A few weeks ago Adobe got itself into trouble by significantly changing – for the worse – its Lightroom import process. As CC Photography membership allows installation of Lightroom and Photoshop on two PCs, I held back on my main editing machine but installed the update on my desktop to see what the it was all about. From the first instant I disliked the new import method, it felt like a smartphone app designed for small screens (is that where Adobe wanted to go?) rather than full blown desktop software. So the backlash was completely correct. But are Lightroom updates a problem? Not really.
Provided we hold back for a couple of days to avoid unwelcome surprises – that I suspect Adobe will avoid from now on – there is a wealth of benefits. As proof I attach a screenshot from the preference tab related to graphics card support. Back in August I contacted Adobe on the issue of support of my Nvidia K1100M graphics card of my laptop. Lightroom was only detecting the Intel HD 4600 graphics chip integrated on the motherboard. I tried to use Lightroom that way but as many of us have already discovered the develop module can get slower instead of faster. I contacted Adobe and hardly got a clear answer about whether my card was supported. Clearly it was not and I also received no clear answer on future support.
The latest 6.3 update has not only restored the good old import process but also brought a welcome surprise. My card was now detected in the preference dialog so I happily ticked the activation box. Things now are much faster. I cannot know if Lightroom takes full advantage of the K1100M’s capabilities but Lightroom is definitely faster from the extra acceleration.
A good way to check speed is to choose a full resolution image from your camera and use the paint brush to select an image area. Make sure to enable the Auto Mask feature (ctrl-A) for the graphics card to auto detect boundaries and work harder. Also adjust some brush sliders to cause substantial changes to appear in real time. If things do not run smoothly or if there are long delays, then try to enable/disable graphics card utilization. As simple as that.
So am I now happy with Lightroom graphics performance? Not completely. Despite using quite able machines and updating the Windows OS and all software on a regular basis, thumbnail rendering after import is still slow, something that has to do with Lightroom’s internals and can cause long delays with the larger catalogs. There is a way round this issue by reducing thumbnail resolution, but competitors like Capture One are much faster in this respect – although developing photos is the inverse situation. So it is not all a matter of support. As Lightroom gains new features to retain its user base, it is definitely not getting faster, something that obviously has to do with code efficiency. New competitors are eager to gain market share, with a good example being Alien Skin’s new Exposure X that does not require import/catalogs and incorporates simple layer use. So do not wait for Adobe to ask but go ahead and contact them about features you feel do not work well or fast enough, it can only cause gains that will arrive with new updates!