An Open Letter To The Adobe Lightroom Team

6/19/15 After writing this the Adobe Lightroom team reached out to me. I have been working with them on performance issues. I am happy to say that as of Lightroom CC/6 they have already made the software faster and continue to do so through debugging and monitoring of what happens slow performing catalogs.

adobe-lightroom-splashDear Adobe,

Adobe Lightroom is my favorite workflow tool for my photography.  Not only that though.  It is the software I use for 99% of my photo processing.  You have made it so extremely useful and efficient to stay organized and work my way through editing photographs.

No matter what other software I try, I always return to you.  But since version 5, and especially with version 5.6 our relationship has turned to the rocky side.  If there was a perfect competitor out there I’d break up with you in a heartbeat, but there isn’t one.  So we’re stuck together.

Our relationship isn’t monogamous and the many other photographers you’re married to also have similar complaints to those of mine.

My frustration really began with version 5.0, as noted earlier.  As soon as I upgraded I started noticing various speed issues.  After first opening Lightroom 5 everything runs smooth, but then it begins to slow down, further and further.   The upfront speed boost has degraded in Lightroom 5.6 and now it lags even with small JPG files created by a simple point and shoot camera.  That, my dear Adobe team, should never happen.  I can understand a slight lag with RAW images, but JPGS? Come on now.

I recently decided to vent my frustration on Facebook (yea I know), so I posted the following:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the best editing and workflow software I’ve ever used for photographs. It is also a pain in the ass. Damn you Adobe for not making it faster. 2.6GHz i7, 16GB of RAM, All files and caching on internal SSDs and you still lag? Really???

An Open Letter To The Adobe Lightroom Team

I apologize for the foul language, but I am at the end of my patience with Lightroom.

That’s right, here are the specs of my brand new MacBook Pro:

  • Processor:  2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
  • Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • Graphics:  15-inch (2880 x 1800) NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB
  • Software:  OS X 10.9.4 (13E28)
  • Storage: 1TB Flash Storage (ie., SSD)

I keep my catalog files, caching, smart previews and 1:1 previews all on the internal SSD drive of my MacBook Pro.  The photographs I am working on (at any given moment) are on the internal SSD drive.  Photographs that are no longer being edited (archived) are stored on an external Thunderbolt 2 RAID drive.

There is no reason for a RAW file to take over 10 seconds to load.  Or for a JPG image to take more than 2 seconds to load.   This happens with all plugin modules disabled as well, so it’s not that.  It’s also not Lightroom Mobile Sync.  I have also been through support and completely rebuilt my catalog two times due to a random error I was receiving after upgrading to Lightroom 5.6.

I mentioned already that others you’re married to also have similar issues.  I thought I would share some of the replies I received to my rant on Facebook.  Here goes:

It still lags on my new Mac Pro too. 8core 32gb ram and 1tb SSD

Just EATS RAM. I have 20gb and after an hour of editing I’m running less than a gb available. It’s all inactive!

Same here Scott. 2.7ghz, 16GB Ram here. As soon as I open LR it immediately grabs over a gig of ram according to activity monitor. And it is quickly up from there until my system grinds to a halt. Completely insane. I understand why PS is so slow and such a ram hog. It includes a lot of legacy code. But LR? There is no reason for it to run so badly.

I never had any issues until I started importing everything into LR now I run into all sorts of problems. I think what I will start doing soon is import into Bridge and do final edits in LR.

There are days that I wish I could meet Lightroom at the bicycle racks after school just so I could punch it in its laggy memory eating stomach. Today is one such day.

I also experience the issue in the develop panel as mentioned in the Adobe forums, but for the most part my frustration comes with simply browsing through newly imported photographs with 1:1 previews already created.  That means no edits, no lens correction, spot removals or anything whatsoever.  In fact, look at what onOne Software is doing with their new Fast Browse feature.  That’s the simple act of culling through photographs with no edits.  Amazing.

