Lightroom sluggish… some tips to speed up Lightroom

Is Lightroom sluggish for you?  Well here are a few tips to speed up Lightroom.

  • Import using at least Standard Previews (if you have enough disk space import using 1:1). This might slow down the import but will benefit you during your workflow.
  • And not for the faint hearted – clear develop history. But don’t fret I will go into further detail within this post.
  • Limit the number of Presets you store.
  • Optimize your catalogue

For experimental purposes I have used the following image I took of Rochester Cathedral when we visited the Medieval Merriment Festival.

Rochester Cathedral
A monochrome photograph of Rochester Cathedral in Rochester, Kent.

Import using 1:1 if possible or at least Standard Preview.

Now I know this is cheating but I am going to copy and paste what Adobe says about using standard, minimal and 1:1 previews as their explanation is a lot better than mine.

Lightroom uses previews to display photo thumbnails in the Grid view, the Loupe view, and in the Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web modules.

When you import photos, you can choose from three types of previews of progressively higher quality:

Minimal: These previews are the small, low-resolution JPEG previews embedded in the photos, which the camera generates. They are the fastest type of preview to create. The Filmstrip and Grid view of the Library module uses minimal previews temporarily, until Lightroom renders standard-size previews for those thumbnails.

Embedded & Sidecar: These previews are larger, also camera-generated, and they take a little longer to create than minimal previews.

Standard: Lightroom creates standard previews. They use the Camera Raw engine for processing. So, they sometimes appear different from minimal or embedded previews, especially if you have applied adjustments in the Develop module. You can specify the size of the Standard preview you need, based on the display you use. Standard previews are used in Filmstrip and Grid view thumbnails, as well as in preview and content areas of the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules.

1:1: These previews are a 100% view of actual pixels and, like Standard previews, the Camera Raw engine processes them. When Lightroom generates 1:1 previews, it also generates minimal and standard previews, so all three are available to the program as needed. Because so much data is being processed, 1:1 previews can take a significant amount of time to create. Any time you zoom to 1:1 or higher in the Library module, Lightroom uses 1:1 previews.

To display and work with photos, Lightroom requires a standard or 1:1 preview, depending on the task. If, upon import, you only tell Lightroom to generate Minimal or Embedded previews, Lightroom creates Standard and 1:1 previews automatically as you’re working in the application. This process hinders performance. To increase your productivity and reduce this disruption, manage when and how you render your 1:1 previews. Render them on import, or set aside time to render them manually.

To render 1:1 previews on import, use the File Handling panel of the import window. Choose Render Previews > 1:1. Although generating high-quality, 1:1 previews on import slows the import process, it makes Lightroom more responsive when you start to work in the Library module.

An alternative, if you want a speedier import process, is to render minimal or standard previews on import. Then, at any time, select multiple photos in the Grid view of the Library module and choose Library > Previews > Render 1:1 Previews. Let Lightroom process the images before you start to work on them.

Further tips can be found at

So basically to work properly on an image if you are going to zoom in, Lightroom needs the 1:1 Preview.. which means if you haven’t created that preview on import then Lightroom has to create it prior to it being able to zoom in.  Which slows down the developing process.  Which is something that I didn’t know.  I have imported all my images as Standard Preview and I have never rendered an image before working on it.   Which, of course,  I will be doing from now on.  With disk space being so cheap now… you can purchase a 4TB Portable Hard-drive for just over £104 on Amazon.

If you are working on a collection of images you could save them as a Collection, then render the 1:1 Previews to work on your images, then delete the 1:1 Previews once you have finished… to save on disk space.

Clear your develop history.

Now this part might not be for the faint-hearted but believe.. it is something that you can do to increase the speed of Lightroom.  But only do this if you don’t want to keep the history of what steps you took to process an image.  And don’t worry that you will lose all your edits… you won’t.  You are just deleting the history steps and believe me… by doing this it does reduce the size of your Lightroom Catalogue (.lrcat file).

Mine was 4.03gb and after removing all the history it decreased to a 484mb file.  You don’t lose any metadata nor do you lose your edit pins.  You can’t go back to previous steps but you can reset the image and start again.

Metadata unchanged.

As you can see from the above image.. after deleting my history I can still see that I sent my image to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as the hashtags I used on Instagram.

Edits still there

The radial filter I used on this image is still available…. and I can see what settings I used for this radial filters.  Your edits are all there… the final processing of your image is intact.  The only thing you can’t do is go back and see what steps you took on your processing.

To remove you develop history… you have to be in the develop module of Lightroom.  Once in the develop module press Control+A to select all images then go to Develop > Clear History

develop - clear history

A box will appear that asks you whether you want to clear all selected or just the active photo.

selective or active

Click on Selected Photos and then let Lightroom work it’s magic.  Then follow the step below and Optimize your Catalogue by clicking on File > Optimize Catalogue.

Limit the number of Presets Stored

Now we all love presets… they make our lives a lot easier… and a lot of free presets are available on the internet… as well as many presets that can be purchased.  Organising your presets and limiting the number of presets you use can greatly improve the performance of Lightroom.  You see Lightroom has to generate thumbnails in the navigator panel for each preset.  And Adobe says this can be rather a problem if you have 2,000 or more presets.

Optimizing your Catalogue

Adobe says:

Lightroom is constantly writing changes to the catalog file (.lrcat). When performance slows, optimize the Lightroom catalog by choosing File > Optimize Catalog. Optimizing the catalog instructs Lightroom to examine the data structure of the catalog and make sure that it is succinct.

To further optimize performance and improve catalog stability, when you exit Lightroom, and back up the catalog, choose the options Test Integrity Before Backing Up and Optimize The Catalog After Backing Up. These processes take a little time but can help keep the catalog operating smoothly.

I always optimize my catalogue at backup.  And if Lightroom does seem sluggish then I will manually optimize my catalogue, by clicking on File > Optimize Catalogue.

I hope these tips make Lightroom speedier for you… so until next time happy snapping.


6 thoughts on “Lightroom sluggish… some tips to speed up Lightroom

  1. I appreciate this information Bren. I knew about 1:1, but had no idea about history or optimization. Thankyou.


    1. You are very welcome… I always had the fear that if you deleted the history of your edits… you lost them… so today I took the gamble and found that it was OK to delete the history and I couldn’t believe my catalogue went from 4.03gb to 484mb.


        1. Yes it is… I know you can’t go back and see exactly what you did to an image. But all the edits are still there so you can alter any radials, graduated, basic edits.. And it has increased the speed. The only time I think this wouldn’t be a good idea to do, is if you had sent images to clients etc and they came back and wanted further edits. But if you are just using Lightroom to process images for the web I can’t see why you would need to keep the history.


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