Efficient Lightroom Workflow for High Resolution Images

It seems that the continuous increase of megapixels in our digital cameras is inevitable. Year after year, camera sensors are getting better, image resolution is increasing and file sizes are getting bigger. If just several years ago 10 megapixels was plenty for a DSLR, that number has grown way higher lately, thanks to such fine tools as the Nikon D800. This increase of resolution and file sizes clearly puts a load on our quickly aging computers as well. Larger files require more storage and post-processing images in Lightroom and Photoshop is taking longer due to insufficient computing power and resources, dramatically slowing down our photography workflow process. While upgrading your computer could speed things up quite a bit, it is often a costly proposition. Instead of spending money on more gear, revisiting your workflow process and perhaps even revising it might significantly reduce the amount of time you spend editing images. In this article, I will show you a very efficient Lightroom workflow for high resolution images, which my wife and I adopted after acquiring the Nikon D800.

Lightroom Export Catalog

1) Why I changed my Lightroom Workflow

On average, my wife Lola and I shoot about 20-30 thousand images a year. It sure sounds like a lot, but if you factor in all wedding and portrait work we do, where a single wedding day could yield over a thousand images, it is actually not that big of a number. Since it was extremely slow and inefficient to keep all images in a single Lightroom catalog, I started organizing catalogs by year about 3 years ago. Since then, I was quite happy with my Lightroom workflow. At the beginning of each year, I would move my primary catalog for the previous year to slower archival storage and create a new one. Everything was working well, although towards the end of the year Lightroom would get a little sluggish. But it was tolerable…Until Lola and I bought the Nikon D800.

While we were both extremely happy with the quality of images we were getting from the D800 (which very quickly became our favorite DSLR), our post-processing workflow turned out to be inefficient. Lola was quite frustrated when working on images from the D800, since they opened so much slower than images from the D700 or the D3s. So I had to find a quick solution. I knew that her PC was good enough and did not require upgrading, since I built a PC last year with the Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, an SSD drive and two fast drives in RAID 1 (mirror) configuration for photo storage. The issue was with our Lightroom Workflow – storing 30 thousand RAW photos in one Lightroom catalog was a bad idea. After experimenting a little, I came up with a much faster process, which made Lola happy again and she was able to work through all recent weddings quickly.

2) Export Images to a Separate Catalog

The reason why Lightroom gets slow overtime, is because of the large number of objects and associated metadata stored in a single catalog. The first thing I recommend to do, is take the content you will be editing out of your current catalog into a separate one. By doing that, you will be editing a single event with no other photographs in it. Here is an example of how Lola’s Lightroom folder structure looks like:

Lightroom Export Catalog

As an example, I chose a single wedding (Stacy and Tom) by clicking on the folder in the Library module, which contains 2770 images (if you store your images differently in the file system, you can also select a range of images by clicking the first image, then pressing the SHIFT key and clicking the last one).

Now what you need to do, is export the entire folder into a different catalog. In this case, I will be exporting 2770 images to a separate catalog. You can do this by either pressing the “ALT” button on your keyboard and clicking the “Export Catalog” button on the bottom or by going to “File”->”Export as Catalog”. When you do that, you will be presented with the “Export As Catalog” window:

Export As Catalog

Now you need to select the folder where you will store the new catalog. I highly recommend using a folder in your fastest hard drive. For example, if you have an SSD drive as your primary hard drive (C: Drive), then create a folder in the main folder like “Photos” or “Lightroom”. Once you create a folder, type the file name of your catalog. As you can see from the above image, I typed “Stacy and Tom Wedding” and I am storing it in a folder called “Photos”. Now here is the important part – make sure that the bottom of the window states the correct number of images you will be exporting and all three boxes are unchecked. If you hand-picked the photos you want to export, then only the first box “Export selected photos only” should be checked. You definitely do not want to check “Export negative files”, because it will duplicate your RAW files in the location you picked. Including available previews is not needed, since we will be re-rendering them (see below). Click “Save” to begin the export process:

Export New Catalog

2) Open the New Catalog

Once the export is complete, you will receive a message that the export was successful. Next, navigate to “File”->”Open Recent” and pick the catalog that Lightroom just created for you. In my case, it is “Stacy and Tom.lrcat”. When you click the file name, the following message will come up:

Relaunch Lightroom Catalog

This means that Lightroom is about to close your current catalog and open the new one. Just click “Relaunch” and the new catalog will come up:

Newly Created Catalog

As you can see, only the current folder is visible in the new catalog – no other photos have been exported. Lightroom should already be much faster, but there is one issue – none of the images you see have been rendered by Lightroom yet. This means that if you start scrolling down or trying to open each image, it will take a while for Lightroom to generate all the thumbnails and display the full size image. In the next step below, we will make Lightroom render each image separately, which will speed it up even more.

