Lightroom: Controlling the Before and After - Digital Photography School

Lightroom: Controlling the Before and After

One of the nice things about Lightroom is that it lets you view before and after versions of your image. Lightroom can do this so easily because it does not make permanent changes to your image as you work on it. Instead, Lightroom keeps a log of the edits that you have made and only applies them to the image when you export the image.

before_after.jpg

Use the Before/After options in Lightroom to check that the changes you have made to your image to make sure that you’re headed in the right direction.

Here are some ways to harness the comparative Before/After power of Lightroom:

Step 1

If you are in the Develop module you’ll need to make sure that View Modes are enabled so that you can see the necessary icons. To do this, click the small triangle under the image to the right in the Develop module and choose View Modes.

step1.jpg

Step 2

You will now see a button which has Y|Y on it. Click this to see the before and after views of your image.

step2.jpg

Step 3

From the dropdown list you can choose from multiple ways to see the before and after views. Before/After Left/Right shows the before and after views side by side – this works well for portrait orientation images.

step3.jpg

Step 4

The Before/After Left/Right Split shows a single version of the image split so that the left side of the image is the before view and the right side is the after view.

step4.jpg

Step 5

The Before/After Top/Bottom option shows the before image at the top and the after image at the bottom – this works well for landscape orientation images.

step5.jpg

Step 6

The Before/After Top/Bottom Split view shows a single version of the image split so that the top half is the before version and the bottom half is the after version.

step6.jpg

Step 7

You don’t have to use the buttons, however, and any time as you’re working on an image you can switch between before and after view by pressing the backslash (\) key. The image displays an indicator in the bottom right corner if you are seeing the Before version – no indicator appears for the After version.

step7.jpg

Step 8

Sometimes you’ll want a “somewhere between before and after”/after comparison – such as when you are sharpening an image. In this case you may want to compare the image before sharpening and after sharpening but the before/after options won’t allow for this. ?
step8.jpg
There are two workarounds. One is to create a Virtual Copy before you apply the sharpening to the image. Right click the image and choose Create Virtual Copy. This is your new “before” image and you can now apply the sharpening to it. When you perform a Before/After comparison you will now see just the result of the sharpening and not the entire image correction.

Step 9

The second works well when you’ve already applied the changes and want to compare the after with a previous history state. Locate the history state in the History list that you want to compare the final version with. Right click it and choose Copy History Step Settings to Before. This changes the ‘Before’ view of the image so it looks like the current image on the screen. Click in the History to return to the adjustment you want to compare and now, when you compare before and after you’re really comparing after with something more meaningful.

step9.jpg

When you copy the settings like this you’re not removing any history so you can still revert the image to an earlier version using the history list.

Step 10

The Before/After view options are also selectable via shortcut keys and from the View menu.

step10.jpg

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.

  • Guggie

    Is the statement “Lightroom keeps a log of the edits that you have made and only applies them to the image when you export the image” true for jpeg?

  • Jana

    Thanks Helen! Those were some good tips (I learned something new about Lightroom!!!!)

  • http://www.projectwoman.com/phototips.html Helen Bradley

    Yes. To prove it to yourself give this a try. Locate a JPEG image in Lightroom and convert it to black and white. Close Lightroom. Open the folder containing the image and preview it – it will still be in colour – the changes aren’t written to it – they remain in the Lightroom catalog. This is why it is critical to backup your catalog if you don’t want to lose all your work.

    The exception to this is if you have the Edit > Catalog Settings option configured to write the metadata changes to files

  • http://jeffandsamplus2.wordpress.com Jeff

    I really enjoy these lightroom tips as I am a fairly new lightroom user. (Using lightroom 3 beta now, as it is free for a few months.)

  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    This is great, I am trying to work out if I add a preset and don’t like and then select another preset, is the first preset removed before the second is applied or is it cumulative ?

  • http://www.projectwoman.com Helen Bradley

    David.. no it isn’t. That’s why it is best to preview the preset using the Navigator windown in the top of the right hand panel – hold your mouse over the preset to view it. If you don’t like it, don’t add it.

    However, if you add a preset and want to remove it, press Control + Z (Command + Z on the Mac) to undo it or view the History and choose the history state just prior to the one that added the preset.

    Helen

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/poisonberry scott e. detweiler

    why not just use the “\” key?

  • http://blog.woodsb.net/ Woods

    Thanks, I was looking for this one ! Nice tip as always.
    – Woods

  • http://poetryonfilm.com Daren Speck

    I was just looking for this last night.

    Thank you!