Before wrapping up this letter I want to share something heart breaking.  I teach Adobe Lightroom to photographers privately and in a classroom setting.  When Lightroom lags, as it does daily, while I am teaching in either setting it doesn’t look good.  It doesn’t look good for me or for you.

So Adobe, my friend, my photo workflow love, I beg of you.  I’m on my knees asking with open arms and a huge grin…  Please find a way to speed up Lightroom in the next version.   For one, add scratch disk and performance control like what Photoshop has.  I am not a developer so I can’t really offer any other suggestions than that.  But I hope that you will take my letter seriously and look into it.  Because this is a serious issue that you and I have, and you have with other photographers.

Your loyal friend,


This Post Has 45 Comments

  1. Lightroom is the slowest program I own. I sometimes sit for 10, 15, or even 60 seconds waiting for the grid view to show my images. I no longer bother to generate 1:1 previews because it doesn’t make a difference in load time for images. I do all my culling in Photo Mechanic (because it has nearly instant navigation from image to image) and then only import the images that really need to go into Lightroom… I have 32 GB of ram on my editing machine. Please Adobe listen to Scott and fix this!

  2. Wow, you’re making me really unhappy that Aperture is being discontinued. It is a moderate memory hog but nothing like this.

  3. Wow, Scott. It seems you and a few others are having a lot of issues with Adobe Lightroom. Fortunately, my experience has been quite different.

    I have Adobe Lightroom running on a 27″ iMac (3.4GHz i7, 32GB RAM, 256GB SSD, OS X 10.9.4). My entire catalog (about 50,000 photos) is on an external 3TB FireWire 800 drive with 1:1 previews. I have no issues with Lightroom lag or crashes. I am able to open and edit 16MP images quickly. I can quickly export and combine three images in Photomatix in just a few seconds. I can export 10 images and combine in Adobe Photoshop (panoramas) in under 20 seconds.

    Based on the examples you mentioned in the article It seems a shame that Adobe Lightroom can’t perform well unless it has 32GB of RAM or more.

    1. I’m running an older MBP with 2.3 GH i5 and 16 GB 1333 DDR3 RAM and I don’t have any problems.

  4. Hello Scott.

    My Wife and I both sit side-by-side and process our images on very similar laptop builds (she is on 5.6, and I on 5). After a few hours of painfully slow editing, we have to shut them down and only a reboot seems to clear it. Not even a close-then-open seems to work. I have the disc for version 4 – staring at me, maybe I will have to go backwards, as the product seems to be going backwards. Or, maybe its a ploy to sucker us into paying through the nose for CC

    Thanks for the rant. I concur with it.

    1. Oh yea, the longer it’s open the slower it gets that’s for sure.

  5. Try moving all your Develop Presets to an alternate location (so LR doesn’t load them) and see if that solves the issue.

    1. That actually did speed things up a bit. Good call on that.

    2. Hi! How do you “move” them to an alternate location? That sounds interesting.. Thanks in advance

    3. I have never had problems with the LR5 branch that some people have reported as far as performance. I *did* have issues back in the LR4 days, specifically with the spot heal/clone tool and how long it took to perform the action. Anyway, my LR5+PS (CS6) workflow is pretty much along the same lines as everyone else and I’m actually working on a Mac Mini (2.3GHz i7 with 16GB RAM) and everything is smooth in LR5. I don’t do much in the way of presets except my Metadata presets which I apply manually after import, and all my export presets.

      I do keep my LR libraries small. I have individual libraries for each dedicated project / shoot. But I also have a ‘catch-all’ library for generic stuff that I rotate out every year (create a new library for that calendar year).

    4. This advice actually helped way more than I expected it to. It didn’t solve everything, but it definitely made an appreciable difference. Thanks!

    1. It’s always minimized for me, but never on default as I have a metadata preset which adds my copyright during import.

      1. Have you tried not having it add the copyright during import off to see if it speeds things up? I know most Canon and Nikon cameras can automatically attach your copyright info to each image as it is shot.