3) Render 1:1 Previews

The reason why those 36 MP files from the Nikon D800 take so long to open up when you zoom into them, is because Lightroom has to read the RAW file, then render a full size JPEG image out of it. This takes a while, which adds to frustration when you have to go through hundreds of images and check for sharpness and other issues. To avoid this time-consuming process, you can render each image before you start editing, which will speed things up significantly when going from one image to the next. But this process takes a long time – it might take hours to finish, depending on how many images you want Lightroom to render.

To do this, navigate to “Library”->”Previews”->”Render 1:1 Previews” as shown below:

Render 1-1 Previews

The following message will pop-up, asking you to confirm if you want to build previews for a single image or all images:

Build Full Previews

Click “Build All” and the rendering process will start. You can monitor the progress of image rendering on the top side of Lightroom, similar to how you monitor the export process.

Once all the images are rendered, try to edit a couple of images and zoom in/out – everything should be much faster now!

4) How to Get Back to Your Old Catalog

So you worked through your images, made modifications, exported them and now you are done. How do you get back to your old Lightroom catalog? It is simple, just like you switched to this one, just navigate once more to “File”->”Open Recent” and click the name of your old catalog. Lightroom will again ask you if you want to Relaunch the catalog, so just click “Relaunch” and you will be taken to your old catalog.

Now here is something important to keep in mind. All image edits that you have performed in the newly created catalog will NOT be replicated back to your old catalog. When I had to do this for a number of different weddings, I kept them all separate and deleted them from my main catalog. If you choose to clean up your old catalog by deleting the exported photos, absolutely make sure NOT to delete the actual photos from your file system, since the exported catalog above references the images in the same location. When deleting files, Lightroom will ask you this:

Delete Photo

Only click “Remove” and NOT “Delete from Disk”. By removing the image, you are removing it from your Lightroom catalog, but the actual photo in your file system is preserved. If you click “Delete from Disk”, then the RAW file will be deleted as well, which will break your other Lightroom catalog that you exported.

If you want to synchronize the photos back to your main Lightroom catalog after editing, you can easily do it by going to “File”->”Import from Another Catalog…”. In the import screen, choose “Metadata and develop settings only” under “Changed Existing Photos” and resolve other potential issues with missing files and click Import. Now all the changes should be synchronized back to your main catalog.

5) Modify Your Current Import Workflow

If the above process works out for you and you find it to be efficient for editing photographs, I would recommend to change your import workflow process. Instead of putting all photographs into the same catalog, why don’t you start creating catalogs for each major import? That way, you do not have to export photographs and import them again to sync the catalogs every time. Now if you still want to have one main catalog that contains all of your photographs, then you would be better off creating a separate catalog, importing images into it, editing images and then importing the small catalog into your main one.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions!


  1. 1) Flax
    November 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Interesting article. I have never liked working with catalogues, a map based organisation has always been my preference because that is the way we think.

    Although the interface is not as smooth as Lightroom CaptureNX gives me always results that are clearly better and much easier to acquire (it feels like having a better camera!). The perfect implantation with Nik ColorFX (raw based!) gives results that, at least for me, are very hard to beat with Lightroom, or at least it takes much more time and effort. Speed is no problem at all (I work with D800 as well).

  2. 2) mike
    November 2, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Great article Nasim. Very handy as my workflow was really starting to slow down!

    I think i may be doing somethring wrong though when i want to synchronize my edited pictures back into my main catalog.
    When i get to the import screen, i can not select the “Metadata and develop settings only” under “Changed Existing Photos” setting. It seems to want to pull the orignal files back from the orignal storage files of the old catalog, hence not syncing any edit pictures back.

