You might have noticed over the years but I take a lot of photographs, and like many photographers I keep them in a catalogue on a computer: this catalogue allows me to find photos quickly and easily, and also apply retouching, colour changes, and all that sort of thing. The application I use is called Adobe Lightroom and I’ve been a user since version 2 back in 2009. Now with over 110,000 photographs in the catalogue spanning 34 years you might say I’m a power-user.
When Lightroom 4 was released in Spring 2012 I pre-ordered it, but as with critical applications within my workflow I wanted a few days to get my head around it before using it ‘in anger’. I’m glad I did, because quite quickly it became apparent there were major problems with it – principally, the speed of the software. It’d lag for 30 seconds switching between modules, and using the sliders to alter an image was almost impossible. I reverted back to Lightroom 3.6 which worked perfectly, as did everything else on my laptop.
Sidenote: for the benefit of the hardware nerds out there my main machine is a MacBook Pro Core i7 2.66GHz model (MacBookPro6,1), with a 512GB SSD, 8G RAM, running (at the moment) OS X 10.7.4. It’s not the most recent MacBook Pro, but it’s a 2010 model which with updates has no problems with anything else.
Time passed and I bought a new camera: a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This wasn’t supported by Lightroom 3! Indeed, it took Adobe until version 4.1 before Lightroom could read its RAW files so I suppose you could say I was forced to upgrade. I bit the bullet, installed the software and predictably the speed problems returned: a photoshoot which I would have previously been able to sort in a lunchtime would take me 4 or 5 hours simply because of the lag when picking images to retouch (the ‘triage’ stage of sorting a shoot). The whole experience became incredibly frustrating and a solution was needed. Adobe released a beta of Lightroom 4.2 which made no difference.
Googling around led to plenty of other people with the same problems, and even Adobe acknowledging there was a problem but there was no solution. I got naffed off, and decided to do some investigating of my own. So here’s what I did, and what it fixed (touch wood, so far):
A Solution Of Sorts
The first thing I did was try and blitz the Preferences files. This has been known to work for Windows users, but of course the Mac version is different – at least that bit is. I’ll save you some time and tell you now that it didn’t do a dicky bird other than freak my copy of Lightroom out, so I ended up reinstating the plist files.
Then a friend suggested recreating the catalogue (cheers Gaz!). My LR4 catalogue came via a port from LR2 to LR3 over the past few updates. First thing I did was create a new catalogue and import everything from the old catalogue in to the new one via File -> Import From Another Catalog. It took a while but gave me a clean catalogue which sorta worked a bit better – still not massively fast, but faster.
The real paydirt came with Time Machine though. In common with a lot of Mac users I have a small external disk which I use to keep backups, handled by the OS. In addition to that there’s a sort-of journalling system which handles versions and Time Machine when the external disk isn’t connected (and incidentally will explain disk space discrepancies – you can read more about the phenomenon here).When I added ~/Library/Caches to the backup exclusions, LR4 was back to the speed I’d have expected.
To do this, click on your Time Machine icon (on the menubar, it’s the little clock with the arrow going backwards), and thenOptions on your Time Machine screen. It’ll allow you to exclude particular directories from the backup.
I can’t think of any particular downside to this as cache files are usually temporary, but I’m sure another Mac fanboi will correct me in the comments if this isn’t the case. As it is, it seems to have fixed it for me so far and I’ve been using Lightroom heavily for the past day or so. Whether it gets slower in time I don’t know and I’ll post an update if it does so. But I do hope this helps other frustrated Mac photogs out there!