Are Your Lightroom Edits Slowing You Down?

My buddy Mike popped into my office yesterday to ask me a quick Lightroom question.  He had been editing some scanned slides in Lightroom and one of them was covered in dust specks so he was using the Spot Removal tool to get rid of them.  The problem was that as time went on and the number of removed spots went up and his Lightroom started bogging down.  I knew exactly what he was referring to because I have run across this same problem, usually on images that required a lot of work with the retouching brush.

So here’s the deal, you probably already know that Lightroom isn’t actually applying your edits directly to the image but is saving them as separate data.  The beauty of it is that you can go back to any point in time in your edit history because they are all saved, unlike Photoshop, which is typically set to about 20 states (although you can set it to as high as 1000). There is a way to quickly overcome this problem by creating a duplicate of your image.  I’m not talking about creating a virtual copy.  That just makes virtual copy with all of the same history states.  What I am talking about is actually creating a new verion of your image containing all of your previous edits, kind of like creating a flattened layer in Photoshop.

Here’s how it works. Start making your edits in Lightroom and if you find your computer stars to bog down, right-click on your image and select Edit in Photoshop. Make sure you choose the Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.

When the image opens in Photoshop, simply close it and select Save in the dialog box. This will put it back in Lightroom but with all of the previous edits and none of the history to bog things down.

Now you have the clean edit and the original to go back to if needed.  The clean version will respond much quicker to future edits because it’s not bogged down with all the history from the original.

Not everyone will suffer these performance problems as it is a direct result of system performance but it can make things move a bit quicker when you have some heavy editing that might start slowing you down.

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  • Michael Preston

    I did not know this…thanx for the great tip! :-)

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  • JasonP

    There is a trade-off though. A PSD is significantly larger than a RAW file on disk. On a random test photo from my 30D, doing nothing but “Save As” in CS5 (with LZW compression for the TIFF) the file sizes are:

    RAW: 7.2 MB
    PSD: 46.8 MB
    TIFF: 56.8 MB

    Converting the saved PSD to DNG in LR comes out to 34.6 MB. Smaller than the others but still nearly 5x bigger. Hard drive space may be cheap but that’s a lot of byte-bloat! However, I have had those photos that end up with a massive list of dust spot removal, adjustment brush clicks and so on. It can start to slow down, but I’ll deal with that on a photo every now and then vs a large chunk of drive space lost and loss of the non-destructive aspect of LR.

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