    Am i saving the new catalog in the wrong place the first time? Hope this makes sense!?

    Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks


  3. November 2, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Thanks for sharing this info Nasim! Its very useful.

  4. 4) Randy
    November 2, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Clear and concise article, Nasim!

    This topic was actually the same question lingering in my head for while as I was thinking what is the recommended best practice on how to separate the catalogs so that I won’t have to work on a single bloated database which is getting slower and slower. “Best practice” may be a misnomer as each photographer’s workflow will have their own “tweaks” to it. However, what I’m trying to capture is the essence of it, of which you have addressed it!

    Initially I figured that I could either go attend a workshop, then ask the instructor about this. Or, read up a LR book, and to plough the pages for an answer. But your article nailed it.

    Thanks and my sincere appreciation to you and other contributors from PhotographyLife.com to the photographic community by sharing your valuable experiences.

  5. 5) Avishai
    November 2, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Thanks for the post nasim :)

    Right now i am trying to learn how to use lightroom, do you have any suggestions for a very beginner with it? Right now i am using photoshop raw. I am manually organising my photos and it’s very comfortable, so what’s the big difference between lightroom and photoshop ? All my RAW photos are processed with photoshop cs5 and it’s fine for me.. should i move up to lightroom? (I have it on my computer).

    You can see my photos on my blog and tell me if you see anything that i could have done better in post – processing?


    thanks :) I will be waiting for a comment.

  6. 6) Luis
    November 2, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Your english is very clear for non-english people.
    Thank you so much!!!!!!

  7. November 2, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Thanks for a good article. I don’t shoot anywhere your number but my LR catalog was around 50k images over 7 years. I too had built a similar PC and tried RAID 0 and SSD, even though I have a D4 not a D800.

    Then I discovered Photo Mechanic. It leverages the raw file’s built in JPG preview and makes the pre edit cull MUCH faster than LR. NOw I use Photo Mechanic to cut down the 1,000+ images that were shot to maybe 200, which I can then process in LR or DXO.

    I won’t go into details of using Photo Mechanic, as I am sure you and your readers can figure it out pretty quick, as well as using Google to see the pedigree of Photo Mechanic. The only thing that held me back was the price, however the time it saves pays for it in one job.

    Free alternatives are not quite as good, but cost effective, include XNVIEW. Or paid but cheaper is BreezeBrowser Pro which is Windows only!

    I have actually swapped from Windows to Mac in my search for speed and reliability and find that my new MacBook Pro 15″ with SATA 3 SSD is brilliant, especially with 16GB ram and 4TB of RAID 0 connected via Thunderbolt.

    Anyway, my point was Photo Mechanic, which is for both Windows and Mac.

    Just my 2 cents’ worth. Enjoy….

    • 7.1) Andre Roussakoff
      November 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I don’t think it is a good idea, Paul, to use Nasim’s blog to advertise alternatives to Adobe Lightroom. Although it may seem relevant to some of the readers, this sounds like a separate subject. Something like “What is your favorite workflow manager program?”
      Just my 2 cent’s worth… :)

      • 7.1.1) Paul Szilard
        November 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm

        Andre, I am not “advertising” anything. I have no commercial interest what program anyone uses, and I didn’t think that this thread, or Nasim’s site is dedicated to promoting a single brand like Adobe.

        What I aimed to do, is share methodology, which might benefit the readers. It so happens, that LR is a key in my suggested method, so my post seems relevant in my opinion. I simply gave a suggestion on how to pre-process before going to use LR, using something that might greatly speed up the processing.

        • Andre Roussakoff
          November 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm

          Good to hear that, Paul. Maybe I was wrong about your point, however LR seems definitely be the fav of Nasim. It is actually one of the reasons that I like his website so much. :) Coming back to your methodology, I believe that many of us actually do preprocess photos with an alternative software before importing them in LR (or any other manager). Personally, I use for that Faststone Image Viewer (freeware).

          • Paul Szilard
            November 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm

            +1 re FastStone Image Viewer. I had used that too and meant to mention it, it just slipped my mind. :) old age, you know. I believe that both FastStone and XnView are available for both Windows and Mac and are free.

