advice from some of the experts……/if-youre-using-multiple…/…/one-or-many-lightroom…/

Lightroom Slow? Chapter 2:


The first thing you need to do is update. Always keep your OS (Operating System) and your software updated. It’s safer and they improve the speed of LR (Lightroom) monthly, so update, update, update.
According to Adobe you should have a machine with at least 12GB RAM (memory). In practice, you should have at least 32GB of memory, especially if you work in Photoshop and Lightroom at the same time.

Where should my Lightroom files be?

Your internal hard drive is the best place to put the .lrcat file and the other “.lr___” files. See screenshot for files that I kept together on my internal hard drive.

Lightroom Files

My internal hard drive is a 2TB SSD drive, but any size SSD drive is the fastest thing you can get and worth every cent to upgrade to. All Mac laptops in the last 5 years have internal SSD hard drives. If you are a professional photographer you will probably not have room on your internal drive and will need to put the RAW photos themselves on an external drive.

What kind of external drive should you store your photos on?

There are two aspects to a drive, the drive speed itself and the connection to your computer

The fastest external drives are SSD (Solid-State Drives) drives. Most other drives are spinning hard drives (a speed of 7200 rpm is preferred).

Speeds of the drive are:

  • SSD: 400 MB/sec to 2,800 MB/sec
  • 7200 rpm: 100MB/sec to 150 MB/sec

Next is the connection, just make sure that it’s NOT a USB 2 (anything current will be 3).

The transfer speeds are:

  • Thunderbolt 3 = 5,000 MB/sec
  • USB-C = 1,200 MB/sec
  • USB3 = 400 MB/sec
  • USB2 = 35 MB/sec

How about the rest of the computer?

Make sure that the external hard drive and the internal hard drive have at least 20% free space. The empty space is used for caching while you are working and if you run out of space LR will slow down dramatically.

When I bought my new iMac a few months ago the most difficult thing to find was an upgraded GPU, or graphics processor. Because I have a 5K screen and a 4K screen (dual monitors) and work in video and 3D, it was important to me, but it’s not that important just for LR.

Lastly, there are cores, which are processors in your computer. I went for an 8-core computer which allows multiple processes to go on at once. In practice, this is important if you are exporting and want to do anything else on your computer. However LR itself does not use more than 6-cores.

Lightroom Slow? Chapter 3:


So now you have one catalog, your computer and drives are set-up correctly and it’s still running slow? Here is the final chapter of getting Lightroom to run faster.

With the new 2021 version of Lightroom coming out at the end of 2020, some of the things you find on the internet are no longer relevant. Here is my list of the top things to change in Lightroom to get better performance in the new version.

Open Preferences and go to the Performance tab (see screenshot).

Lightroom Preferences

  • At the top, “Use Graphics Processor” should be checked to Auto. This is a new setting that turns the processor off and on to get the fastest performance. Beta testers loved this and it’s one of the strongest moves by Adobe to get LR running faster.
  • “Camera Raw Cache Settings” should be at least 8GB, I recommend starting at 12GB and going up to 20GB.
  • You can also check “Use Smart Previews for Original for image editing”.

That’s it for literal Settings in LR, but the way you work in Lightroom will have a big effect on how fast the program runs.

When Importing photos, no matter how excited you are to see them, take the extra time to Build Smart Previews on Import as well as choosing Standard Previews. (see screenshot)

Lightroom File Handling Import Settings

The biggest culprit that I find slowing people’s computers is that they have the Mobile Sync, Face Lookup and Address Detection turned on. Be especially sure that Mobile Sync is off when you are editing a Collection that you have synced to Mobile.

To find these features click on the left top of the LR window and Face & Address features will show. (see screenshot)

Address and Face in Lightroom

The Mobile Sync feature, they moved from there to the far right in a little cloud a few versions ago. (see screenshot)

Lightroom Mobile Sync


Spot Healing, don’t over do it! If you have 15 or more spot healing points on a photo then you should probably be healing it in Photoshop instead. The Spot Healing points take the photos a while to generate when you bring the photograph up.

The other editing features that slows it down are Lens Correction, Sharpening and Noise Reduction. Although I don’t find that these edits slow it down near as much as Spot Healing does.

Too many Plugins and Presets are said to slow LR down as well, but only if you have a ton of them. I have like 100 maybe, not sure about this one.

Lastly, back in the Preferences pane if it’s still slow in Performance, click Optimize Catalog (which it does when you run a Backup), and Purge Cache in the Camera Raw Cache Settings.

Try all of these and restart Lightroom and let me know if it improves your speed. And remember stay updated! Adobe is taking the speed issue in LR very seriously and it improves with every new update.

I hope you enjoyed my 3 mini blog series!

If you want in-person (or over Zoom) training in Lightroom, or help fixing your problems with it, please contact me directly at

I also teach a Beginner to Intermediate Photoshop class through Boulder Digital Arts.