        Also, what settings do you use for saving 1-1 previews? If you go to Lightroom>Catalog Settings and hit the File Handling tab, you can change how long it will save 1-1 previews. You may try to purge them after a day and see if that speeds things up.

        I have 25,000+ images in my catalog, and don’t seem to have the problems you’re describing. I use PhotoMechanic to select the images I want and caption them though.

        1. The meta doesn’t make a difference at all. 1:1 previews are currently sent to discard after 30 days, although Adobe says discarding them never is better for performance. I’ve tried all the options.

  6. It’s at least nice to know I’m not alone… While many of LR5’s new features were nice (and I’m still amazed how fast the perspective corrections work), for me it also introduced significant lag on (rather basic) features that were previously running just fine. Sometimes I can’t even adjust the whitebalance slider without lag, no matter whether it’s 12MP or 36MP raws I’m editing (on a 2.8GHz i7 MBP, with 16GB of ram and SSD). Not to mention the cropping feature, which has the image jumping around quite a lot while resizing/rotating the selection. Except for using PhotoMechanic to speed up the (terribly slow) selection of images, I don’t see a way around this inconveniance.

  7. Ever since version 3.0 it has been sliding down this slope. Something they did with threading gutted the performance. If something like photomechanic had even any 1/3 of the other features that lightroom has I would be long gone. This does not seem to be an issue that is resolved with horsepower.

    My current system specs are
    8 Core 4.0 GHz processor
    32 gig of memory
    Samsung pro and evo SSD’s Secondary storage on fast 7200 RPM drives
    All disk based operations are spread across multiple drives to reduce io channel saturation.
    Catalog is on its own drive
    Nvidia GTX 560ti video card with a gig of memory on it.
    Cooling (ie cpu thermal throttling is not an issue)

    I dont think I can throw much more power at this problem. This absolutely appears to be a rendering issue as has been described. Each image must be rerendered based on all the edits made. However performance sucks out the butt with just newly imported images. I do not wait the many seconds that I am hearing my macbook friends talk about but the longer I use it the slower it gets. not to mention the dreaded soft preview render of a sharp image that you have to back off and come back to, to get it to sharpen up.

    I believe a simple solution to this would be to add a simple mode for culling and meta-tagging (photomechanic anyone?) They have figured out how to rip through my 36 megapixel raw files like a hot knife through butter.

    Get on the stick adobe there is competition on the way. Your position at the top is not guaranteed.

  8. I thought I was just being impatient! While I’m happy to hear others feel the lag too it’s still really frustrating. Just an fyi it’s not a ploy to get CC. I have cc and the issue still persists. I was actually thinking it was because I was using cc.

  9. That sounds really frustrating and I can see why you’d be unhappy with the performance you’re reporting. That said, I can’t say I’ve seen similar issues… I have a 18-month old 27″ iMac with a spinning disk (not SSD), 32gb of RAM and it’s pretty snappy. I wonder what might be causing the slowdowns that you (and some other commenters) are seeing…

  10. I can’t even begin to tell you how much your post resonates with me. If there were a decent competitor that can edit *and* catalog I would seriously look into it. The continual lag is killing me and seriously stealing my time compared to how Lr (3.3) used to function. I currently have Lr and Ps CC. Further, my Lr keeps getting disconnected from my catalogs.

    My user experience has really soured, whereas a year ago I would have been singing it’s praises. It’s still a good program and I’d like to stay with it , HOWEVER the speed and memory is totally horrendous and makes me angry (time-suck as I wait and wait) and very dissatisfied. I know what it used to be… It now takes 3x’s as long to process an image (especially if I’m round tripping into Ps) and I have to shut down and re-boot often. Yesterday, after editing only 4 photos, the program’s adjustment brushes became un-usable making me wait more than a minute for them to load or register. I have a program on my computer that lets me know when it lags. The pop-up is virtually constant when Lr (and Ps) are open.