            In my tests, I found PhotoMechanic faster than either of the free programs. It’s good to have a choice.

            I am adopting Nasim’s suggestion at the moment, changing to yearly LR catalogs. Big job.

            Anyway, all the best…

  8. 8) giubeca
    November 2, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Interesting. It could be more interesting if printable.

  9. 9) Nicolas
    November 2, 2012 at 7:32 am


    Thanks for the tips. However, I feel that something is strange in your workflow: if you are going to create another catalog to edit the files you want, why importing them first in your main catalog? Why not, after a wedding, create a new catalog, import the files, edit them, and when everything is done import them in the main catalog? I think you would save some time. What do you think?

    Thanks for your answer.


    • November 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Nicolas, perhaps I should have been a little more clear about my workflow. Starting from this year, I actually modified my Lightroom import workflow as well. Now I create separate catalogs for each major event. The steps above are for people that have giant Lightroom catalogs and don’t know where to start…

  10. 10) Razi
    November 2, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Nasim, Thanks for sharing. I did try it and it was very effective :)

  11. 11) Jano
    November 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I think Lightroom should work differently when using large images. Your workflow seems great for these large files and also for keeping the catalog nice and quick but LR needs to adapt to these new high resolution cameras.

    Extremely large photos should be resized to something like 10 MP for working on them. That’s enough for choosing the best photos and doing most edits, especially if you’re not using the brush tool too much. There should be a button for quickly switching to full resolution in those few cases where you need it.

    Also LR needs to optimise the way it treats 100% views. When checking sharpness all I need is small parts of the image like an eye or two. But LR always renders the full image before showing me anything. And as soon as I change any setting, this needs to be re-done. That’s absolutely inefficient.

    Full resolution should only be used when checking sharpness and when needing to work on tiny details with the brush tool or spot removal. Everything else can be done with something like 10 MP. Then, when exporting the images, LR should apply the edits to the full resolution RAW file and the photographer should never even need to think about this.

  12. 12) Mark
    November 2, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I have been using an approach of 1 or 2 catalogs per year. However, there is one thing I could use help on. When I open a catalog, I would like to be able to select just one directory containing images to look at rather than work in the entire catalog. However, when I click below the main portion of the window, I only see a limited list of recent imports. Is there a way to browse my image catalogs from the Develop screen and choose a directory?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. 13) Gret
    November 2, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Firstly, I enjoy reading all of you blog post. I find them very informative.

    I found a permanent solution for my Lightroom library issues. I also shoot 20 to30k pictures per year (75% raw) and found my Lightroom catalog getting getting very sluggish. My solution was to switch to Aperture. 1 library, 25k managed images and ~60k referenced images (around 550 GB) and it runs great even with my D800 raw images. I am still using a 3 year old IMac and 4 year old MB Pro and have no intentions of upgrading for at least another 2 years. Don’t you think it is the best to use a tool that works with the workflow that works best for you and not the other way around?

    • November 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      I was (am?) also tempted by Aperture and bought the program, however my show stopper is that Aperture doesn’t support raw format from my Fuji X-PRO1. I hope that they will add that soon, but until then it is LR for sure. :)

    • 13.2) Weyskipper
      November 4, 2012 at 4:32 am

      Nasim, thank you for an excellent tutorial. I recently bought LR4 because I was tempted by the lens correction ability as well as better adjustment tools like ND grad filters etc. I have been using Aperture for several years now and unfortunately Apple just is not updating it to include the above features.

      Once I switched to LR4, I found to my horror that LR4 is not really what I needed. My workflow in Aperture does not suffer due to D800 pics or size of library.

      I have really been torn between Aperture and LR now for a while, but your explanation here has given me the final push to shelve my LR project. Apple can and probably will add lens correction at some point, but I cannot picture that Adobe will fundamentally change the architecture of LR to be as streamlined as Aperture. It is clear to me now that LR has become bloated and is missing the purpose of super fast worklow for large libraries.

  14. November 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I would like to add my two cents here. Generally I found your article very interesting and useful, but this time you are touching a very delicate (and personal) argument. Basically, it’s hard to find two photographers with some experience having the same workflow.

