Feature Photo about seeing before and after in Lightroom
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Lightroom Before And After: A Tale Of Two Photos

Today, I’ll show you how to use Lightroom’s Before and After, that’s numerous features to compare the before and after of your photos, the way they arrived in Lightroom from your camera, and how you’ve tweaked, fixed and beautified your photo.  Why Before and After?  It can be curiosity or it can be to show the amazing things you can do with your photos.  It can also be a way to keep us grounded.  Sometimes we can overdo it.  Lightroom Before and After features can help.  

The time working and improving the photo can get away from us.  A practice of mine that you may consider is that of leaving your work overnight, or at least for a while, which can be the best technique for showing your best work.  For me, work is rarely delivered without allowing for this time.  The additional technique is our subject matter today.  To periodically look at where your image started, fresh from the camera.  This helps to rein us in and helps to keep us from overdoing.

Topics for Lightroom Before and After

The Tale of Two Photos

Once upon a time, there were two photos in your Lightroom Catalog.  One is exceptional with all the perfect edits and improvements.   The other is bland, boring, and blah! It is fresh from a state-of-the-art camera (maybe a few years old) and, quite possibly, captured with all the perfect settings to make an extraordinary photo.  Your photo has grown up to be a star of the show.  But, it never forgets its early beginnings.

The two photos are actually two versions of the same capture. The star and the earliest version…Lightrooms Before and After.

Today we will connect the two of these images and learn how periodically referring to the past can help produce a brighter future.  For our photo, that is.  Let’s get to the lesson.

Lightroom’s Before and After features are handy tools to review our editing journey.  We can compare what the camera produced to what we’ve produced in today’s advanced software as easily as hitting the “\“ backslash key.  Hit it again and we’re back to our present edited version.  This is the simplest of numerous techniques to accomplish our task of comparing.

The Simplest Speedkey “\” , the Backslash

In the blink of an eye, your image is now back to its original version.  Possibly the most common is the simplest.  Like this:  From the Develop Module, hit the slash, “\”, backslash.  It’s above the return, or enter, key. Check how much you’ve done to process perfection or that you’ve done too much.  Click it again, and you’re back and you’ve experienced Lightroom Before and After.  It’s the easiest but does not offer the ability to see the before and after on-screen at the same time.  It does not offer a split-screen so you can see the detail of your sharpening on a 1:1 piece of a portrait face.  It is quick, but other techniques offer more options and near the end of today’s article I’ll talk a bit about how I use some of these features to micro-view and compare focus and anti-noise techniques.

Oh, there is one thing you may be concerned about. The speedkey and other before/after techniques does not show changes you you made to the cropping. So images that are cropped will show the changes to editing by will be cropped the same. It’s much easier to see the difference without jumping back to uncropped. In my world the cropping can be extreme.


Lightroom Before and After shines with the “Y” Key

For more of a mode shift, click the Y and you’ll see 2 images side by side where before there was only your after image.  Labeled accordingly, Before and After.  On the left is the version at the time of importing to Lightroom, Before.  On the right is your present-day photo, After.  Click again (Y), and you’re back to your single edited image.  Enhance this with two additional keys. Hit the Tab key first, which removes the Left and Right side panels, making room so your horizontal images to spread out a bit.  Secondly, click to zoom in on a critical area of the image you’d like to see at 100% size (1:1). You’ll see the close-up in both the before and after versions.

You may also like my way of remembering all the photos for the Wedding Day Shoot. It describes the Family Module and more. You can get your own shot list…

What we are about to work with is duplicated in the Menu.  So, if you prefer, in the Develop Module, with your single image selected, go to View/ Before and After/ Left and Right and the same thing will happen.  Two images side by side, Before and After.  Notice in the menu, the viewing options have the speed keys to get the same result.  This may differ on different keyboards, but what shows in the menu should be correct for your keyboard. If you are like me and not fully educated in all the symbols for shift and alt and all the others.  This may help:

Left/Right – Just the Y key

Top/Bottom – Option Y

Switch to Split Screen – Shift Y

Choices, choices, choices.  Take some time with this.  The default, Left/Right (Y) makes the image quite small on my 13 inch MacBook.  Maybe if you’re screen is larger this will be useful.  Horizontal images are better viewed, for me, in Top/Bottom (Option Y).  My favorite, though is to use split-screen and zoom in to 1:1.  This close-up shows much more detail of my editing.