    Angry and dissatisfied customers jump ship, bottom line. I will try relocating my presets and see if that helps, but we really shouldn’t have to do that, should we?

    I hope you are listening, Adobe.

    1. I agree we shouldn’t have to, but if it’s only a matter of reducing presets to the necessities then I can live with that. I’ve confirmed that theory. It has increased the speed of Lightroom dramatically. How odd is that. Such a simple thing like text files for presets, making Lightroom lag so much.

      It’s still not perfect, but definitely faster.

  11. How large is your catalog?

    I had similar problems when I was still under LR 3 (I skipped 4). At the time, I was blaming hardware, blaming shoddy programming, etc. Somewhere, I found an article that advised separating things into different catalogs. Since then, I am running at least three different catalogs. Clients and Personal work each has its own catalogs (and the associated images are in separate directories so as not to confuse LR). But I work through a workflow catalog that I call Incubator. That’s where I dump all my RAW files and handle most of my editing (read: deleting, rating, EXIF dumping, etc). If a photo is “worthy”, it will get exported from there to either Clients or Personal Work catalogs. Each catalog has its own “_fresh” folder where I export to (simply a copy, but by using the export, I can keep all my editing history intact). Once in one of those catalogs, I can right click on the “_fresh” folder and select “Synchronize”. From there, I can organize or do further edits as I see fit.

    As for RAW files. About the time I switched to LR 5, I started converting to DNG as I imported. Initially, it was to maintain compatibility. I had just bought my D7100 at about the same time and LR 5 hadn’t yet been updated to support the new NEF format. So I was using a converter to drop to DNG. I have since learned that Adobe LR is much faster with DNGs than the native RAW files.

    To date, I haven’t had any problems with any of my catalogs.

    As a side note: For those on Windows OS, there is a competitor out there with very little market share, but it’s growing. It’s called Zoner Photo Studio (

    1. My main catalog is pretty large, but this happens with a tiny catalog of 5 jpegs, so in this case size doesn’t matter :-)

    2. All my images are imported to DNG. That might explain why my system seems so fast.

      It seems Adobe has some work to do on preset performance.

  12. Reducing the number of Develop Presets speeds up the Library Module. I “collected” a lot of develop presets over the years. When I deleted all but the most used, the speed of loading images in the Library Module increased dramatically.

    1. There was another comment about that – it definitely helped but not nearly as much as I would want Lightroom to speed up. Thanks for the comment.

  13. I too have problems with LR5. I must have tried four or five times to export some images out of LR before I got all of them done.

    It has been known to corrupt the occasional image in it’s own database but not in Canon’s DPP program.

    It is a great program but very resource hungry.

  14. Great article/letter dude! Oddly enough though, I haven’t noticed those problems really. I have a 2012 (I think) iMac with maxed out RAM (can’t even remember if it’s 16 or 32 GB) and an i5 processor with a 1TB regular hard drive. I keep my LR catalog, however, on my Drobo with the SSD accelerator. I’ve actually been quite pleased with my speed with this setup. The main thing that bogs down for me lately is just my iMac in general, whether I’m running LR or not.

  15. I’ve been with LR since version 2 and have watched as Adobe has murdered and disemboweled a great program into the mess it is today. Intel i7 Hexacore processor, all SSDs and 24 GB of RAM and LR5.6 begins to choke after about 12 edits. And so many suggestions about how to minimize it sound great on paper, but, in reality, we should not HAVE to do them. Make a separate catalog for each project? Then what do I use to manage my 125+ Catalogs? Especially since they all inter-relate? Disable or move my presets? Why should I then have to manually keep track? For that matter, I don’t use any extra presets or collections or anything beyond flagging and rating, yet half the time, LR slows down to the point that moving a batch of files from one folder to the next will not complete properly because it gets hung up trying to move the last image, which it is still trying to load up in Library (and yes, I’ve already made 1:1 previews by that point)