    I’m an amateur and to processing images I have a 2010 Macbook Air 4GB RAM plus SSD, not the most updated machine, with LR3 (any significant difference with LR4?). I still probably overshoot a lot (12MPixel camera, RAW), but after starting with one catalog per year, I move back to a single catalog. My purpose is to have all my nice pics on the laptop in one catalog. I understand that my situation is different (12MP vs 36MP, pro vs amateur), but we got the same problems.

    This is my workflow:
    – I save all the raw files in an external network hard drive with RAID1, dividing them by event and by year
    – I import all the raw files from the event in the main catalog
    – I delete all the bad images (remove the image from the catalog and from the disk): double copies, out of focus, same subject but different orientation etc. What’s left is something like a tenth to a third of the starting sample
    – I process the best images, select the good ones, deleting the others
    – I put them in a nice order and upload them in a web gallery or exporting for printing

    In this way I save a lot of space and, if I want a picture that has been deleted, I can go back on the network drive and get that. If you are not going to use a picture later, why you want to keep that on the catalog? I never had the problem of being too slow. I’m pretty tight on the quality of the images, so I’m easy to remove them from the catalog, but for an event that progresses in time, I’m also trying to keep the ones that make a sort of story. For wedding, I get to keep something like 200 pics, while for bigger ones, I can get up to 600.

    When you say you have 2700 pics from a single wedding, I don’t think you are going to show all of them to the bride and the groom, or even put all of them in a printed album. So, again, why bother to keep all of them to slow down our LR.

    Sorry for the long post, congratulations for the restyled blog and thanks again for your advices.

    • November 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you for your feedback. True, the workflow process is very personal to each photographer. The way I choose to do things is based on my experience and it works for me. It does not mean that it will work for everyone :)

      You are right about deleting images and not keeping all the junk – that’s what Lola and I do as well after importing photographs. The catalog I used for the above example was old, before we converted to the new workflow process. With three photographers shooting a wedding, it was typical to average between 1500 and 3000 images. However, the client only receives a maximum of 400-500 images – the rest are trashed. We do not import images back to the main catalog anymore, because once are images are done and exported, we rarely go back to them.

      I personally prefer to review images before importing them to Lightroom in ACDSee, but because of slow RAW updates, I stopped doing that and I now review images in Lightroom after import. I really wish Adobe came up with a quick way to sort through images before import…

      • 14.1.1) bluerags
        November 3, 2012 at 6:02 am

        Thanks for the reply. I missed the point you were deleting the junk. Having one catalog is a personal choice. I can end up with a huge catalog after many years of shooting, but I hope that the computer performances will improve (aside increasing the RAM and disk size). Thinking about your pro work, with many events completely separated, creating a catalog for each customer/event is probably the best option. Regarding rendering, we should probably get a compromise between quality of the software and ability to render RAW from new cameras. Now Lightroom seems to be the best option. It’s a bit slow, not too much for me, but I never tried ACDSee. Have a good weekend.

  15. 15) Don B
    November 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Nice article. Thanks for the tips.

    Here are some things I have found.

    When it comes to previewing files (raw or otherwise), nothing beats ACDSee (standard or pro).

    You can rate and color code your pictures in ACDsee, and it will write xmp sidecar files. (Read the ACDSee help file to learn how to do this.)

    You can then sync these files with their sidecar files in Lightroom with the ACDSee color codes and ratings, and start developing from there in lightroom.

    After you export your files in lightroom, you can watch the exported pictures in the ACDSee slideshow module, which has much better music options than lightroom, and the photos look better in the ACDSee slideshow, than they do in the lightroom slideshow module.

    Of course, your mileage may vary.

  16. 16) nikonguy
    November 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Thanks, I had same problem with D800 files so I upgrade my pc but this tips will be good help.

  17. 17) Aruna
    November 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    That is a great solution Nasim. I was getting frustrated with my D800 images on my fast computer. I am going to try out your method. Thanks a bunch.

    • 17.1) Don B
      November 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Make sure your i7 processor is using all cores.

      If you have an i7 PC, you should check “affinity” in task manager, and make sure lightroom is using all cores, and not just one.

      Source of this info …..


