One of the things that really surprised me about my last post on the Inside Lightroom blog was how visually effective scrubbing through an image history is. I was amazed at how well it let me see the evolution of the photograph and I’ve since gone back and made some more tweaks to the photo based on what I saw. It’d be really nice to be able to easily scrub back and forth through your edits in Lightroom the same way you can in the movie I made. Of course, going and making a screenshot based movie for each photo edit session is a bit extreme, so I decided to dig a little deeper and how I could make what’s already in Lightroom work better for me.
First off, you can click back and forth through the history. It works, maybe not as smoothly as grabbing a slider, but it does work. But for a quicker comparison of what you’ve done to your image, you can always hit the “\” key. This toggles the Before/After view of your image. By default, it takes you all the way back to how your image looked on import. This works pretty well, and it’s been a staple of mine for a while. But I do have one problem with it. When you shift the White Balance in a photo, its really hard to get a sense of the other edits you’ve made. The shift in color caused makes it really hard to evaluate contrast, saturation, and other adjustments.
There is, however, a remedy for this that I’ve just found. It turns out that you can select any point in the history of your photo edit and mark that as your “Before” state. Just select the history state that you want to compare to and then use the Settings > Copy After’s Settings to Before. Or you can hit the Option-Shift-Command-Left Arrow key combo—at least on a Mac, I’ll let you translate that to equivalent Windows keys. After executing this awkwardly named command, you can then go to a later edit, or create some new edits, and compare what you did with the “\” key.
It’s not a scrubber control, but finding this command today means that the “\” key just got quite a bit more powerful in my book. I can set the Before settings to after shifting the White Balance for a photograph and then easily see the result of all my later edits. Or, if I want to compare the result of two or three changes together, I can set the Before point appropriately and compare away.
It has to be said: This is one of the most tounge-tyingly named commands I’ve seen in a while. Maybe a better name would be “Set Compare Marker”.
Or maybe there should be some sort of toggle in the history menu so that you can set your compare point with a single click instead of through a four-key combo shortcut. Consider that a feature request for future versions of Lightroom. Update: Mark Sirota added a comment noting that there’s a right-click option for performing this step in the History. That works nicely! Thank Mark for the tip!
As far as the concept of showing edits to a photograph in movie form like I did last week. It seems that a lot of people really dug it. I did too. You can be sure that I’ll be putting a few more together over the weeks and months ahead. I wanted to try it again this week, but it wasn’t in the cards as I’m prepping to go to Europe in a few days. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, I can work on the technique with some photography from Germany and Spain.