Editing Workflow part 2: Optimising Photoshop CS5

Welcome to the second part of my editing workflow series. In the last post, which looked at setting up Lightroom 3, I gave some tip on performance boosts to make Lightroom run just that little bit smoother. In this post I will take a look at Photoshop and how to optimise it to make it run that bit quicker and efficiently.Again to start with, it makes sense to have the fastest computer you can afford, RAM is one of the most important aspects of running design software like photoshop, so fit as much in as possible. I currently run 8GB Ram, which works fine for most things, but some complex tasks still take a bit longer to process.

Now before I start with the program side of things, there is one thing that vastly improves performance and is relatively inexpensive is a Solid State Drive (SSD) these are like giant SD cards, and have no moving parts. The information is dragged from the drive without the delay you get with standard hardrives. Good practice would be to install photoshop onto the SSD and also use it for the Scratch disk (will talk about that later), this will drastically improve the speed which photoshop works on files etc. They are now relatively cheap like this 120gb Corsair on amazon. They are not the most reliable of items, so I wouldn't use them for storage of precious documents, but in terms of a performance boost they fantastic.

Now for the software tips.

Memory Usage.

Handily photoshop has all of the most important tuning parts in one window. This can be found by going to Edit => Preferences => Performance. I believe this is the same as CS4. You should now have something similar to the image below.

Photoshop memory usage


As with Lightroom, Photoshops default memory usage is quite conservative. As a rule of thumb if you are running windows or Mac 32bit operating systems you can have it set to about 70% memory usage, this will mean that photoshop should run smoothly and not seize up other operations. If you are running a 64bit Windows or Mac, you can ramp the usage right up to 100% as photoshop will automatically take into account system RAM usage. As I tend to run Lightroom and Photoshop at the same time I have mine set between 75% and 80% whilst running 64bit windows.

Assgining the scratch disk

The Scratch disk is where photoshop saves temporary information which is too big for the RAM, but is still required for editing. Using a SSD for this would be ideal.

Scratch disk

The ideal scratch disk would be a fast HDD that is not the boot drive for the OS. It is very important to keep this drive de-fragmented and clear of clutter. I will be investing in a SSD soon for this purpose. The scratch disk needs plenty of space on it.

History and Cache Preference

This is very complicated to explain and there are a lot of permutations.

History and Cache


Essentially this is where you tell photoshop what sort of files you will be working on, giving pr warning as to what to expect. This makes it a little quicker in determining how to handle your file. I won't go into too much detail here as there is already a good article on the Adobe website. With today's cameras running around 10mp or higher the best settings are "default" with a cache level of about 4, depending on the amount of RAM, again the more RAM the higher you can push that number, but 4 is adequate. If you are running a processor later than a Pentium 4 you can set the cache tile size to either 128K or 1024K if you are running a Pentium 4 or AMD processor set them at 132 K or 1032 K.


That was a very quick and basic run through, more detail can be found on the adobe website, but this will get you set up and running much smoother. The next part of this series will start looking at my importing and editing workflow. Any questions or feedback please comment or email me web@darrenobrien.co.uk

Editing Workflow Part 1: Overview and Optimising Lightroom.

I have read and received many questions recently about editing workflow and decided to write about my experience achieveing a good workflow structure. My way of doing things will definately not be same as someone elses and it may not suit everyone. An editing workflow should be something you can do in your sleep and therefore needs to be familier and structured, however it should also quite organic and you should be ready to rethink and evaluate as you learn new tricks or find new software.This year I have introduced four new pieces of software into my workflow, 2 of which I use all the time and the others as an when they are needed.


Traditionally my workflow basically involved Lightroom to import, catalogue and RAW editing, then Photoshop to do more detailed editing and finishing off, before going back to Lightroom to Export etc. This has worked well over the years, but I was finding it difficult to keep up with catalogue structures within Lightroom and sometimes trying to find images outside of lightroom became messy. I decided to change my importing and filing system so that I could find images without having to go to Lightroom. I moved from a descriptive filing system (eg, Commercial, Portraits, Landscapes etc) to a year and date one (i know obvious hey!). So I now have a 2012 folder with the months in subfolders and the shoots subfolders within them. I then Keyword images in Lightroom so they can still be indentified.

I no longer use Lightroom to import images from my memory card. Since discovering Media Pro one from capture one i have decided to use that software to import etc. Mainly this is due to it being slightly quicker to import and backup images, but mainly I just preferred to handle this outside of Lightroom. Lightrooms inport module is still very good, but it is personal preference. I then just add the folder to the Lightroom catlogue afterwards.

So the software I use in order of use:

1. Media Pro 1

2. Lightroom 3

3. Photoshop CS5

4. Photo mechanic

I will talk a little more about these in future blog posts.



Before starting a workflow it is important to have things set up correctly and running smoothly. Obviously the main consideration is hardware if you have an old computer with no power then you will probably struggle to get Lightroom to run faster than walking pace, although Lightroom does have quite low minimum requirements so can be used on some really old machines. Assuming you are running a reasonable machine there are a couple of things you can do to make Lightroom handle quicker.

1. Increase the Cache size.

Lightroom 3 uses the Adobe Camera Raw engine when you are working in the develop module. Adobe Camera Raw generates large previews everytime you make a change within the develop module and stores these in the cache folder. This is how you see the changes straight away. Now for some reason Lightroom 3 defaults on installation to a cache size of 1GB. When the cache file is full Lightroom will delete the oldest image file and this happens very quickly when working with modern RAW files. This causes the long delay in loading time when switching between images in the devlop module and sometimes when making adjustments especially when using the healing tools and adjusment brushes as they rely on this cached previews. The best thing to do is to increase the size of your cache folder depending on how much hardrive space you have available. Ideally the cache file will be stored on a fast drive that does not contain your OS. A small SSD would be excellent for such purposes. However it can be put anywhere ad it will be better than the default option. Mine is stored on my main hardrive (hopefully this will change soon) and I have it set to a size of 40GB (maximum is 50GB).

To change the cachse setting you go to Edit > Preferences you then got to the "file handling" tab (see image below) choose the cache file location and size.

Adobe camera Raw Cache


2. Create Previews on Import.

I mentioned previews earlier and again this is a good practice to get into when importing into Lightroom. Lightroom relies a lot on previews when using the library module and depending what you tend to do in the library you can set to render previews on import so that you filck through your library quicker. If you just look at full screen images in the Library you can set to render "standard previews" these previews will take up less hard disk space, but will enable you to flick through images quicker. If, like me, you like to check focus using 1:1 views then rendering "1:1 previews" is a good option. It really speeds up the process in the library module. The main downside to this is that it takes a bit longer at the import stage, but I prefer that to sitting there waiting for previews to load. The rendering option is on the import screen (see image below).

Import screen


Thats it for this post. You should find that Lightroom will handle a little bit more efficiently. My next post will talk about speeding up and optimising Photoshop. Thanks for reading, please contact me with any questions about Lightroom or anything else for that matter. I run regular 1to1 and group tuition on Lightroom, photoshop and general photography. Contact me for more information.