Ultimate Guide To Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow

Ultimate Guide To Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow!

Ultimate Guide To Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow

Ultimate Guide To Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow


Ever wanted to speed things up in Lightroom and didn’t know where to look? This blog post will be your Ultimate Guide on – How To Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow!

Lightroom is by far the most efficient & effective photo management software out there. But the one thing most people have a problem is that Lightroom is a lot system intensive, resource and power hungry application.

For Lightroom to run smoothly, you need to have a good system configuration and sometimes even with a good system configuration, Lightroom can run a little slow especially if you don’t know how to optimise and tweak inside of lightroom to speed up your lightroom workflow.

This blog post will help you optimize your lightroom workflow in the best possible manner whether or not you have a high-end system configuration.

We wanted to make sure that you are making the most out of everything you have for now…we can all go fancy whenever we need to or wish to, but for now…what are some of the best options we have?

Let’s find that out…

  • 3rd Party Software (For Importing & Culling Images)
  • Import Module:
  • Import Photos Directly
  • Import Photos using Import Preset (Apply Base Preset – Optional)
  • Rename and Add Metadata on Import
  • Add Mass Metadata
  • Apply Presets on Import
  • Convert RAW Files to DNG
  • Render 1:1 Previews
  • Use Smart Previews
  • Auto advance rating option
  • Keep your Rating System simple
  • Develop Module
  • Speed up in the Develop Module
  • Learn to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible
  • Use Presets
  • Use Smart Collections
  • Use Solo Mode on the side panels
  • Increase ACR Cache
  • Optimize your catalog
  • Make a new catalog
  • Quick Collections
  • Turning Off Auto Show Panels
  • Decluttering the Lightroom Interface
  • Export Module:
  • Quick & Speedy Export using Export & Watermark Presets
  • Peripherals:
  • Optimize your HDD
  • Use / Upgrade your video card for processing
  • Use an SSD

Let’s take up each one step by step so that you can follow along…

3rd Party Software (For Importing & Culling Images)

One great workflow tip we would love to start with is…using a 3rd Party Software especially Photo Mechanic. The great thing about Photo Mechanic is that it’s lightning and blazing fast. It was designed specifically keeping the high demands of sports and wedding photographers who need to shoot a lot of images. So using a software like Photo Mechanic would help you cull and rate your images quickly so that you can import only your best stuff into lightroom and get on directly with the editing and developing process.

Import Photos Directly:

The very 1st step in any editing workflow is to import images into Lightroom. A lot of Photographers prefer importing images onto a specific location on the hard drive and then link those images later into the lightroom catalog.

However, you can completely bypass this step. You can use Lightroom to import your images directly into a folder of your choice, bypassing the need to import the images onto your computer in the 1st place.

To do this… when you plug in your memory storage or card reader or connect your camera with the Lightroom application open, the import dialog box will automatically open. On the right-hand panel, you will see the destination which you can specify right from Lightroom. You can even create a new folder in the location of your choice right from that panel in Lightroom. Find your images folder and if you need to create a new folder inside this, simply right-click and Create New Folder.

Import Photos

Rename and Add Metadata on Import:

Another quick and simple way to speed up your workflow is to rename your images right at the time of importing them. You can do this exactly in the same way you learned to import your images directly as shown above. So while importing…just above the destination folder on the right hand panel, there is an option to rename your files based on the naming convention you decide.

Hint: You can even create a preset for keeping your naming convention consistent throughout the workflow process 🙂

You can find this under the ‘Apply During Import’ Section at the bottom of the import dialog box. Here you can even specify useful data such as your name, contact info such as your telephone number, copyright information as well as other IPTC data and generic keywords.

Add Metadata

Add Mass Metadata:

If you haven’t added metadata to your earlier imports, no need to worry. Simply create a metadata preset with copyright information, file naming convention etc and once that is done, you can apply this Metadata Preset onto all your images that don’t yet reflect your desired metadata.

To do this, in the Library Module, select the image with the right metadata added. Right-click on it and select Metadata Presets > Copy Metadata. The Metadata template will open and you can select which elements of this you wish to copy. Click on ‘Copy’ and then select all the images that you wish to apply the metadata and click Metadata Presets > Paste Metadata.

You can even add keyword presets in your metadata.  This is particularly useful if you are a  stock photographer who might have a number of similar images that require the same captions and keywords.

Apply Presets on Import:

A great way to have a cohesive editing workflow is to create presets in the entire workflow process. Therefore, if you happen to make a certain set of adjustments to all your images…it’s a lot better to try and understand what adjustments you normally do to all your images and then create a base develop preset. You can then apply this base preset right at the time of importing the images into Lightroom By doing this, you are saving yet another additional step in your editing process.

