how to undo in lightroom

If you are accustomed to working with photos in Lightroom, you are bound to hear yourself say, “Oops!” from time to time. Lightroom makes the job of undoing a breeze, whether you make a mistake or do not like the results. A basic understanding of how to undo in Lightroom can save you hours of time you would otherwise lose by starting over and redoing your work.

How to Undo in Lightroom

At ShootDotEdit, we specialize in wedding photography edit services for professional photographers, and we know it is important for you to have more knowledge about Lightroom’s capabilities. Keep reading to learn more about how to undo in Lightroom.

What is the Lightroom Undo Function?

You might be familiar with the “undo” and “redo” commands in popular software like Word, Excel, and other Microsoft Office products. When you make a mistake while typing a document, you can easily step back to the most recent changes that you made. In Lightroom, the ability to undo errors is similar in concept, but Lightroom offers several advantages.

Unlimited Undo Abilities

Many software programs are limited to a certain number of backtracking steps. Once you go so far back, you can no longer undo your changes. For example, some versions of Excel allow a default of 16 undo levels and extending the allowed number of levels uses a lot of memory and causes the program to act erratically. Lightroom allows an unlimited number of undos, so if you change your mind on a preset that was added or another adjustment made, you can undo the actions as many times as needed.

Unlimited Lightroom History

The Lightroom Undo function works in a unique way through its History panel. In the History panel, you can access an unlimited number of versions of your image updates rather than merely tracing your steps backward one at a time. You can also close your image and Lightroom to come back to everything still saved in the History panel.

How to Use Undo and the History Panel

There are several different ways to go about undoing your mistakes or going back to an earlier version of your photo. In addition to using the standard undo command (Command+Z on Mac and Control+Z on PC), the History panel is much more powerful. The following steps are easy to go by:

Step 1: Access the History Panel

The “History” panel can be found near the “Develop” menu, or you can access it under the “Windows” menu where all of the panel views are located. Once open, you can see the entire list of actions that you have taken on a particular image.

Step 2: Browse History List

You can browse through the entire history of changes for your open image. When you run your cursor over the listed action, you can preview the image in the “Navigator” area. Actions that have values associated with them will be displayed as well.

lightroom history
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 3: Click Desired Undo Action

To undo and go back to a certain version of your photo, simply find the associated action in the list. Say you decide to blur the image in Lightroom, but do not like the outcome.

Click on the action and the full original image will open. You can always go back and browse other actions to undo as well. Be warned: once you make a change to the undone version, all later actions will be deleted. However, you can still access earlier actions and undo them.

choose lightroom undo action
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 4: Delete Undo History

If you decide you do not want to use any of the actions, you can click on the “Reset” button to undo your edits and go back to the original photo.

lightroom history panel
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

You can also choose the first action in the list where you imported the image into Lightroom. This will take you back to the original one as well. The important difference between these two options is using “Reset” gets added as an action and your history is retained and “Import” deletes the history.

reset in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Virtual Copy and Snapshots

When it comes to knowing how to undo in Lightroom, two other functions are beneficial to use: Virtual Copy and Snapshots. Both are similar in that they produce duplicates of images you can edit. However, there are important differences between the two when it comes to using them as part of your workflow.

Virtual Copy

A Virtual Copy is just how it sounds, a copy that is made available online. When you create a Virtual Copy, a new version of the original image is created. This version acts as a separate photo inside Lightroom but, until you export it, the photo does not exist as an actual image file that can be stored on your computer.

create virtual copy in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

In Lightroom, you can make a Virtual Copy of any photo. You can also make a copy of the images you select in the History panel. Simply right-click on the photo, choose “Create Virtual Copy,” and save. Each Virtual Copy will have a history associated with it.

how to create virtual copy in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

As a wedding photographer, you might want to experiment with creating a style for a particular photo before you decide on a preset to use. You can save multiple Virtual Copies of the same photo and apply different effects to each one. In the Lightroom Develop module, you can then view your versions in a filmstrip layout. This is useful because you can see the different versions of the same photo right next to each other to compare.

original vs virtual copy lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography


Similarly, a Snapshot is just what it sounds to be: a quick capture of a moment. In contrast to a Virtual Copy, a Snapshot is a way to save certain steps during your workflow. Rather than saving different versions of the same and creating styles from scratch, Snapshots let you save as you go.

lightroom snapshot
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

You can create Snapshots from the History panel in the Develop module. Click on the “+” sign located in the Snapshot panel. Then you can select and view each image within the Snapshot panel. Each Snapshot retains its history.

The benefit of using Snapshots is when you make a lot of adjustments to an image, the History panel can end up with a large number of levels. It can be difficult and time-consuming to sort through them to find certain effects you applied. Snapshots make it easy to save and find copies of the ones you liked for future reference.

As you learn more about your particular style, this can be a great way to practice editing your images in Lightroom.

Advanced Lightroom Skillsets

Learning how to undo in Lightroom is just another way to speed up your post-wedding workflow. There are several other features you can utilize to make adjustments in Lightroom and create a fast and streamlined workflow. In our Top 5 Advanced Lightroom Tips with Jared Platt, he focuses on the best ways to maximize the software and its features.

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