  • Anton Anderson

    Will the new (free) beta of Lightroom work on a Mac? I’ve just been using iphoto up to this point. Thanks for you tips. Anton

  • http://jfletcherphoto.wordpress.com Fletch

    To expand on your point on comparing two snapshots, one with sharpening and one without.

    Lightroom only renders sharpening when in 1:1 view mode and not when you are zoomed out, therefore if you compare the before and after views they will look identical unless you zoom in. The only way to get round this is to render a 1:1 preview after applying the sharpening as this will show the effect even when zoomed in.

    This has been changed/fixed in the LR3 beta so only a couple more months to suffer this issue.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/rthakrar Ricky

    Another (quicker) option is just to leave your mouse over ‘Import’ in the edits history and it’ll show a thumbnail of the original in the top left panel!

  • Marcelo

    Hi Hellen.
    Since i upgrade to LR2.6, when i roll mouse pointe over presets lists, i havent anymore the preview in navigator panel. Can you help me? I try reinstall/repair without sucess.
    Thank a lot!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/tchello3 Marcelo

    Hi Hellen!
    Since i upgrade to LR2.6, when i roll mouse pointe over presets lists, i havent anymore the preview in navigator panel. Can you help me? I try reinstall/repair without sucess.
    Thank a lot!

Some older comments

  • Marcelo

    February 7, 2010 01:13 am

    Hi Hellen!
    Since i upgrade to LR2.6, when i roll mouse pointe over presets lists, i havent anymore the preview in navigator panel. Can you help me? I try reinstall/repair without sucess.
    Thank a lot!

  • Marcelo

    February 7, 2010 01:12 am

    Hi Hellen.
    Since i upgrade to LR2.6, when i roll mouse pointe over presets lists, i havent anymore the preview in navigator panel. Can you help me? I try reinstall/repair without sucess.
    Thank a lot!

  • Ricky

    December 21, 2009 09:21 pm

    Another (quicker) option is just to leave your mouse over 'Import' in the edits history and it'll show a thumbnail of the original in the top left panel!

  • Fletch

    October 30, 2009 10:00 pm

    To expand on your point on comparing two snapshots, one with sharpening and one without.

    Lightroom only renders sharpening when in 1:1 view mode and not when you are zoomed out, therefore if you compare the before and after views they will look identical unless you zoom in. The only way to get round this is to render a 1:1 preview after applying the sharpening as this will show the effect even when zoomed in.

    This has been changed/fixed in the LR3 beta so only a couple more months to suffer this issue.

  • Anton Anderson

    October 30, 2009 08:25 pm

    Will the new (free) beta of Lightroom work on a Mac? I've just been using iphoto up to this point. Thanks for you tips. Anton

  • Daren Speck

    October 30, 2009 01:23 pm

    I was just looking for this last night.

    Thank you!

  • Woods

    October 30, 2009 12:23 pm

    Thanks, I was looking for this one ! Nice tip as always.
    -- Woods

  • scott e. detweiler

    October 30, 2009 05:56 am

    why not just use the "\" key?

  • Helen Bradley

    October 30, 2009 05:05 am

    David.. no it isn't. That's why it is best to preview the preset using the Navigator windown in the top of the right hand panel - hold your mouse over the preset to view it. If you don't like it, don't add it.

    However, if you add a preset and want to remove it, press Control + Z (Command + Z on the Mac) to undo it or view the History and choose the history state just prior to the one that added the preset.

    Helen

  • David

    October 30, 2009 04:47 am

    This is great, I am trying to work out if I add a preset and don't like and then select another preset, is the first preset removed before the second is applied or is it cumulative ?

  • Jeff

    October 30, 2009 04:39 am

    I really enjoy these lightroom tips as I am a fairly new lightroom user. (Using lightroom 3 beta now, as it is free for a few months.)

  • Helen Bradley

    October 30, 2009 03:32 am

    Yes. To prove it to yourself give this a try. Locate a JPEG image in Lightroom and convert it to black and white. Close Lightroom. Open the folder containing the image and preview it - it will still be in colour - the changes aren't written to it - they remain in the Lightroom catalog. This is why it is critical to backup your catalog if you don't want to lose all your work.

    The exception to this is if you have the Edit > Catalog Settings option configured to write the metadata changes to files

  • Jana

    October 30, 2009 03:24 am

    Thanks Helen! Those were some good tips (I learned something new about Lightroom!!!!)

  • Guggie

    October 30, 2009 03:14 am

    Is the statement "Lightroom keeps a log of the edits that you have made and only applies them to the image when you export the image" true for jpeg?

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