3 ways to use the Adobe Lightroom before and after editing tool


Adobe Lightroom before and after function for editing photos

The Lightroom before and after function is such a handy tool, because it’s really easy to get carried away with editing in Lightroom and forget what the photo looked like before you started. Before you know it the photo can become over processed.

The best two ways to avoid over processing photos is:

  • Step away from the computer
  • Lightroom before and after tool

Why you should take a break from editing in Lightroom

When editing photos in Lightroom Classic over long periods stepping away from the computer occasionally for a few minutes is not just good for your body, it helps your eyes to reset.

We get so used to looking at an image and after a time our eyes adjust to the colors so we stop seeing them as they really are. When you walk away and come back to your editing, even just a few minutes later, you’ll see the colors differently. Literally with fresh eyes.

Sometimes it can be a bit of a shock. Which is why I like to think of the walk away as a little sanity check.

Lightroom before and after tool – 3 ways to use it

The other sanity check is the before and after tool in Lightroom.

To use the before and after function, you need to be in the Develop Module. Once there you have 3 ways to use the before and after editing options.

First I’ll quickly run through the three options and then I’ll show you what I mean with images. (So much easier when you can see!)

1. Using the menu to navigate before and after views

The long way is to navigate there using the Lightroom menu. In the menu at the top of the screen click:

  • View
  • Before/After
  • then select from: Left/Right or Top/Bottom or Split Screen or Before Only

2. How to use before after toolbar

The second way to navigate before and after views in Lightroom is through the toolbar, which is visible below the image in the Develop Module. You have two options:

  • Click the before and after button to cycle through the different views (showing as YY in the image below to represent side by side view)

Lightroom before and after toolbar

  • Click on the triangle next to the button to open up the different before and after view options.

It might not always show as YY, because it depends on the last type of before and after view that was shown. Even if the icon changes, the triangle will always be there to click and select a view.

3. How to use Lightroom before after shortcuts

I’m a big fan of Lightroom shortcuts to speed up my workflow, so whenever possible I use a keyboard shortcut. Again, you have a selection of before and after views that you can access with shortcuts. They are:

  • Y – to see the before and after views arranged side by side (good for vertical images)
  • ALT or OPTION Y – to see the before and after views arranged above and below each other (good for horizontal images)
  • SHIFT Y – to see a split screen before and after of your image (you can see this vertically split or horizontally split)
  • \ – (my favorite) to see before only. Click again to see the after version.

Further reading: 28 essential Lightroom shortcuts that will speed up your workflow

How to show before and after in Lightroom – a demo

Now let’s see the before and after tool in action…

Get a left/right before and after

Menu: Left/Right

Toolbar: See image below

Shortcut: Y

side by side view of Lightroom before and after tool

SHIFT Y – toggles between side by side view and split screen view

ALT or OPTION Y – change to top/bottom

Vertical split screen view of before and after edits

Get a top/bottom before and after

Menu: Top/bottom

Toolbar: See image below

Shortcut: ALT or OPTION Y

Top and bottom before and after Lightroom view

SHIFT Y – toggles between above and below view and split screen view

Y – change to left/right

Horizontal split screen view of before and after edits

Switch between original (before) and edited (after)

Menu: Before

Toolbar: none

Shortcut: \

single view Lightroom before view to check edits

An extra before and after Lightroom editing function

To be honest with you, I’m not certain why you would use this function. You have three options and each is represented by an icon, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Swap image settings of before and after

Each of these buttons swaps the before and after settings over in a different way.

WARNING – if you click any of these buttons it’s not easy to go back to how you had your photo. Control Z or clicking undo in the menu won’t work. You’ll have to go into the History panel and select the last correct version of your image.

Luckily if you mouse over the first icon and it tells you what it will do, so you have a bit of a warning.

Lightroom before and after toolbar

  • The first button will “Copy Before’s settings to After”.
  • The middle button will “Copy After’s settings to Before”.
  • And the third button will swap the before and after photos. Not just move them over. Actually change the settings so that your edited photo looks like your original unedited photo and the original looks like the edited version. This of course changes your image back to its original state, as you can see in the image below.

Lightroom before and after swap side by side view

Leave a comment

If you have any questions about how to use Lightroom before and after, let us know in the comments.

Also, we love good news, so if our Lightroom tips have helped you to understand how before and after views work, share that too.

Jane Allan

Jane is the founder of The Lens Lounge and a professional portrait photographer living on the “sunny” south coast of England. Obsessed with light and composition. Will put her camera down to go landsailing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts