Lightroom Classic Preferences & Catalog Settings

Best Practice Settings for Lightroom Classic — Part I

Lightroom Classic Preference Settings

I was configuring the Preferences and Catalog Settings for a new Lightroom Classic catalog the other week and I realized that there isn’t a lot of good information about which settings are the most important to pay attention to. So, I conferred with D.A. Wagner and we came up with a list of the most important settings that need attention for running Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom Classic has a lot of settings to control how the program itself works as well as the behavior of individual catalogs. In fact, there are so many it would be too much to try and cover them all in a single blog post! So, in this post I will cover just the Lightroom Preference settings that matter most. And, in a subsequent post, I will cover which Catalog Settings you should take a look at.

Lightroom Preferences vs. Catalog Settings

Catalog Settings are different from Preferences settings. The Preferences affect Lightroom as a whole. They control how Lightroom looks, how it behaves on your system and even how it interacts with other programs, like Adobe Photoshop. In short, they affect how Lightroom operates regardless of the catalog.

The “catalog” is the database file that tracks all the changes made to your photos. The catalog stores information about where photos are stored, metadata (keywords, stars and flags, etc.) as well as any develop changes made and much more. See our previous post about backing up your catalog for more information.

So, Catalog Settings are individually applied to each instance of a catalog. Lightroom is designed to run a single catalog to organize all your images in one place. However, some users run multiple catalogs. That’s OK for users who understand the implications since running more than one catalog can become problematic when it comes to keeping everything organized.

To access your Preferences, from the pulldown menu at the top of the screen, choose …

  • Windows: Edit > Preferences
  • MacOS: Lightroom Classic > Preferences

Preference Settings

A few notes before we get into the various settings …

  • Lightroom Classic version 9.x has nine different tabs of settings. 
  • Our recommendations are scattered across these titles. 
  • Each of the key settings will be listed by its corresponding tab title below. If we haven’t discussed a particular tab, we leave the default settings unchanged. 
  • These are “Best Practice” suggestions for the average user and your individual needs may differ (see the note at the end of the post).
  • Each setting has a short explanation. For readability, we have kept these short.
  • For more info about individual settings, consult the manual:
    Where’s the PDF Lightroom Classic Manual?


Default Catalog > When starting up use this catalog:

Default Catalog

If you happen to use more than one catalog, set this to:
Prompt me when starting Lightroom.

This will open up a list of known catalogs to allow you to choose the one you want. Otherwise, leave this set to: Load most recent catalog.

Import Options > Replace embedded previews with standard previews during idle time

Replace embedded previews with standard previews during idle time

Turn this feature ON

This feature will have Lightroom swap out any Embedded and Sidecar previews when the program is open and the computer is sitting idle for more than 5 minutes.

This is an optional setting. Some users may want to use Embedded Previews and Laptop users may want to keep this off to save on battery power. Look for a future post which will go into more depth about Previews.


Location > Store Presets with this Catalog

Store Presets with this Catalog

Turn this feature ON

Throughout Lightroom Classic, users can create any number of presets to add functionality to their workflows. These presets can be stored with the catalog file. We recommend doing this so that all of the customized options can be easily moved with the catalog files, if needed. This is helpful in cases of upgrading new computers or recovering/preventing catastrophic events, such as a disk failure or damage to a computer.


Camera Raw > Use Graphics Processor

Use Graphics Processor

Set this feature to AUTO

Lightroom has the ability to use graphics processors, which are CPU’s dedicated to processing visual information. These specialized units can be temperamental and Lightroom may not be able to use some models. Best to let Lightroom make the choice.

If you experience Lightroom crashing frequently, try setting this feature to OFF to see if that solves the problem. See our previous post on the topic for more information.

Camera Raw Cache Settings > Maximum Size

Camera Raw Cache Maximum Size

Set to anywhere between 20 to 50GB

Lightroom uses a set of hidden files to help handle complex data, especially for developing work. This cache file is usually kept on the internal hard drive of the computer. Increasing the size of this file should provide a bit of a performance boost.

Develop > Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing 

Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing

Set this feature ON

Lightroom can generate something called a “Smart Preview” as it imports new photos. Using these can help speed up the processing of images. You can learn more about Smart Previews here: How to use Smart Previews.

Lightroom will use standard previews if Smart Previews have not been generated Lightroom for any given image.

Preview Generation Settings > Generate Previews in parallel

Generate Previews in parallel

Set this feature ON

By setting this feature to ON you can speed up the processing of previews during the import process. In this case, Lightroom will attempt to generate more than one preview at a time. In other words, it will try and process multiple previews in parallel rather than sequentially.

This feature works better with computers with more processing cores. Laptop users may want to keep this turned off, especially if the computer starts to really slows down and/or starts to get very hot.

Best Practice vs. Absolute Answers

It’s important to note that these are our “Best Practice” recommendations. In our experience, no two Lightroom users have the same needs or workflows. So, these suggestions might now work for you! 

While researching for this post, I was overwhelmed by all of the options and implications … and I’m a professional! The point here is that Lightroom is a program for a wide audience of users and Adobe has done its best to meet the needs of many people.

Additionally, these are our recommendations as of Lightroom Classic version 9.2. Adobe is regularly releasing updates to Lightroom Classic. When/if new, relevant things are added we will update the post.

Feel free to let us know your preferences or ideas on how best to configure Lightroom in the comments section below!

Lightroom Classic Version 9.2 Released

Along with updates to Lightroom Desktop, Android, iOS versions, Lightroom Classic 9.2 released yesterday Here are the takeaways of note for Classic:

Lightroom 9.2 Bug Fixes

There are nearly 60 new bug fixes in this release. One bug fix that we’ve been waiting for is the “No photos found” displayed in the import dialog when connected to an iPhone. Done! Also, there have been considerable bug fixes for Macs on Catalina. So far, we have been warning users to NOT update. Now, we are expecting to give a go-ahead on updating to 10.15 very soon … Watch our blog for updates!

Camera and Lens Support

In addition to New Camera support for Canon, Leica, LG, Nikon, PhaseOne (yes, PhaseOne!) and relative newcomer, OnePlus smartphones. Lightroom has new lens correction support for nearly 50 lenses, including 15 of the new Sigma lenses.

Features and Enhancements

  • Support for Photoshop Elements 2020
  • Added a “Done” button in the Export dialog to remember changes
  • Added, a “Cancel” button in the Export dialog to forget changes made in the Export dialog

And, these are enhancements we’ve been waiting for!

9.2’s Develop Module’s Auto Sync button highlights when it’s turned on. Now, it’s way more visible than the old Auto Sync button, which we’d forget to turn it off and accidentally continue to sync develop settings.

Auto Sync button now highlights when active in Lightroom 9.2 release
Auto Sync button now highlights when active

Another added bonus in Lightroom Classic 9.2 is an Auto Sync is a banner notification. Once we’ve Auto Synced, Lightroom flashes a banner letting us know how many photos we’ve adjusted. Previous versions had no banner notification which also contributed to accidental syncing. Other adjustments will also show a banner, like Flip and Rotate. Nice job, Adobe!

A close up of a sign

Description automatically generated
A banner now appears after syncing Develop settings
Lightroom Classic 9.2 now sees Photoshop PSB icon
Courtesy of Adobe, Inc.

Lightroom now recognizes Photoshop large document PSB format files (Photoshop files over 2GB). For those of us working in Photoshop with multiple layers, this is has been long awaited (11 years!).

Lightroom 9.2 Default Develop Settings now called Raw Defaults

Lightroom classic 9.2 released, Camera Raw Defaults icon
Photo Courtesy of Adobe, Inc.

