Is Your Lightroom CC Slow With A Large Catalog?

July 25th, 2016

LRCatalogueCal in North Carolina says:

I am having issues with LR CC! It is running extremely slow on my very fast machine… My desktop has SSD drives, 32 GB RAM, very fast CPU, etc (Win 10). LR running this slow is a HUGE issue for me, as I am sure it would be for any high volume photographer. I have tried disabling GPU acceleration, & have optimized catalogue, but that didn’t help….

I have @ 65K images in my catalogue if that could be the problem? Any ideas??

Since I’m not aware of any recent Lightroom update problems so I did some research on Lightroom performance issues and problems related to large catalogs. Here are the things I recommended to Cal:

  1. This article recommends setting the cache size from 50 MB to 70 GB. The cache size is a preference in the LR file handling section of preferences.
  2. This article recommends 10 things to do to improve LR performance. This article recommends keeping catalog sizes below 10,000 images.

Anyone else experiencing slowness with large (>10K image) catalogs?

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24 Responses to “Is Your Lightroom CC Slow With A Large Catalog?”

  • I have about the same number of images in my catalog – 60k but it’s running fine on a slower computer. Original question doesn’t state what cpu/gpu combo they have but I have a 2nd gen i7 2600k with a basic AMD graphics card. RAM is 24 GB and storage is 2 SSD on Windows Storage RAID(?) so it sees it in one partition. Everything runs well enough what I do – Lightroom and Premiere so much so I haven’t looked at upgrading – yet.

    I would check the hard drives and make sure your SSD are connected on the SATA III ports on the mother board otherwise, it’ll run at SATA II speeds (300 MBps vs 600 MBps).

  • The second article doesn’t mention the “Use Graphics Processor” option in the Performance section (older article?). Try turning it off to see if that helps. You can always turn it back on.

  • My larger LR catalogs are noticeably slower. To keep things moving, I segregate my photos into different catalogs. RE goes in its own yearly catalog. If that starts to get bogged down, I may start deleting more unused images or adding catalogs for each quarter of the year. If you do more genres than RE, you may want to create new catalogs for each. I’ve had to put Flora and Fauna into their own catalogs as they are getting huge. There may come a time when Dragonflies get their own catalog.

    Since catalogs are just links, I can just import my cloud/sky folder into each of my RE catalogs as well as its other home under Weather/skys. The same goes for community and neighborhood photos. If I add new skys through a different catalog all I have to do is sync the folder the next time I open the RE catalog to get the new images.

  • I create one catalog per property and all files pertaining to that property (raw, catalog, and high and low res) is contained in a single directory (in the format “ddmmyyyy [full address]”), which in turn is contained in a folder in the format “yyyy-mm”. Catalogs open quickly and locating files on backup HDDs is simple. Does anyone else use separate catalogs for each property?

  • Correction: “yyyymmdd”.

  • I start a new catalog every month. Adobe recommends new catalogs regularly for better performance.

  • @Dave Williamson
    “The second article doesn’t mention the “Use Graphics Processor” option in the Performance section (older article?). Try turning it off to see if that helps. You can always turn it back on.”

    From what I read recently in trying to resolve my own very slow LR issues, “Use Graphics Processor” will only really help you if you have a high resolution monitor (i.e. like 4k), otherwise, it doesn’t do much for you. I’ve run it both off and on with a compatible graphics card to no avail.

    “The Develop module is the only module that currently uses GPU acceleration. Commands and processes outside the Develop module aren’t affected. For example, the commands for merging multiple images to create HDR files or panoramas don’t use GPU.
    Only the “Main” Lightroom window is accelerated. The “Secondary” window isn’t accelerated by GPU.”

    1. GPU support is currently available in Develop only.

    2. Most (but not all) Develop controls benefit from GPU acceleration.

    3. Using the GPU involves some overhead (there’s no free lunch). This may make some operations take longer, such as image-to-image switching or zooming to 1:1. Newer GPUs and computer systems minimize this overhead.

    4. The GPU performance improvement in Develop is more noticeable on higher-resolution displays such as 4K. The bigger the display, the bigger the win.

    5. Prefer newer GPUs (faster models within the last 3 years). Lightroom may technically work on older GPUs (4 to 5 years old) but likely will not benefit much. At least 1 GB of GPU memory. 2 GB is better.

    6. We’re currently investigating using GPUs and other technologies to improve performance in Develop and other areas of the app going forward.

    The above notes also apply to Camera Raw 9.0 for Photoshop/Bridge CC.

    Eric Chan

    Camera Raw Engineer

  • We have three lightroom catalogs going for each year. One for Commercial Work, One for Work for Hire, and one for Real Estate. The first two have been going for quite some time and I’m not planning on splitting them further. the Real Estate Catalog is stored each year by year and a new one started. I only keep the RE catalog for two calendar years. I have never in the last 10 years have to go back and give someone images from a Real Estate Shoot and this keeps my storage down for the originals. With this exception – I have one real estate agent who gives me enough business to keep a separate catalog for her work which I keep for three calendar years. I like what Dave Williamson does if Real Estate Photography is your only work.
    Like everything else – there are a million ways to do this, and you need to choose what works best for you – not the other guy – although researching what the other guy does really helps solidify your own process.

  • I have been having issues with LR using up ridiculous amounts of system memory ever since a CC update about 6 weeks ago. I have a high-end pc with plenty of system resources, and it still often uses 10k mb. of memory. Just to experiment, I opened LR and the task manager without performing any tasks in LR. The system memory usage climbed very high just sitting idly.
    I spoke with Adobe support, they changed a few internal settings on my system to no avail. I believe this is an issue within LR with the recent update, but Adobe is unaware/denying any problems.

