Lightroom – Before and After

Before and After

By Douglas Wade

When I talk to people about Lightroom there are two things that seem hard to believe; the first is Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning that the original file is never changed, all changes are either added inside the file in a special place, or Lightroom writes an external sidecar file. The second thing is they can review the before and after for any of their changes.

Lightroom lets you view before and after versions of your image. The easiest way is using the shortcut backslash (\). Since the process is non-destructive, I started with one image that was underexposed and made it into a Black and White.



To use the Before/After options in Lightroom be inside the Develop module. The following are a few ways to check your changes from the original to the latest edits.

Step 1

In the Develop module, make sure that View Modes are enabled (checked) so that you can see the necessary icons on the toolbar. Be sure to check the small triangle to open the menu and choose View Modes.

Step 2

A button is presented with Y|Y on it. Click to see the before and after views of your image.

Step 3

Again click on the View Modes and select the Before and After view.

This will add the menu to the toolbar area.

From the Y|Y drop-down list you can choose multiple ways to see different before/after views. Such as Before/After Left/Right shows the before and after views side by side.

Step 4

The Before/After Left/Right Split illustrates the image as one single image split.

Step 5

The Before/After Top/Bottom illustrates the before on the top and the after image on the bottom.

Step 6

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

Step 7

You don’t have to use the buttons, To reset, click on the left icon. At any time you can switch between before and after by using the shortcut the backslash (\). When using the shortcut the image shows a Before version – no indicator appears for the After version.

Step 8

Sometimes you’ll want show work from this point forward as your Before state. In this example, I want to see a before and after for sharpening.

But the image below shows the original.

To make the Before a state, open the History panel, drag and drop a “state” onto the Before image and then continue to modify your file.

Now adjust the Sharpening and it shows the difference. The Before is adjustable to any state from the History panel.

So the before and after comparisons are a strong tool to move from a starting point to a finished image and I have been using it in my workflow.


  1. Olga Wainer
    Olga Wainer 2 years ago Reply

    Interesting ……

  2. Craig Gorum
    Craig Gorum 2 years ago Reply

    Nice write up, thanks for posting.