To do this, on the right-hand panel of the import module, look under Apply During Import > Develop Settings and select your base preset. Now all the images you have imported into lightroom will have that base preset applied and you will save a lot of your time during the actual editing process.

Convert RAW files to DNG:

Every camera manufacturer and brand has their own RAW file format. For example, Canon’s RAW format is, CR2, Nikon’s RAW format is NEF…likewise, Adobe has their own proprietary RAW file format called the DNG format – short for Digital Negative.

When it comes to RAW file formats of Camera Manufacturer’s, there are 2 aspects to it…one is the RAW file itself and the other is a sidecar file. The RAW format is the RAW file itself and the sidecar file is like a mini-lightroom like catalog that is attached to the RAW file. Therefore a sidecar file, will store all the metadata information of that image…even the metadata that is added later using lightroom with regards to copyright information. Metadata would also contain all information relating to the changes and adjustments made to the image.

The benefit of DNGs for Lightroom is that they can increase performance for some, since the format was designed by Adobe themselves and made to be easy for editing programs to work with. They contain sidecar information inside the file itself and not separately as a sidecar file like other RAW file formats.

Render 1:1 Preview on Import:

Preview files are files that Lightroom generates and displays in the develop module for all of your image files. The larger the preview, the more detailed the photo will appear and also a lot quicker the image will show up. When you switch from one image to another in the develop module, most times you will see a few seconds of lag, the photo is blurry in the beginning and later it gets clear and sharp. That’s because Lightroom is busy generating a good size (ideally your monitor size) preview for the image to show up.

If however, at the time of importing the images, if you decide to pre-render 1:1 previews, then lightroom does not need to work hard while browsing the images in the develop module. The import process does take a little extra time but later during the developing and editing process, your images open up and load quickly! To render 1:1 previews, you can do that during the import process itself. This option is at the top right of the import dialog box.

Once you are done with your shoot and you wish to edit your images…make sure you render 1:1 previews….go and grab a cup of coffee and once you are back…your images will be all set and ready to be edited!

Use Smart Previews:

Yet another option to speed up your lightroom workflow is to use smart previews. In a way, smart previews are kind of opposite of 1:1 previews. Smart Previews are separate files that let you edit your photos even when the actual raw images are not present. A case in point is…if you store your images on an external drive and for some reason it’s not connected to the working computer….smart previews would come handy in such a scenario.

The best thing about smart previews is that they load & process a lot faster than full sized files. You can do all your editing work using just the smart preview files and later when you plug the external drive back, everything will get in sync and the actual full-size files would be all ready to be exported. Smart Previews come in handy if you are traveling light and also if you have a relatively old machine to load the full-size images quickly.

Auto Advance Rating Option:

Auto Advance is one of my favorite workflow hacks and tweaks.

Quick question:

While culling, sorting and rating your images, do you rate your photos by selecting a rating, then press the right arrow key to jump to the next photo and so on?

If you have been doing this….just stop wasting your time from now on! Simply turn on Auto Advance by selecting it from the drop-down menu under ‘Photo’. That’s it…you are all good to go…now every time you rate an image, you don’t need to press the right arrow key to advance to the next image…lightroom will automatically do it for you. You just rate an image and lightroom will advance you immediately to the next photo! This should have been a default ‘ON’ setting as far as I believe.

Keep Your Rating System Simple:

One quick and useful tip I can give you is we need to keep our rating system very simple. During the culling process, the more complicated your rating system gets, the longer you will take to run through all your images. Instead…just keep it simple, basic and simply like a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’.

The way I go about culling is very simple….here’s my process…

I keep my fingers on the keyboard close to the alphabets ‘P’ & ‘X’. ‘P’ is a keyboard shortcut to pick an image…ie. Flag the image as something you like and wish to work on. ‘X’ is a keyboard shortcut to reject an image. So what I do is…I have set the ‘Auto Advance’ option to ON (see above for more details) in Lightroom…all I do is simply hit ‘P’ or ‘X’ and Lightroom keeps auto advancing to the next image until all the images are rated and culled. It’s a very simple and elegant approach which has worked for me over the years.

Once you’ve made it all the way through your import, press Command + Delete (control on PC). This will remove all of your rejected photos, never to be seen again. (choose “delete from disk” to not only remove from your LR catalog but delete from your hard drive). This will keep your Library cleaner and your Lightroom Catalog more efficient and easier to manage.

