No Really, It Sucks! ...But The Results are Worth It.
Lightroom is the most capable software package out there for photographers. The results are nothing short of outstanding, but over time Lightroom has gotten a reputation for being wasteful, leaving system resources unused and Adobe's customers scratching their heads at the program's lack of speed.
Over time my iMac has begun to struggle to keep up with Lightroom's ever-increasing demands. It wasn’t until I spent time talking to a good friend of mine running a brand new video editing workstation that I realised that this was an issue, not with my editing rig, but, with Lightroom in general.
What does Lightroom Need?
Adobe are pretty vague about what actually helps improve performance in their programs. They give a basic guide on their website but they are tight-lipped about what elements of your setup affect performance. So lets take a few moments to talk about the things I have learned after spending far too much time researching.
Adobe says: You need a Multicore Intel processor.
What to Get: Pretty much every Mac and most PCs since 2006 have featured at least a multi core processor.
What Does it Do?: The tasks that benefit most from a faster processor are importing new photos and rendering the previews that accompany them and exporting images once your editing is done.
Adobe says: You need 2GB of RAM.
What to Get: Again Adobe is pretty vague and says that it will run with as little as 2 GB of RAM but recommends 8 GB. I would strongly recommend you get at least the 8GB they recommend.
What Does it Do?: For Lightroom, more RAM equates to a smoother experience in all areas. Running higher amounts of RAM has the added benefit of allowing you to multitask without a substantial drop in smoothness.
Adobe says: You need 1GB of Video RAM or 2GB for High Res Displays
What to Get: Lightroom does not need a dedicated graphics card and most computers have graphics chips integrated into the processor. This allows Lightroom to borrow from your system RAM to render graphics.
What Does it Do?: Video RAM is used for complicated graphics tasks. More VRAM speeds up the application of presets and most adjustments made in the develop module.
Adobe says: You need 2 GB of available hard-disk space
What to Get: An internal SSD for Libraries and Preview files with external HDDs or SSDs for RAW files.
What Does it Do?: This is the simplest way to dramatically improve your Lightroom performance.
Every time your computer tries to make a change to an original RAW file it needs to access the file on your drive.
A higher read speed means quicker rendering of previews after making changes, faster export times and the application will even open more quickly.
My Minimum Specs
Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (Broadwell or Skylake)
RAM: Between 8GB and 16GB
Storage: High Speed SSD
Graphics: The Processor's Integrated Graphics (unless you have a 4k display)
Putting My Money Where My Mouth is
None of these specifications are unattainable to most of us. In fact it's now more than possible to have this sort of spec in an ultraportable package. Dell's new XPS 13 and Apple's Macbook Pro Retina line are prime examples of just how capable a portable device can be.
Now that we know what Lightroom is looking for to perform at its best, it's time to look at how we can set up your Lightroom workflow for the best performance. We will be walking through the set-up step by step on a brand new laptop and fresh storage devices.
Watch this space for the next article.