Lightroom Resource Utilization: On Setting Up a Machine for Lightroom Usage
desktop background image of a sunset over Nouméa, New Caledonia -- Hilton Nouméa -- Nouméa, South, New Caledonia -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 43mm — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
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Adobe Lightroom deals with a lot of data — sometimes thousands of images at a time, each one potentially huge by itself — so it uses a lot of computer resources. When setting up a machine for Lightroom use, one wants to know what kinds of upgrades will be most effective, and along these lines I got an email from James Palik, a professional photographer who also teaches processing and workflow with Lightroom, asking specific questions about Lightroom resource management.

Sadly I'm not the right person to ask about this kind of stuff, but luckily I have a contact within Adobe who is. I've received permission to reproduce the questions and answers here so that all my benefit.

The current version of Lightroom is 6.3 (LrCC 2015.3).

Q:How much installed memory will Lightroom address. For example, is there any value to installing a full 64 GB on a Windows machine.
A:

Lightroom 6 runs as a native 64-bit application. In theory, the image processing engine can use up to 50% of the total RAM on your system to backup its internal virtual memory system. Typically, processing a single photo would not require 32GB of RAM. Current Lightroom heuristics set a maximum limit on the number of negatives cached in RAM at any given time (last 3 or 4 negatives loaded). So having more RAM adding to the machine would not be helpful.

However, if you could use the additional RAM to setup as RAM disk. That would be immensely helpful to speedup the previously loaded negatives. This is the same reasoning why having the catalog and negatives (Smart Previews) on a fast SSD drive is very helpful.

In the normal case, I would currently recommend 16GB of RAM.

Q:Lightroom determines a set amount of Cache when it is installed. How does Lightroom determine this setting?
A:

I assume by Cache you meant the camera raw cache? It depends on your workflow. If you are following a DNG-only workflow with Fast Load Data embedded, the camera raw cache rarely comes into play. If you process the raw files (CR2, NEF, RAF) only, then having a bigger camera raw cache is very helpful. It depends on the number of photos that you would need to process through each time and how often that you need to go back and reprocess them. Having the camera raw cache directory on a faster drive is very beneficial.

Q:When does Lightroom start to use Cache. (in what part of the development process)
A:

Every time that Lightroom would need to render the negatives with the adjustment settings, in the develop module or the quick develop in the library module.

Q: When it comes to CPUs and cores, what is your best advice for purchasing the most powerful standalone machine when it is going to be used almost exclusively for photography processing in Lightroom?
A:

Lightroom likes multiple processors/mult-cores and make uses of them.

Q:Will Lightroom take advantage of dual processors?
A:

Yes.

Q:How many cores will Lightroom take advantage of?
A:

Since Lr 6.2, Lightroom will make use of all cores available.

In all Lightroom versions, you can check the Lightroom's System Info dialog invoked from the Help menu. It has a field named Maximum thread count used by Camera Raw that tells how many cores that Lightroom will be using.


There we have it. Some of the answers bring up further questions, but hopefully this information will be of value. The RAM disk for the Camera Raw cache seems like an easy place to win greatly, if you have the spare memory. The size and location of the Camera Raw cache is configured in Lightroom's preferences dialog under the File Handling tab.

desktop background image of the boat dock at Îlot Maître (メトル島), New Caledonia -- Îlot Maître (メトル島), New Caledonia -- Îlot Maître (メトル島) -- Nouméa, South, New Caledonia -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 65mm — 1/10000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Îlot Maître (メトル島), New Caledonia
Desktop-Background Versions
1280×800  ·  1680×1050  ·  1920×1200  ·  2560×1600  ·  2880×1800

All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

what about video Cards.
mac pro wit d300, d500 or D700?

thanks,
Mark

— comment by Mark on January 5th, 2016 at 10:43pm JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you for doing this Jeffery. Even though some of the answers open additional questions, I think many people will appreciate the answers.

Jim

— comment by James Palik on January 6th, 2016 at 5:36am JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve always imported my NEF files without converting to DNG… but it’s just occurred to me to wonder whether Lightroom is significantly quicker at working with (i.e. browsing and developing) DNGs (once the initial hit on the conversion from NEF to DNG during import has been taken)… can you clarify, perhaps even quantify?

I don’t know, sorry. I imagine DNGs are somewhat quicker, especially if they have “fast load data” enabled. I don’t know what that really is, but the name has “fast” in it. 🙂 Personally I prefer to keep my source images in their source format, so this is not something I would investigate myself. —Jeffrey

— comment by Marcus Tucker on January 25th, 2016 at 9:30pm JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Ok, I will give it a go over the weekend and report back… meanwhile this article sheds some light on the “fast load” aspect of it and other pros/cons http://www.lightroomqueen.com/articles-page/convert-dng/ … but this one isn’t in favour http://petapixel.com/2015/07/16/why-i-stopped-using-the-dng-file-format/

— comment by Marcus Tucker on January 27th, 2016 at 2:43am JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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