Develop Module:

Speed up in the Develop Module:

Now let’s see how you can speed up your workflow in the develop module. When you edit images…it’s a lot quicker if you edit your pictures in batches. For example…if you are editing images which have been shot at a particular location, the lighting, the exposure, the color tones etc are mostly very identical. The best way to edit them is to edit one image properly with all the settings you deem fit for that image and then simply copy the edits and paste them onto all the other similar images at one go! You can use Cmd + C (Ctrl + C for windows) to copy the effect from the edited image. A new window will open showing all the potential develop settings that you can copy. Select the ones that you wish to apply and click copy. Then paste it using Cmd + V (Ctrl + V for Windows) on all the other identical images. It’s as simply as that! Copying and Pasting works exactly like any other application.

Learn to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible:

This one’s my favorite workflow hack! But one important tip I can give you is…do not try to learn all the Keyboard Shortcuts at one go! You won’t remember any. Instead….start with 2 or maximum 3 keyboard shortcuts that you feel are the most useful to you.

Learn them and make them automatic like kind of muscle memory. Then pick a few more keyboard shortcuts…again no more than 2-3…and keep doing this and in just a few months you would be rocking with your Lightroom workflow!

To make it all the more easier for you…here are the best keyboard shortcuts that will give you the highest leverage on speeding up your lightroom workflow!

Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts

For a more comprehensive look at Keyboard Shortcuts for Lightroom, you can check our blog post on The Top 10 Ways To Automate Lightroom!

Use Presets:

Another extremely powerful and easy hack to speed up your lightroom workflow is to make conscious and deliberate use of presets at every single step of your lightroom workflow. If you are serious about really changing your entire lightroom workflow then using presets is the best possible option and we highly recommend you take a look at our Ultimate Lightroom Presets Workflow System! This is the best preset system available on the market today to help you 10x your productivity in Lightroom. Don’t believe a word of what we say…see it for yourself here.

Use Smart Collections:

Lightroom has two types of collections: Regular Collections and Smart Collections. Smart Collections are live and dynamic and they are created as a result of filtering your photos according to the filters and rules that you have decided. Like a regular collection….You cannot add an image to a Smart Collection by dragging and dropping it into the smart collection. Likewise, you can’t also remove an image from a Smart Collection just because you don’t want it in there. It can only be removed if & when it fails to meet the criteria you set up for the smart collection.

There are a few Smart Collections which ship with Adobe Lightroom. But the real power in lightroom lies in creating your very own Smart Collections. Our Ultimate Lightroom Presets Workflow System has many extremely useful smart collection presets that can take your productivity through the roof.

Use Solo Mode on the side panels:

Do you find yourself scrolling all the time through lots of options just to do your basic edits? If you do…then use the SOLO Mode! This also should have been a default option in Lightroom. Say for example, if you’re working on the Basic Tab of the Develop Module and want to switch to work on the tone curve for your photo, clicking on the Tone Curve Tab, Lightroom will automatically close the Basic Tab for you. This helps in keeping the interface a lot cleaner and easier to navigate (or using a small screen or laptop)

To turn the Solo Mode on, simply right click on any of the sidebar panel names (not the triangle) and select ‘Solo Mode’ from the menu that appears.

Increase ACR Cache:

ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) Cache is basically a quick access memory that Lightroom uses to load our images and adjustments quickly. That means a bigger ACR Cache allows us to store and recall the information much faster without having to redo the processing work for each file. This is a quick and easy way to perhaps make the biggest adjustment to allow Lightroom to utilize your computer’s resources much more efficiently. The default setting is only 1GB which is minuscule. If you up it to say 20-25 gb…you will give Lightroom a lot more breathing room to let you zoom through images at a much quicker rate. You can find this setting to increase ACR Cache under Preferences > File Handling.

Optimize your Catalog:

A Catalog in lightroom is simply a record of the image in its database. In this record it stores all the information regarding the image such as – Metadata, filters & edits we have done on the image, metadata we have added to the photo, and a history of all the changes that have been made to the image.

Because of having Lightroom Catalogs, we are able to work non-destructively.

Your catalog is basically a long list of every photo and every adjustment you’ve made, as well as the organization of folders, names, ratings, and every other parameter you can adjust in Lightroom.

Since the Lightroom Catalog stores every single piece of information, the catalog file tends to grow in size pretty quickly. When you choose the option to optimize your Catalog, this option will go through and clean up your catalog file…you can relate this to a sort of a defrag in lightroom. It helps in cleaning up the clutter and getting rid of the unnecessary mess. To do this, go to File -> Optimize Catalog and let it do its thing.

Make a new catalog:

If you happen to store all your images in one single catalog…after a point in time…things can get unmanageable and messy.  If your catalog is 20,000 or more images strong, you might want to consider starting a new catalog to give Lightroom a clean slate to start with.

If you are a studio which does lots of Professional Shoots, you can create a new catalog for every single shoot you do for the current year &  if your work volume is a lot more…then you can even create a new catalog for every new shoot you do. By doing this….you keep the catalog size under control and also be a lot more organised and manageable in the process. Just make sure that you don’t forget to always backup old catalogs just like you would back up your raw files.

