Infographic stating how to use the Lightroom before and after tool

As a wedding photographer, chances are that you end up editing several of your images. Lightroom can help you spot the minutest of details, which you can alter to get the desired results. But even then, you don’t want to go overboard with the editing and still want your images to look realistic. So, next time you sit down for an edit, you could use Lightroom to compare the before and after photo. The program even keeps your originals safe and creates another copy for you to edit on. Therefore, you can always go back and compare the before and after images using the Lightroom Before and After tool. And in order to help you do that, in this blog, we take you through the different ways you can compare your before and after images in Lightroom.

Things to Know Before You Begin Comparing Images

There are a few things you should know before you actually start comparing your before and after photographs. Familiarizing yourself with simple points like when and how to use the Lightroom Before and After tool will make the process smoother for you.

The top module selection area in Lightroom
Images courtesy of @infiniteloopphoto
  • You can use the Before and After feature in the Develop module only. You will need to select an image you want to edit, then get into the Develop module. You can do it by pressing D on your keyboard. You can also click the Develop link on the top module selection area. If you do not do this first, you will not be able to use the Lightroom Before and After tool.
  • The Before and After feature shows you all changes to the image from every panel within the Develop module. The only ones you won’t be able to see are from the Crop and Straighten tool. This happens because the images you will be comparing might not have the same level of cropping or straightening.
  • The Before and After feature can only be used temporarily as a visual guide. It does not have any impact on the images that you have edited already. If you export an image in its Before state, you will still get the edited image in the end.

Different Ways to Compare Before and After Images in Lightroom Classic

1. Select View Module

If you are already in the Develop module, you will need to make sure that the View Modes are on. This will help you see the necessary icons. In the View Mode, you will find the Before and After option. Once you click on it, you will get another list with viewing options. Select your preferred option from this list.

2. Click on Y|Y

The YY button at the bottom left of Develop module
Images courtesy of @infiniteloopphoto

Another way of getting the Before and After feature is to click on the Y|Y button at the bottom left of your Develop module. If you don’t see the button, click the small triangle under the image and choose View Modes.

3. The Before/After and Left/Right Split

The Left/Right option will show the before and after views of your image side by side. This works well for portrait orientation images. The left side of your split-screen will show you the Before view of your image, and the right side will show you the After view. You can press Y on your keyboard to quickly jump to the Left/Right image comparison. If you press the Y key again, you will be able to go back to your edited image.

4. The Before/After and Top/Bottom Option

The Top/Bottom option will show you the Before photo at the top and the After photo at the bottom of your split-screen view. This works well for landscape orientation images. The Top/Bottom Split view shows you the Before version of your image in the top half of the screen, and the bottom half is the After version of your image. You can either find this option in the Before/After dropdown menu or get it by pressing Alt + Y on PC and Option + Y on Mac.

5. The Magical Backslash Key (\) to Switch Between Images

You don’t have to use the toolbar in Lightroom every single time. Whenever you work on an image, you can switch between Lightroom Before and After view by pressing the backslash (\) key. Your photo will display an indicator at the bottom right corner if you view the Before version. No indicator will appear for the After version of the photo.

6. Create Virtual Copies to View In-between Edits

Creating virtual copy in Lightroom
Images courtesy of @infiniteloopphoto

Sometimes you might want to see your image in an in-between stage, i.e., somewhere between the Before and After. For example, this could be when you are sharpening an image. But if you want to compare an image before and after sharpening, you will have to create a Virtual Copy before you sharpen the image. To do this, right-click the image and select the Create Virtual Copy option. This will become your new Before image, and you may now apply the sharpening effects to it. Next, when you perform a Before and After comparison, you will only see the result of the sharpening edit you made and not the entire photo correction.

7. Choose Copy History Step Settings

Another way to view your edits mid-process is by using this feature. Right click and locate the History step that shows the image at the point where you want to compare the image to and then choose Copy History Step Settings to Before. If the most recent history step isn’t selected, select it to return to the current state of the image. This changes the Before view of the photo to look like the current photo on your screen. Click on the History to return to the change you want to compare. Also, when you copy the settings this way, you won’t be removing any history. So you can still go back to an earlier version of your image using the history list.

8. Use the Shortcut Keys

The Lightroom Before and After images shortcut will help to move between different views quicker. The Before and After view options can also be selected by shortcut keys and from the View menu. The Shift + Y keys will let you switch between the horizontal side-by-side before/after view. You will see the horizontal split-screen before/after view here. You can also press Shift + Tab to hide the right side panels and the filmstrip to get the biggest view possible. To return to the regular view, where you will see only the photo you are currently editing, just press D on your keyboard.

How to Compare Before and After Images in Lightroom CC

Infographic stating tips for using the before and after tool in Lightroom CC

Lightroom CC doesn’t offer the option of viewing your images side-by-side, top/bottom, or split the screen for comparison. So if you are a Lightroom CC user, this version only gives you the option to view a full-sized version of your original image. However, the Versions tool will help you keep track of how your image looked at different editing stages. To use this, you would just need to click on Versions at the bottom right corner of the Edit panel. Here, you will come across two options: Named and Auto.

  • The Named option will allow you to create a virtual copy of your edited image in its current state. You can then click on that version at any time to compare it with your newer edited versions. This can be useful if you want to try out different styles on your photo.
  • The Auto option will keep saving all the versions of your image automatically as you edit. So if you aren’t satisfied with your last few edits, you will have the option of going back to an earlier version of your photo.

Pro Tip: You can use the ‘\’ key in Lightroom CC to jump to your original (unedited) photo from your current (edited) version. You can press it again to revert to your current photo.

Further Read: Culling Images In Lightroom: A Step-By-Step Guide

Learning the right way to compare your before and afters can really make your Lightroom editing process easier and quicker. It might take some time before you find what works for you, but we hope this blog helps you find a way that suits your needs. At ShootDotEdit, we also offer post-production photo editing services. If you are struggling with your post-production timeline, we can help to lessen your workload. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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