How to Keep a Log of Your Work in Photoshop

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How many times have you created a neat effect on an image using Photoshop and then wanted to duplicate the effect on another image? The problem is that unless you’ve taken notes about what you’ve done, it is often difficult if not impossible to remember exactly the steps you took to get the final image.

While Photoshop has a History feature this is of limited use. One problem is that, by default, Photoshop only stores 20 history states so, if you’ve performed a lot of steps they may not all appear in the list. The second problem is that, even if you have configured Photoshop to store a large number of history states, all you see in the History panel is a brief description of what you did to the image such as Gaussian Blur, Apply Image, Blending Change and you don’t see the actual settings used.

history.jpg

The History panel in Photoshop lists the basics of what you’ve done but not the detail.

Here are some ways to improve on the basics and keep a log of your work:

Step 1

history_step1.jpg

Before you start work on an image choose Edit > Preferences > General and select the History Log checkbox. You can select to save log items to the image Metadata, to a separate text file or to both. If you select either Text file or Both you’ll be prompted to enter a file name and a location to save the file to. Do this and click Save.

From the Edit Log Items dropdown list select Detailed. Sessions records only the time you spend working on a file, Concise records the Sessions information and the detail from the History palette and Detailed records the detail about the changes – it’s Detail you need.

Step 2

history_step2.jpg

Now, when you work on an image, the detail is stored in the text file, the Metadata or both, depending on the setting you chose.

If you chose to store the data in a text file you can later open the text file with a word processor or a text editor such as Notepad on the PC.

If you chose to record the history in the image metadata choose File > File Info > History and you can read details of the edits you made to the image in the dialog. Use this information to perform the same steps on another image

Tip

history_step3.jpg

To configure Photoshop to store more than the default 20 history states, choose Edit > Preferences > Performance and set the History States value to a higher number. You should note that this History information is available in the History palette and only while the image is still open – it is lost when the image is closed – unlike the Log data which is stored permanently.

Read more from our Post Production category

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • Thanks for this. I’ve never heard about it. Now off to share this link with others!

  • Why had I never heard of this… i also will spread the word!

    @Prydie

  • Thanks for this, as someone just finishing the final stages of a degree in Design and Photography this tip will be very useful in saving me time when I have to document what I did in Photoshop…definitely saving this in my bookmarks!

  • Lucienne

    is the detail option available for Photoshop 7? is there an alternative?

  • Lori Putman

    This is such a helpful tip.

  • Jeremy Edmonds

    Beware! The higher you raise your history states the more RAM you will eat up and risk crashing the program!

  • Wow, over 15 years of PS and I still learn some great stuff! This sounds wonderful for billing purposes too, if you’re not using a different tracking method and keep working on the file [aka, not just leaving files open].

  • Wonderful! Thank you for the tip. 🙂
    And I agree with jeremy edmonds: lots of history => lots of RAM.

  • Thanks so much for this tip! I’ve always wanted this. Writing it down takes too much time. I’ll put this to good use.

  • thats a great idea. i don’t know why I didn’t htink of that sooner.

  • tnx for the lecture…i have to share this to my co-photoshopers!

  • Won’t this increase the file size of the images?

  • What would make this even better is some facility to playback the log i.e. have all of the steps applied to an image.

  • I`ve been using photoshop off and on for many years and through many of the different versions.
    There`s a lot I know but it still amazes me about how much I don`t know about this program.

    Love these tips

    Keep them coming

  • Thank you! I have been trying to figure this out for ages!!!

    For Mac Users: Select – Photoshop>Preferences>General or Command+K

  • Helen, there is an added bonus having a log of your steps. You can use it to create your own “actions” and save it as a shortcut key. May I suggest this as one of your future topics. I know your fans will be more than appreciative. Keep up the great work.

  • In answer to Lucienne, I believe the History log was first introduced in Photoshop CS so there is no viable alternative to it in versions of Photoshop prior to this.. it’s paper and pencil I’m afraid.

  • Pam

    Thanks for sharing this, I know it will be incredibly useful to me.

  • Natalie

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am in a photographic methods class just beginning. It’s part of my homework to record what I do and instead of hand jotting as I go along this is will save me a lot of time. I don’t know why my teacher has not told us about this. Thank you!

  • Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to
    assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  • Fantastic info!! Thanks so much, Helen 🙂

Some Older Comments

  • Colleen Milburn August 6, 2013 01:24 pm

    Fantastic info!! Thanks so much, Helen :)

  • kenneth cole May 30, 2013 09:04 am

    Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to
    assist with Search Engine Optimization? I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  • Natalie October 27, 2010 07:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am in a photographic methods class just beginning. It's part of my homework to record what I do and instead of hand jotting as I go along this is will save me a lot of time. I don't know why my teacher has not told us about this. Thank you!

  • Pam January 15, 2010 01:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, I know it will be incredibly useful to me.

  • Helen Bradley April 15, 2009 02:38 pm

    In answer to Lucienne, I believe the History log was first introduced in Photoshop CS so there is no viable alternative to it in versions of Photoshop prior to this.. it's paper and pencil I'm afraid.

  • Gerrymar March 27, 2009 06:31 am

    Helen, there is an added bonus having a log of your steps. You can use it to create your own "actions" and save it as a shortcut key. May I suggest this as one of your future topics. I know your fans will be more than appreciative. Keep up the great work.

  • Rachel March 25, 2009 10:58 am

    Thank you! I have been trying to figure this out for ages!!!

    For Mac Users: Select - Photoshop>Preferences>General or Command+K

  • Patrick March 23, 2009 06:28 pm

    I`ve been using photoshop off and on for many years and through many of the different versions.
    There`s a lot I know but it still amazes me about how much I don`t know about this program.

    Love these tips

    Keep them coming

  • Marios Alexandrou March 22, 2009 10:29 pm

    What would make this even better is some facility to playback the log i.e. have all of the steps applied to an image.

  • den_lim March 21, 2009 11:48 am

    Won't this increase the file size of the images?

  • jpm8jpm March 20, 2009 10:47 am

    tnx for the lecture...i have to share this to my co-photoshopers!

  • jpglive March 20, 2009 05:38 am

    thats a great idea. i don't know why I didn't htink of that sooner.

  • Rebecca March 20, 2009 03:36 am

    Thanks so much for this tip! I've always wanted this. Writing it down takes too much time. I'll put this to good use.

  • Michal March 18, 2009 11:05 am

    Wonderful! Thank you for the tip. :)
    And I agree with jeremy edmonds: lots of history => lots of RAM.

  • Tripp Regan March 17, 2009 11:44 pm

    Wow, over 15 years of PS and I still learn some great stuff! This sounds wonderful for billing purposes too, if you're not using a different tracking method and keep working on the file [aka, not just leaving files open].

  • Jeremy Edmonds March 17, 2009 11:01 pm

    Beware! The higher you raise your history states the more RAM you will eat up and risk crashing the program!

  • Lori Putman March 16, 2009 05:25 am

    This is such a helpful tip.

  • Lucienne March 16, 2009 03:18 am

    is the detail option available for Photoshop 7? is there an alternative?

  • Ed O'Keeffe March 15, 2009 10:10 pm

    Thanks for this, as someone just finishing the final stages of a degree in Design and Photography this tip will be very useful in saving me time when I have to document what I did in Photoshop...definitely saving this in my bookmarks!

  • Andrew Pryde March 15, 2009 07:24 pm

    Why had I never heard of this... i also will spread the word!

    @Prydie

  • mitzs March 15, 2009 02:45 pm

    Thanks for this. I've never heard about it. Now off to share this link with others!

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