      “I realized it is possible that affinity was set wrong.. and it was. I opened task manager, pulled up lightroom task, clicked on details, right-clicked and sure enough it was bound only to cpu. Checking the rest of the CPUs woke up this app like you have no idea. Still testing.. ”

      Hope this helps.

  18. November 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    One more thing: As RAM prices are also inexpensive, it now makes economic sense to set up a huge ramdisk and use that as cache or scratch space.

    And lastly: I found that if I run LR in a down sized window, as opposed to full screen (which for me is 2560×1440), it renders much faster. This is helpful in the initial culling, and then go full screen for fine editing your masterpiece. The “F” key in LR is a quick way to cycle around the screen sizes.

  19. 19) Mike
    November 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Nasim

    Thanks once again for a very interesting article, a question on image processing if I may, when we download from our camera cards into Lightro0m these are intially in NEF format, do you then work in Lightroom in NEF or do you convert to DNG format immediatly, I used to use Capture NX2 for my processing, but you where not keen on Nikon software, so I am now using Lightroom 4 and getting on with it very well thanks to articles on your website.

    • November 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Mike, I convert to DNG while importing images. I do not store NEF files…stopped doing that a while ago :)

      • 19.1.1) Mike
        November 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

        Nasim, thanks for the input, it gives me a clearer image processing routine as I was saving in both formats, just in case.

  20. 20) Carmelo
    November 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you, Nasim!

    This article is very helpful!

  21. 21) Sandro
    November 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Hello Nasim,
    It is always a pleasure to visit your site and read useful tips!

  22. 22) Edward
    November 4, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Another timely and informative article. This will be a big help! I have also read your articles on resizing and a little on organizing which are all very helpful, since I am still trying to figure out the best way for me to work my programs into an efficient LR4 workflow. I have a D800E – which I am still trying to learn. I love it and hope to be able to use it effectively.

    Now for my pressing questions… I am using a i5 core iMac so I can’t (on this model) add any additional internal drives. So I am trying to find the most efficient way to use what I have. When you read this, you will see that I have great equipment and the best software… now, if I can learn how to compose, shoot and organize my pp, I will be happy. I am a serious hobbyist and am very eager to learn.

    I have a 1TB internal drive and I quickly filled it with the D800E’s help. This is my problem… I now have 1 external 1TB, 1 external 1.5TB and yesterday I bought a 3TB external drive (due to Apple sending me the “recall notice” to replace my internal drive before it fails). Due to the internal upgrade limitations, I am forced to connect all the external drives via Firewire 800. I think the 1TB external will be used for my documents, video and music files, so the other drives can be used for backup and photography. I will follow your suggestions and use the internal drive for the photo processing… (additional suggestions are welcome).

    I keep trying to use LR as my catalog system and sometimes raw conversion but not always – the ACR is great, but I find that I sometimes get better results with DXO. I then do my basic processing either in LR4 or CS6 and use the NIK plug-ins for sharpening, noise reduction, additional editing, and processing with ColorEfex and HDR Efx and Silver Efex. As you are probably aware, the initial 40-50 MB RAW file quickly becomes a 200MB (or larger) file after doing pre-sharpening, noise reduction and basic edits. And these get much larger when using the other plug-ins. I am now working on a 7 shot HDR which is now slightly under 2GB.

    As you now can guess, I am doing a lot of experimenting to try to refine my workflow.

    What would you suggest?

    Thanks for your help and your great site…

    • 22.1) Don B
      November 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

      I have tried to post the source of my information including url without success, so I’ll just post some advice I have read on the web without the url source.

      ” If you have an nvidia card, try to deactivate 3d vision (start -> all programs -> nvidia corporation -> disable 3d vision) and you regain your system’s speed. ”

      This may improve lightroom’s speed.

      • 22.1.1) edward
        November 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm

        Thank you for your info, Don. However, in my case, my computer isn’t the source of my speed problems… the problem is the accessing of some of the photos that are stored on external drives. They have to either be relocated to the main HD where they can be processed pretty quickly (for an amature like me) or they can be processed on the external drive. This is where the speed really slows.

        Anyway, thanks to Nasim’s great article, I am on my way to a much better and more efficient work flow.