Use The Lightroom Before and After “Button”

Access the features of Lightroom Before/After, for those non-menu folks. Find, also in the Develop Module, below the photo there is a square button split in two. It may have a Y on each side of the button. That signifies the 2 images will be side by side. You can access the different ways of seeing Lightroom Before and After from this magic button.

“When you’re ready to get back to normal viewing, click the full image button, the square, to the left of this Before/After button, see the illustration below.”

Showing the Y button in Lightroom Before and After
The Lightroom Before and After Button and the escape button to get back to editing your image.

Click around. Herewith buttons, in the menu, or using the speed keys show various ways to view your Before and After Lightroom shortcuts to the past version. The best you can do to learn this is to jump in. Use it! See two images full and side by side may be the best. Close up and side by side may be better for some. Top and bottom may be the most revealing for some of the images. Your photography will be better because of it.

It definitely helps to keep your editing closer to reality. I prefer, and maybe you do too, to keep a heavy dose of subtlety to my editing. This ability to look back from whence you came is helpful to stay grounded in reality.

It’s Beyond My Pay Grade

Sometimes there are features that seem to be beyond what I need and maybe you’ll agree. Notice the three buttons to the right of the Y button we’ve talked about. These are available for moving the list of edits, the changes you’ve made or haven’t, around. To move the edits from the top image to the bottom image–there’s a button for that. Likewise, from bottom to top and just to switch the two images edit lists–a button for that. I do not see this being a part of my editing. I really have a hard time imagining anyone making use of this feature. If I’m missing something please drop me a note at info@TEKeez.com.

Snapshots Can Be Awesome. Yes, Can’t They!

Not quite the same but kinda the concept. As you progress through your workflow with your image periodically make a snapshot. It’s a capture that you can give a name to which stores the image at just the stage you’re at that moment. Give it a try. It may fit your system and be a helpful way to look back.

Virtual Copies Can Take Our Two Copies to a Collection of Versions

So try this. It may be helpful in seeing the growth of your images as they go through the gestation to final perfection. Many times I have a set of adjustments that I make by default. Lens Corrections, Medium Contrast Tonal Curve, Slight Sharpening, to name a few. Do your basic then make a Virtual Copy. Radial tool and graduated filter tool follows that, as well as other specific, directed adjustments can be done and then another Virtual Copy. Now it’s time to experiment. Go crazy. Then a copy. Try now selecting a Virtual Copy to back-up to a pre-crazy look and try something else. Try black and white. To make the copy from the menu go to Photo/Virtual Copies, or just hold the command key and hit the apostrophe.

Before I knew about all the features we have in Lightroom showing before and after I would pick an image that I felt could benefit from a totally different approach to editing. I’d make a virtual copy, then reset my original to camera imported basic (Reset). Then, do an alternative edit of the photograph. When all done, I have my first version as a virtual copy. The newer edit is showing in my original image.

Hoorah! We Covered a Lot

Forget for a moment the techniques to get to look back and compare. Just the ability to do this is a great addition to editing your images. I have for a long time keeping track of the earlier versions but now, with the simplest “\” backslash key to the use of Virtual Copies and Snapshots…this rocks. Using the Y key is probably my favorite and opens up a very helpful way to view how effective sharpening adjustments and noise reduction moves are at smoothing areas that should be just that, smooth. Try the split-screen feature and zoom in to an area that should be critically sharp and detailed. It’s Inspiring. I can see it being more and more helpful in my work, I hope it is good for you, too.

Also for you:

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Photography, for the most part, was easy for me. BUT, there were and continue to be exceptions. HDR was simple except for a few small techniques. This became “Lost Lessons of HDR”. Metering was something I grew up with, it seems so simple. Then I realized and started teaching the different metering modes as a way to learn the different situations that call for specifics of metering. This became the “Don’t Shoot Manual”. Wedding Photography seemed so basic in the day’s workflow and it just grew as I did more and more weddings. The shot list was never a part of my shoot days because it was all so well organized. That organizing became the article “Wedding Photography Shot List in PDF, Excel & Numbers and the accompanying package of spreadsheets of the dynamic shot list.

Lost Lessons of HDR – clears the way to creating your best imagery.

Wedding Shot List – Dynamic organizing of the wedding day shoot

Don’t Shoot Manual – Learning the basic differences in the metering modes of your camera and which one to settle in on.

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