    Why is LR limited to only 2 process threads (if you are lucky?) I used Bibble (remember them?) and it could peg out all 12 threads available on my machine and get the job done much quicker. But, by golly, now we can arrange a book and build a (mediocre) web site right in LR…

    As of late, it really feels as if Adobe doesn’t care about their users. Tack on features, push out a new version and don’t optimize the code underneath. If another program came along and could transfer all my develop settings to in a heartbeat. Of course, I shoot in distinct “seasons” and the current one is coming to an end. Maybe finding something as a fresh start for next season is in order……..

  16. Amen, brother! I’ve noticed a distinct performance drop over the last few versions. My MacBook Pro used to blaze through raw files during the initial edit but now it feels a lot more like the 4 year old Windows system it replaced with a 2 to 3 second lag moving between images with no edits applied. Like you, all images are in internal SSD and I have the RAM on this machine maxed out.

  17. As I commented recently on a three-year-old performance-related thread in the Adobe Forums, Lightroom began as a skunks work project to process and manage high volumes of imagery. We’ve benefited from some great new features and stellar ACR handling with each version, but IMO performance has not kept up with the original charter (particularly in light of current file size and volume).

    Working pros are probably not a significant segment of the LR user base and our volume may be an edge case for the dev team. I’ve shot 350,000 images since 2011 and run them exclusively through LR. The end results are fantastic but the time investment puts pressure on other areas of my business and while I’m sure every photographer wants to see the fruits of their labor quickly, but there’s a big difference between creative anticipation and a working deadline.

    Putting aside the instantaneous demands of social media usage, clients want hi-res, high-quality images faster than ever. Meanwhile the processing latitude of RAW means that editing cannot simply be a matter of selection in the Library module’s grid. I live in the Develop module because that’s where I can see the full potential of an image (+ adjustments) and select between 5, 10, 20 frames that are too close to judge in a grid. Every second that’s spent waiting for dev changes to render is multiplied a thousand times, and that means bed at 1am instead of 11pm. Not good when you have to get up the next day and do it all again.

    Earlier in my creative life I spent a decade inside silicon valley dev organizations and I can say with absolute sincerity that no engineering team wants to work on legacy features or core performance. It’s a tough sell internally, but Adobe has got to find the will and the resources to make a 10X improvement in performance. Even photographer’s who are not producing thousands of images per week (or worse still per day) will enjoy the benefits. I’d like to get more sleep and dream about the next great image.

  18. Agree with your letter 100%. I am contemplating going back to Aperture even though it is no longer being updated. I just tried importing a shoot there and the speed of going through the photos to make my initial ratings and deletes was blazingly fast compared to the frustrating, time-consuming, up to 10-15 seconds per photo loading experienced with Lightroom 5. Such a shame given the develop tools it has.

  19. I am on a PC, running LR5.6. i7 processor, 8GB RAM and everything running on an SSD. Runs absolutely perfectly and I have no complaints.

  20. I concur – I have the same issues on my Windows 8.1 PC (a little better spec, but close to yours) and I wrote directly with the Adobe team from 5.0. However, nothing positive has happened since then. Updates till 5.6 has not improved speed – at least not noticeable.

  21. Reading through Scott’s open letter and the subsequent replies has been very helpful – I’m trying some of those changes today. Thanks to all who have replied.

    I’m running a dinosaur – Early 2008 Mac Pro 8 – 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon – with 32GB RAM and an 6G SSD for the boot drive mounted in the 16 lane PCI slot. I call it life support, but it’s been very trustworthy, especially with Photoshop CC and huge 1GB multilayer files. Lightroom runs modestly well, all things considered with a 50K image library. With 36MP captures (Raw, not converted DNG), I edit heavily to keep the weight down, but I, too, struggle with slow preview load times and lagging brush strokes with the local adjustment tools – the more local adjustments, the slower LR gets. Restarting helps, but it’s annoying and not a cure-all. Previously my biggest complaint was the constant camera connection failure of Lightroom tethering with Nikon and Canon, which was handled with a small piece of code someone from Adobe finally posted. However, that took a year to show up.