Raw Default is found in the Presets Tab of Lightroom Preferences. In the pulldown menu, Adobe Default will apply an Adobe standard profile. When checked, “Use defaults specific to camera model,” and Camera Settings is selected from the pulldown, Lightroom will attempt to use whatever in-camera settings you have selected for your camera raw captures. Or, choose any of your Develop presets. Note: Any previous default settings will not be imported over to the updated Lightroom 9.2 release.

You can also customize the Raw Defaults by choosing a specific camera and develop preset (including user created presets) and save the Default and automatically apply it later to selected photos. Look for an upcoming blog post on how to use this improved feature.

Customize Your Camera Raw Settings

Other Enhancements

Lightroom Classic 9.2 other enhancements icon
Photo Courtesy of Adobe, Inc.

These are the notable items in this Lightroom Classic 9.2 release we know our readers will like. You’ll find more about Classic 9.2 here. For more details about Android, iOS and Lightroom Desktop (formerly Lightroom CC) updates, go to the Adobe site for those details.

Should You Back Up Your Lightroom Catalog?

Best practices for finally taking care of that annoying pop up!

Ever find yourself in this situation?
You go to quit Lightroom and this pops up … Do you want to back up your catalog?

Lightroom Back Up Catalog popup dialog
Do I want to back up my Lightroom Catalog? Um, yeah … I think so???

Let’s demystify what that pop up message really means and understand the best practice to back up your Lightroom catalog.

First, this blog post applies only to Lightroom Classic because the other version of Lightroom (aka Lightroom Cloud, aka Lightroom Desktop) automatically stores all your photos on Adobe’s cloud servers.

Contents of the default installation folder for Lightroom
Contents of the Lightroom Catalog Folder

Second, at its heart, Lightroom is a database. This helps us understand that any time you complete this backup, it is a snapshot of your catalog’s database file at that moment. If your database gets corrupted and you have a backup, you can use the backup, which contains all your edits and organization of your photos.

The backup will be of the .lrcat file. This is the file that holds all the metadata information about your photos: where they are stored, the date/time the photo was taken, keywords, develop settings and much, much more. Your photos are only linked to the lrcat and stored independently. So, they are NOT backed up when you back up the catalog. 

Your photos remain in their original location on your hard drive and backing them up is a different process. See our blog post about backing up using the industry standard 3-2-1 Backup Strategy.

What’s In A Lightroom Backup?

Let’s look at the “Backups” folder, usually located in the same folder as your Lightroom catalog. When we peer in, we see subfolders, named in reverse date [YYYY-MM-DD] and a timestamp, indicating when the backup was done. Inside, there is a compressed .lrcat file that is a cloned copy of your Lightroom catalog file. 

Listing of the contents of the Lightroom backup folder
Contents of the Lightroom backup folder

Lightroom keeps only this file, as all of the other files it uses (helper, previews, etc.) aren’t critical. The idea here is you can move the backup to right where its predecessor is located. Lightroom will recreate any other helper and preview files as needed. If all else was functioning normally, then you would be able to pick up where you left off, from that point in time when the backup was made.

Personally, we’ve never experienced a corrupted catalog [knock on wood]. However, I have used catalog backups when working with clients to help them recover or correct other problems. Hence, we do recommend that all Classic users back up your Lightroom catalog, following the best practices outlined below.

Best practices for Backing Up:

  • Set Lightroom to back up, “Every time Lightroom Exits.”
    • You can set this under the Catalog Settings OR whenever you see the backup dialog box. 
Lightroom preference settings
Lightroom Catalog Settings for Back Up
  • When you get the pop up, think to yourself:
    Have I done significant work that it would be bad if I lost those changes?
    • If you haven’t done significant work during your session, then go ahead and skip the backup at this time.
    • If you have done significant work, then, by all means, click the blue “Back up” button.
Lightroom Back Up Catalog popup dialog
Lightroom Catalog Back Up Pop-up
  • In the Back Up Catalog options window, be sure to check the boxes to “Test integrity” and “Optimize catalog” before backing up.
    • It’s a good idea to let Lightroom check itself internally.
    • This also assures that the catalog you are backing up is not compromised.
  • As you back up your Lightroom catalog over time you will notice that these files will accumulate. And, it is safe to delete the older versions. Since your catalog changes over time it is unlikely very old backups will be useful. We suggest keeping a few month’s worth, no more.
    • However, if disk space allows and if you are someone who likes to hold onto things, then you can keep them.
    • You can also save disk space by offloading the backups to an external drive.
  • Finally, follow the recommended 3-2-1 Backup strategy to back up your computer AND your photos:
    • 3 copies, 2 local and 1 offsite.
    • For the offsite backup, we recommend Backblaze as the best cloud backup service for most individual users.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave a comment below OR reach out to us. We’re always happy to help!

P.S. If you have ever wondered about the difference between “back up” and backup,” here is a great explanatory article! Backup or Back up – What’s the Difference?

Catalina 15.2 Still Isn’t Ready

Where should we start, when we say, Catalina 15.2 still isn’t ready for prime time?

MacOS Catalina was released back in October 2019. Apple has released two updates since then (as expected). However, as more users migrate we are finding out more problems with how Catalina impacts digital photography users. You’d think we’d be finding fewer problems with each release but, we’re not … Catalina 15.2 still isn’t ready!

When we wrote about Catalina and Lightroom last October, one major issue was Nikon users not being able to tether in Catalina. In our December review of Adobe and Catalina, nothing had changed. Just a few days ago, Adobe added Canon tethering to the list of Lightroom-Catalina compatibility issues. That would represent a massive user base of photographers who can’t use Lightroom with Catalina! So Lightroom problems have grown as new macOS versions release.

And, this warning still hasn’t changed: “Adobe strongly recommends that customers do their own testing on a non-production partition to ensure that new operating systems work with their current hardware and drivers (printing, and so forth).” That’s technical jargon for: don’t use Lightroom on Catalina if you absolutely depend on Lightroom!

We note that Adobe also warns: “…older versions of Lightroom Classic were neither designed nor tested to work on macOS Catalina. They are not supported in any way for use on macOS Catalina.” This is pretty strong stuff so our assessment still stands: do not upgrade at this time!

Other Catalina 15.2 issues we’ve read this week are:

If you’re tired of constantly seeing, “update to macOS Catalina” reminders popping up, you can turn them off! Read our recent how-to blog post on that. As well, we will show you how to check for other important updates if you are running Mojave. 

We expect that, eventually, Apple (as well as Adobe, Microsoft and many other companies) will get there. But for now, Catalina 15.2 still isn’t ready. We’re going to wait and see what happens with the next upgrade of Catalina 15.3.

How to Fix Color Cast in Lightroom Classic

Is There a Color Cast in Your Raw Capture?

It’s been nearly four years since our last posting on how to correct a color cast. And, although correcting color cast in Lightroom hasn’t changed much over the years, Adobe has done significant, “under the hood” improvements with machine learning. So, it’s time for a refresh and we’re adding our free PDF download, “How to Fix a Color Cast” for reference.

Photo with color cast that requires white balance correction
Get the download link for this practice raw file from our PDF
Lightroom Sliders to Correct a Color Cast
White Balance Sliders + Eyedropper in Develop Module, Basic Panel

For many users, color temperature may not be a familiar measurement. The Temp and Tint sliders are frequently the first place we go in an effort to fix a color cast. But, it’s a bit like trying to drive a standard transmission when we’ve only driven an automatic.

Lightroom Eyedropper to Correct a Color Cast
Use this to fix color cast

The good news is, there is an automatic white balance feature in Lightroom: the Eyedropper. AKA the White Balance Selector, helps us to correct a color cast. The free PDF download will tell you exactly how to use it and when.

Also included in the PDF is a link to our Color Temperature chart to help clarify what the numbers in the Temp slider mean when you are trying to fix a color cast.

Color Temperature Chart to understand White Balance

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