Quick Collections:

The Quick Collection is a place for you to quickly add photos that you need to grab from more than one folder in your Lightroom Catalog. It is an “easy access”, temporary location for a group of images that you wish to print, export, share, or create a new collection from. It starts out empty, and you can add images to it by dragging and dropping them on top of the collection. And if there is a plus icon (+) next to the name Quick Collection then you can use the keyboard shortcut B to add photos to it.

Why use the Quick Collection?

  • To group photos together that you wish to use in a blog post or article
  • To temporarily store photos you need to export and share with someone online
  • To set aside a group of photos you wish to upload to your online portfolios
  • The Quick Collection is kind of a temporary holding place for photos

Turning Off Auto Show Panels:

Sometimes we need to just look at an image and nothing else just to see what best can be done with it. We sometimes need a no clutter environment to also see how the image looks after the editing has been done. So to give more screen real estate, it’s a good idea to hide the side panels when you don’t wish to use them. The perfect place to do this is with left panel in the develop module as most of the time everything you need is in the right panel.

The problem is once it’s hidden and every time you hover your mouse to the left of the screen, the panel pops out. That might be fine a couple of times but after a while you’ll find that it becomes annoying and starts to slow down your workflow. It’s easily fixed by right clicking on the panel disclosure triangle, and selecting manual from the drop down menu. This will stop the panel from opening automatically. When you want it back, just click on the triangle to show the panel.

Export Module:

Quick & Speedy Export using Export & Watermark Presets:

The final step in any editing workflow is to render the images for print, social media, banner display, blogs & website etc. For that, we need images in various sizes and some with watermarks and some without. The best way to deal with this is to create…yes you guessed it right…create presets!

You can create all the presets you mostly need in your workflow so that you can take control and speed up your export workflow process in lightroom. To do this, we create our own export preset. To create a preset select an image in the Library Module and right click on it. Select Export. With the Export window open on the left side, we see an Add button. Click on this and name your new preset. Now from the main window you can select standard export locations, file renaming, image format, define an export size and even add a watermark. Clicking Export will export that image with those settings and save the preset. Voila! Now you can select any number of images, right-click, and select Export. You will see your preset amongst the list of other presets


This is the last and also the most exciting section of speeding up your lightroom workflow. You can hack and speed up your lightroom workflow like crazy by upgrading your computer system.

Optimize your Hard Drive:

One of the biggest boost to Lightroom Performance you can get is by upgrading your storage device from HDD to SSD. Solid State Drives (SSD’s) can boost performance literally by up to 5-6x. Even if your machine is 4-5 years old…just simply upgrading your system’s storage device to SSD will do wonders to your speed of working inside of Lightroom.

SSDs, or solid state drives, can perform computer tasks up to 30 times faster than traditional disc-based hard drives. Everything you do in Lightroom can be sped up by using an SSD, from importing (copying files), editing (writing information), to exporting (saving new files).

Always make sure you don’t fill up your storage up to the brim…it should have at least 25% free storage space. Hard drives tend to perform better when they have plenty of free space to work with. If your drive has less than 25% of its space free, all of those temporary files and caches Lightroom creates and uses can cause things to really bog down, or worse, crash.

If you use a traditional HDD, defragging regularly can help the lifespan and performance of your drive. Both Windows and Mac machines include disc utilities to defrag and clean hard drives.

Use / Upgrade Your Video Card for Processing:

These days almost all of the modern video cards can handle an amazing amount of processing, especially those with larger amounts of RAM. If you have a dedicated video card, this setting can off load some of the processing from your CPU to your GPU and let them work together to do everything a lot faster in harmony.

Upgrade your RAM:

Another reasonably easy and economical way to speed up your lightroom workflow is to upgrade the amount of RAM in your machine. The more the merrier. Make sure when you upgrade your RAM, you upgrade it with the highest possible bus speed that is compatible with your system configuration. When you have more RAM, lightroom can use it to process heavy duty stuff a lot better.

Here is an infographic for all the above:



So there you have it…the ultimate guide to speed up your lightroom workflow. Make sure you go through them all and implement as much of all the above you possibly can and this will certainly at the very least double your speed and productivity of your lightroom workflow.

If you are keen to take your productivity many notches up…then we highly recommend you take a serious look at Ultimate Lightroom Presets Workflow System! Using it…you will easily speed up your lightroom workflow by at least 400%

Do you have any more ideas to speed up lightroom workflow that you would like to add to this list?  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section, and also the ones you would like me to write about in my upcoming posts!

Yours truly,

Amit Desai

CEO, Founder

♥ Lightroom Preset Shoppe

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