A Way Out Of The Rabbit Hole With Lightroom Snapshots
July 9, 2013
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Lightroom is so powerful that it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole, getting lost in the endless creative possibilities. Because Lightroom maintains your history of changes, it’s possible to climb that ladder back up, but if you have made a lot of edits, it can be difficult to find the last good point before a series of experimental failures. With snapshots, though, you turn can that ladder in to an elevator, making it a cinch to get you right back to where you want to be.

Virtual copies and snapshots both provide the ability to control the flow of your editing. I think of virtual copies as a fork in the road, allowing you to take multiple paths from the same core image or trunk. Where virtual copies allow you to pursue multiple divergent paths, snapshots are more linear, like mile markers along the highway. Virtual copies are great when I’m not sure which direction I want to go with an image, but when I do know, I like to use snapshots because they allow me to quickly revert back to a specific point in my edit history without the clutter of maintaining multiple copies.

Snapshots are available to all virtual copies of an image.


To create a snapshot, you can click the + in the Snapshots panel, or use the shortcut ⌘ + N.

Lightroom Fanatic - Create New Snapshot

Lightroom Fanatic – Create New Snapshot

Give your snapshot a name, click Create and you will see your new snapshot in the Snapshots panel. I like to create an Original snapshot that is usually based on my starter preset, then more snapshots after any major edits that I am happy with.

Lightroom Fanatic - Snapshots Panel

Lightroom Fanatic – Snapshots Panel

One minor gripe about snapshots is that they are organized alphabetically. If you have a lot of snapshots, it can get confusing as to which came first. If I think that might happen, then I will prefix my snapshot name with a number, such as “0 – Original”, “1 – Exposure Adjustment”, “2 – Paint the Sky”. That will keep them in order.

Prefix your snapshot names with a number to keep them in order.


Now that you have a few snapshots, you can switch between them by clicking on their name. When you select a snapshot, it will update the image being edited to the settings of the snapshot. If you ^ + Click (right-click on Windows) on a snapshot, you’ll see a few other things you can do.

Lightroom Fanatic - Snapshot Options

Lightroom Fanatic – Snapshot Options

Rename and Delete are pretty self-explanatory. If you create a snapshot, make a few more changes that you really like and don’t want to create another snapshot, you can update an existing snapshot with the current adjustments to an image by selecting Update with Current Settings. 

The other option, Copy Snapshot Settings to Before, is used in the Before/After view in Lightroom. Where the After window reflects the current state of the image, you can set the Before to look like a snapshot by ^ + Click (right-click on Windows) the snapshot, selecting Copy Snapshot Settings to Before, and see the two versions side-by-side.

Lightroom Fanatic - Snapshot Before/After

Lightroom Fanatic – Snapshot Before/After

Clearly, snapshots have revolutionized the way that I work as a photographer. Well, maybe not. But they definitely make it easier to stay grounded as I explore my creativity in this Lightroom Wonderland.

Check out the video tutorial here!

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