  • My Lightroom catalogue is huge, between 200k and 300k images. I don’t see a major problem with speed unless I use features like facial recognition. My question is how do you search over multi catalogues? Sounds like I’ll have to segment catalogues soon.

  • The article cited in number 2 above is at least 3 years old, which is quite old when it comes to digital matters.

  • @Dave Williamson, Having separate catalogs for each property wouldn’t work for me. I have my sky folder and community photos in my RE catalog so I can access them quickly.

    @John Walsh, it’s possible to search keyword data outside of LR. I believe that there is a tutorial on Kelby One about organizing and finding images in large collections. My searches tell me what catalog I need to look in to find a specific image so I have never needed to search across several catalogs.

    I’ve always been organized, so keeping track of images hasn’t been a problem. There is no way that I could market images if I didn’t have a logical system to keep them organized. It does take some forethought and diligence, and even a little extra time, but it’s well worth the effort. If somebody sends me an email looking for a lizard on top of a rock with a blue sky background, I can get to my lizard photos right away and see what I have that might fit. BTW, I don’t keyword so intensely that I could get a super narrow search. I just did a search for “bird, tree, snow” and pulled up a few dozen images. I don’t keyword the species of the birds since somebody asking for an eagle might be perfectly happy with a falcon or osprey. If I specialized in birds, I would.

  • Ken Brown,
    If you don’t mind my asking, how are you tagging your images? In Lightroom? How?

    Thanks,
    Mike Leffert

  • My processor is an Intel Core i7-3770K with an Nvidea Quadro K5200 gpu. I already tried turning off the Use Graphics Processor, & have optimized the catalogue… My “C” drive, and my working/temporary storage drive are SSD’s. 32 GB RAM… When I had this system built, I thought my computer performance problems were over lol!
    I am loathe to use multiple catalogues, as it will make it more difficult to find in the future… This seems to be my final option…
    Thanks to Larry & everyone else for the advice!

  • One more thing, in case it matters…
    I use a large 32″ NEC MultiSync PA322UHD monitor…

  • It would be a real pity to have to split a main catalogue up : part of the appeal of Lightroom is its database functionality and ability to search across any number of folders : such searches would have to be duplicated in each catalogue. My own catalogue is getting large-ish (40K) . The best tip I have come across to improve speed of general operations is to trash the Lightroom previews file: “CatalogueName Previews.lrdata ” filed alongside the relevant LR catalogue. You don’t need to store 1:1 previews of a processed shoot long term: if you do need to revisit it, Lightroom will generate a standard preview as soon as you select the required images. This previews file can get monster sized and I do believe that deleting it from time to time (no risk of course to your images) then performing a a catalogue optimization can benefit start up and general searching and processing tasks.

  • One thing that will slow down lightroom immensely in my experience (running LR 5.5), is doing sharpening and noise reduction within lightroom. I do my sharpening/noise reduction either in PS or on export from LR.

  • @Mike Leffert, I do global keywording on import to LR. It’s a box on the right hand side. For an RE job, I write in the city, “real estate”, the agent and the office name and a quality (low, med, high, wow). I don’t keyword the individual rooms, eg. “Kitchen” or I’d be spending ages just doing that for each job. I DO keyword room names for anything that will get moved to my portfolio folder. There aren’t too many of those so it doesn’t take much time. Lynda and Kelby One have some tutorials for organizing images with LR. I don’t do mine exactly like them, but they highlight a lot of different ways that will work.

  • I should mention that each job has a folder with sub-folders for RAW, MLS1, MLS2, Printing, Zillow, Trulia and Realtor. The top level naming is YYYYMMDD123MainStCity so I can search based on street or city and the folders are all in date order. I import my cards using LR with a preset that applies lens corrections, sharpening and noise reduction. I add keywords and convert to DNC. While the files are being injested, I put batteries on the charger and other little tasks to have my gear ready to go again. After a all of that and a cup of tea, the photos are in and ready for editing.

  • Simon,
    Your suggestion just freed up 32GB on my always overloaded 1TB SSD working drive, & LR CC is FLYING AGAIN!!! I can’t thank you enough!!!
    Btw, I turned the Graphics Processor option back on, & it actually made it even faster with previews gone!
    Should I delete Smart Previews.lrdata file as well?
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Cal – Great to hear Simon’s advice fixed your problem… It’s 4AM in London so I forwarded your comment to Simon so he’ll get it when he wakes up.

  • Cal.. really glad to hear that this freed things up! I don’t use smart previews much but yes I would delete those too if you have created them eg just for a client meeting now past. It’s all less baggage for lr to hold at the ready in case it might be called uppn to access it. In a week which has seen IT disasters of my own it’s grreat to hear something has gone well ! Cheers. Simon

  • Something I have noticed with the latest version of Lr on my Windows 10 machine is that there is a memory leak. Sort of. When I export JPG’s I noticed the memory Lr uses soars and after the JPG’s are exported it continues consuming the memory – 15GB+. It doesn’t come back down to idle (400MB) until I restart Lr. I end up restarting it frequently. My catalog is currently 3.32GB.

  • I have been seeing memory usage of >10GB for Lightroom alone while processing images ever since the latest upgrade. Yesterday I was at the point of trying to roll back to the previous version. When went to the the Creative Cloud application to try to work though that, I noticed a little “upgrade” for Lightroom. It says it addresses bug fixes. I installed it and now Lightroom is back to running between 3-4 GB. Pretty severe bug.

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