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Time Travel in Lightroom [or All About Lightroom’s History Panel]

One of the features that really endeared me to Lightroom early was the fact that the History Panel keeps track of what edits you make to your photos FOREVER!

And when I say forever, I mean F.O.R.E.V.E.R!

Why I Love Lightroom's History Panel

Photos that I took and edited back in 2009—YUP, I can still see the list of edits I made to that photo, in the order I made them today.

If I make 3 changes to a photo or 159 changes (I haven't really tested that or counted how many changes I have made to my photos), they will all still be there when I open Lightroom in a year or five.

This isn't true for any photos that I edited in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or any of the online editing programs. The history is gone for anything that I edited back in 2009. It isn't even there for photos that I edited in those programs yesterday. All that information was lost the second that I closed the photo. All of it.

I LOVE my Lightroom History Panel.

Today I want to share 3 other things that are really cool about the History Panel. But first you may want to know where the History Panel is in case you haven't made friends with this panel yet.

Go to the Develop module and you'll find the History panel the 3rd panel down on the left-hand side.

3 Cool History Panel Features

1. You can go back in time!

Time travel may not be possible in the real world, but it is possible in the History Panel. You can click on any of the previous history states and it will show you what your photo looked like at that point in time.

Amazing, right?

Just beware that you can get caught in the time warp. Once you click on one of your previous history states, if you make a change to your photo all the more recent history will be erased. (Just think of the movie “Back to the Future” and you'll know what I mean.)

You do have CTRL+Z (the shortcut for Undo) to save you if by chance you do make a mistake. Just do it quick before you forget!

2. The History Panel and Before/After’s

I love a good before and after. It is fun to see the transformation a photo can make with a great post-processing tool like Lightroom.

But sometimes, I want the before to be something different than the image that I originally imported. Maybe I want to compare what the photo looked like just a few steps ago with what I have done now.

You can easily do this, but it is a little bit of a hidden feature in Lightroom. All you need to do is go to the before and after mode by clicking it below your photo or just hit the "Y" key (for before and after side-by-side mode) or "alt+Y" (for before and after up and down mode.) Next, simply drag and drop the desired state from the History panel into the “before” preview area.


3. You Can Erase Time!

This isn't something that I would imagine you would want to do very often, but it is possible. To erase your history, click the little "x" at the top of your History Panel. Just like magic, all your history has been erased.

If you have an immediate moment of panic over what you have just done, Lightroom gives you the chance fix it by clicking on the Edit menu and then "Undo Clear Settings History" or CTRL+Z.

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