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Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Lightroom

“One Weird Trick” has taken over the Internet like a horrible virus. Rather than stem the tide, I’m trying to turn it back with a trick that’s actually useful. And now I present one weird trick that increases your Lightroom performance (in the bedroom)!

Lightroom’s oft-lackluster performance has been a hot topic among photographers for quite a while, but it ramped up with Lightroom 5. Amid a sea of nonsensical “solutions” that don’t actually do anything, Adobe has gathered up actual solutions into a couple knowledge base articles.

One of the stranger solutions is to follow a specific order of operations—and, if you’re like most photographers, it’s probably the opposite of how you’re working (and, in fact, how the tools are laid out).

From Adobe’s “Performance hints” KB article:

The best order of Develop operations to increase performance is as follows:

  1. Spot healing.
  2. Geometry corrections, such as Lens Correction profiles and Manual corrections, including keystone corrections using the Vertical slider.
  3. Global non-detail corrections, such as Exposure and White Balance. These corrections can also be done first if desired.
  4. Local corrections, such as Gradient Filter and Adjustment Brush strokes.
  5. Detail corrections, such as Noise Reduction and Sharpening.

Note: Performing spot healing first improves the accuracy of the spot healing, and ensures the boundaries of the healed areas match the spot location.

For images which need a little post-processing love, I’ve found following this order can make an appreciable difference in the speed of things. If you’re only clearing up a pimple here or there, you can really work in any order and get roughly the same performance; when you’re breaking out the adjustment brushes and really digging in, you’ll likely have a better time following Adobe’s suggestions.

And, of course, there is always a point at which Lightroom—or any other parametric editor—isn’t the right tool for the job. If you’re trying to replicate Photoshop using dozens of local adjustments and your spot corrections are approaching the triple digits, it’s time to just jump into Photoshop (or Pixelmator, or Acorn, or whatever). Yes, it’s true other tools like Capture One and Aperture don’t choke as quickly as Lightroom tends to, but ultimately you’re asking a lot of your software by demanding it continually re-render a couple dozen adjustments in real time.

My dream tool would be Aperture’s workflow and speed with Capture One’s raw engine and Lightroom’s adjustment tools, but wishes aren’t horses and Lightroom is the most generally-okay out of the three.

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