        Any other tips for using my programs and arranging my LR catalogs are certainly welcome.

        Thank you.

        • Don B
          November 8, 2012 at 8:42 am

          Hello Edward, thank you for your reply.

          I accidently posted a response to your post. I meant to post my info as a completely unrelated post to yours, because my information was for PC users. I don’t think Mac users have the same issues. Sorry for the confusion.

          As far as file size growing larger, I don’t think that happens if you stay in Lightroom. I think files only grow if a person uses other programs with lightroom.

  23. 23) Andre Roussakoff
    November 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

    It is great, Nasim, that you share your experience with us. I have finally understood what all these different catalogs are about in LR and how one can go back and forth at will by using export and import features. I am definitely going to make a job of rearranging my main catalog and speeding up my workflow and backups.

  24. 24) Odes Shopen
    November 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I have only around 20,000 images in my catalog, and I find it very fast to navigate and use. Ofcourse when you get to processing those d800e files it is very slow but switching catalogs won’t help much with bat, only 1:1 previews.

    Thanks for be article!

  25. 25) Rafael
    November 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Very nice tip.

    I’m also struggling with slower (and bigger) Lightroom’s catalog.
    I’m going to try out your suggestion along this week as I have a couple of jobs to do, starting tonight.

    One question, though:

    On import I convert my RAW files to .DNG format.

    I currently have and work with a single huge catalog that contains all my photos. And I don’t plan on having several catalogs; I want to go with a single one that contains all the photos together with a “working”, smaller one with just the newly imported photos. I’m thinking about doing this way (please can you confirm if this thought is correct?):

    1) Open LR with my usual, huge catalog, let’s call it “Main”;
    2) Import the photos I just made – they are stored in specific folders within file system (C:\Photos\Date\);
    3) Select the folder with the imported photos and export as a new catalog – and use a single, generic name such as “Currently Working” catalog;
    4) Open “Currently Working” catalog, do the edits and exports;
    5) Open “Main” catalog again. Then choose “Import from another catalog (Metadata and develop settings only)”;

    And then beginning again, with another folder/set of photos… Select it, “Export as Catalog…” etc etc.
    Would that work good?
    It is just that I don’t want to have tons of catalogs to manage in order to have post-processing speed. I think I would be better with a “Storage/main” catalog and a changeable, usually overwritten “working” catalog.

    I keep track of my adjustments of each photo by saving a Snapshot (Ctrl+N) on each export. These snapshots are stored within Catalog data or .DNG data?


  26. 26) bestefar
    November 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for the comments about Aperture. I recently tried LR 4 for some of the reasons you list above. I’m also not sure where Apple is going with Aperture. Having used both fairly extensively recently on my 2000+ vacation photos, I generally prefer many of the features in Aperture. However, I only have the 2,000 photos in my LR catalog and have already noticed it is quite a bit slower than Aperture. Your comments have been a valuable addition to considering which to use going forward.

    Regarding ND Filters, I have the Nik plug ins and generally prefer their implementation of an ND filter to LR’s. Additionally, do you notice the selection tools in Aperture are much better than LR?

  27. 27) jason
    November 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    For the Aperture users, try this highly efficient import workflow: http://schultzphotographic.com/2012/11/05/efficient-aperture-workflow-for-high-resolution-images/

    • November 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Jason, excellent article! Do you mind if I repost it here with a link/reference to the original article on your website?

      • 27.1.1) jason
        November 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

        Absolutely, it would be an honour! I hope it can be of use your readers.

  28. 28) Salem
    November 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Thankx a lot for these helpfull tips !
    I see only one thing that you maybe already have the answer :
    If you export the selected folder to treat it as new catalog, and you have selected in you LR prefs “store presets with catalog” then you’ll no longer have access to your presets for Developments ;(

    Anyone has an idea, in order to keep these prefs that way ? and not to have to manage pesets in 2 differents places.
    My presets are stored in the same drive as LR, not on the System one.

  29. 29) Michael
    November 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Ok. Love the article. I am attempting to set up a Facebook page for my company. However, I am having extreme difficulty watermarking my images before posting them on Facebook. Lightroom will only allow me to do this in “print” mode (unless I’m doing something wrong). But when exported, the watermark is gone. Any suggestions would be helpful. * I’m using 3.6.