    As far a small libraries are concerned, maintaining a single LR library is critical to staying organized. Unless you have an incredible memory for minutia, creating multiple small libraries is a huge risk. I’ve seen this dozens times, a user ends up with a multitude of libraries, sometimes importing into the wrong library or importing to the wrong drive, which all contributes to the time consuming task of moving or locating and relinking missing files. And let’s not even talk about the mess that happens when users move files outside of the LR environment – something Aperture avoided completely with its library management. I absolutely do not recommend (ever) having multiple LR libraries. For most, it’s a disaster in the making.

    Adobe has definitely dropped the ball with Lightroom, as I have experienced with the tethering issues and as many of us are experiencing with the speed issues. Considering Apple has dropped iPhoto and Aperture, the Lightroom user base may be expanding exponentially and it is only in Adobe’s best interest to improve the product’s speed in Version 6.0.

  22. Try Aperture. Oh, Whoops, nevermind.

  23. Hey all,
    I ended up at this article because I share the same lag problems as many of you. I started searching for a Lightroom alternative because, like many of you, I know that my computer should be fast enough to handle these images. After years of lag, I just recently switched to Photo Mechanic and now save lots of time on my culling. So maybe another program can help with the color correction?

    After googling, I came across a program from Corel that’s very impressive. I’m gonna grab a copy and test it out (its $59!). Here’s a feature list:
    and here’s the demo that won me over:

    I love the magnifying glass option, batch processing and 64bit features. They also have noise reduction engine from Athentech, the company behind a solid all-in-one PS plugin. And a 30 day money back guarantee so its worth a shot. Wish me luck.

  24. Scott – give Capture One 8 is serious look. Version 8 which was just released includes a –major– improvement in their catalog features. Also CO has the concept of “sessions” which are mini catalogs for client jobs that can be easily archived or even merged into the catalog at later time.

    I can jump on a hangout and give you a tour.

    1. I do see they added a bunch of improvements including Lightroom importing. I’m going to download a trial and speak to them at Photo Plus Expo if they’re there. I just can’t justify the price at the moment without obvious benefits.

  25. I am running a Win 8.1 PC with Core i7-3770K 32gb Ram and liquid cooling, programs on SSDs and HD for storage, separate SSD for Cache, I have used LR since testing the Beta version 1.0 but I have found the same problems as most people here, I recently finished scanning nearly 5000 negatives into LR using auto import and would stop and process them after 150 scans, in develop mode I had to stop after 50 or so, close LR and then reopen it, this is madness.
    I am on LR ver 5.6 but I would say that it got worse after ver 3, some things are amazing on the latest version but this really is annoying especially with the powerful machines we all seem to use these days.
    I also upload my images to Nextgen Pro using a LR preset so it makes my life very easy, so come on Adobe, lets have the speed we get with PS, that doesn’t lag on processing…

  26. LR 5.6 is broken. It’s lagging like crazy, multiple “bezel” windows pops up and eventually freezes forcing me to close it from task manager. It’s a nightmare.
    LR 5.5 was slow like any other lightroom but 5.6 is simply broken!

  27. I am not familiar with Lr and novice with cameras, however I have used other photo editing programs and NONE have ever made my photos blurry, The first time I use Lr all the pictures were great I edited them used them… Great…2nd time i uploaded they were blurry the originals were crisp and sharp. I removed the photos and reloaded…Still blurry…so i give up on Lr and will go back to my old old “picture it” had it for many many years to bad they don’t have it anymore. I HATE Lr

  28. The slowness and the difficulty in getting help is ridiculous. Getting a new computer and “lightroom 6 is another name for “virus” for me. Never again!

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