  30. December 24, 2012 at 4:19 am

    I understand why the huge file sizes of the D800 will be a problem, but I don’t understand why the NUMBER of files would be a problem. Lightroom uses an SQL database to manage the information. It should easily handle MILLIONS of records, not thousands. Unless of course the implementation is not very good (not enough indexes on important colums etc.)

  31. 31) Paul Digney
    January 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you for this article. I’m just starting to implement your ideas. This weekend I’ll take it a notch further. I’m building a new PC and one thing I intend to do is add a 60GB flash drive. I’ll keep my most current images on that (that’s a couple of weeks to a couple of months of shots depending on my traveling).

    I’ll let you know how it works.

    My thought is to point my current catalog at the flash drive. Back up the original images to a hard drive as well (2 actually) and then stage off the flash drive by exporting them to a yearly catalog that points at the hard drive when I have finished most of the work on them.

    Thanks and Happy New Year,

  32. 32) Brian Copeland
    August 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    The Aperture workflow in the “sister article” seems so much more eloquent. The workarounds described here make Lightroom seem not ready for prime time. This is too bad as I really do like the results I get in Lightroom as well as the better noise reduction and downsampling/export features there. Also, the Aperture workflow truly saves time and disk space by not even importing the RAW information of unwanted images. I guess you just really need to make sure you don’t want those images before reformatting your memory card. I think until Lightroom improves a bit I will continue to import and manage my images via Aperture using Lightroom (along with other tools like Nik) as a step in the workflow process. Expensive…

  33. 33) Deirdre
    August 20, 2013 at 9:13 am

    How do I change my catalogs from almost 3 years worth of images? Thanks!

  34. 34) Anthony
    November 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I like the idea of separate catalogs, but is there a better way when publishing to online services/own website?

  35. November 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

    This has helped me immensely! Thank you. I came upon this by doing a general search.

  36. 36) Harry
    December 10, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for the tip especially the 1:1 preview, I missed this.
    I import the sets to a temporary catalog and work from there. When I’m done It will be imported to the main catalog which is by year.

  37. January 4, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks for a super helpful post. Very clear description of what to do and why. Much appreciated!

  38. 38) Jan van de Maat
    June 30, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I’ve been following your method on my workflow. I bought a new fast PC (Xeon processor 32GB RAM and 2x 2TB SSD internal drives who are in RAID) for working with the D800 files in future. I do use the D700 right now. I keep my main LR catalog and all my photos on a external NAS. I do work from there too. Concerning your article now I export a folder with photos to a separate catalog on my SSD drive on my PC and edit the images there. Then I re-import them into the main catalog on the NAS. But doing all this including rendering 1:1 seems like it costs me more time as I work straight from the NAS. I think the connenction between my PC and my NAS slows it down?

    Maybe I can copy the images I want to edit to my SSD drive first, edit them, then re-import to the main catalog on the NAS? I will have two folders with photos so I don’t know if LR gives a conflict?
    It is about wedding photos so I just want to be sure. And work faster ;-)

    Best regards, Jan
    The Netherlands

  39. 39) Tink
    March 5, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I have been a photographer for 40 yrs and anyone who takes over a 1000 images at a wedding is insane and foolish and probably not very good at “first capture” photography. That means they shoot “hoping” to get a good shot in the 1000 they take. Thats a Problem!!

    Real photographers work efficiently. If you shoot 500 images you have halved you work load, and doubled you pay. Try doing a wedding taking 250 or 100…. Doing this a photographer will put more work in doing their job… as a professional photographer.

    It has become a problem that in todays age people buy a camera and ‘Think they are a photographer’

    I ask a few questions to all photographers:

    How many of you take a shot of the bride and make sure behind her …its out of focus
    not many of you could it and I don’t think you would know why its done this way

    How many of you what the main objective is at the wedding?

    • 39.1) Mark Bernhardt
      April 27, 2015 at 7:51 am

      You talk like a film user and I assume you are since you’ve been a photographer for 40 years. Let me get you up to date. You don’t actually have to develop digital files to see them so you don’t double your workload by taking more. It hurts nothing as long as you weed the good from the bad.

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