How To See Before And After In Lightroom & Lightroom Mobile

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Once you finish editing your masterpiece in Lightroom or Lightroom mobile, the before and after lets you relish in the kick-butt edit you just created. The problem is, how can you actually see the before and after of a photo in Lightroom?

To view the before and after of a photo in Lightroom, make sure you’re in the Develop Module and press Y on your keyboard to toggle the side-by-side before and after view. To view the before image by itself in Lightroom, press the \ key instead.

With that said, there are many ways to customize your before and after views in Lightroom. In this post, you’ll learn about each of the options available, along with helpful keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process.

If you’re a Lightroom Mobile user, the steps will be a lot different since you obviously don’t have a keyboard. To skip ahead to the Lightroom Mobile section of this post, click here.

How To See Before And After In Lightroom

There are a variety of views you can access to see the before and afters of your photos. Before you try any of the following steps, make sure that you are in the Develop Module of Lightroom. You cannot view the before and after in other modules in the program, such as the Library.

– View Full Size Before Image

To view your before image in full size, press the \ key on your keyboard for both Mac and PC. This will toggle your image to only display the before of the edit.

You can easily tell that you’re in the before view by the “Before” tab that appears in the upper right corner of the preview window.

To exit this view, press \ again to go back to viewing your most recent editing adjustments.

– View Before And After Side By Side

Sometimes it’s better to get a side-by-side comparison when looking at your before and after images. There are two different ways you can do this. The first way is by clicking on the Y|Y icon in your toolbar.

If you do not see your toolbar, press T on your keyboard or go up to View > Show Toolbar to reveal it inside the Develop Module.

To speed up the process a bit, you can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Y on both Mac and PC.

In this before and after preview option, you will see the before image on the left side of your screen, with your current edit on the right. For portrait-oriented photos, this view works particularly well since it fits the shape of tall images. You can easily tell which is which by the before and after labels in the corner of each preview.

In all honesty, you will probably never use these labels since your edit is always going to be the kick-butt version of the two photos, amiright?

– View Before And After Top & Bottom

For landscape-oriented photos (aka horizontal images), the side-by-side preview can make your images look slightly smaller. To get a better view, the top and bottom before and after preview is better suited.

To access this view, press the arrow beside the Y|Y icon in your toolbar to reveal alternate viewing options.

From the options that appear, choose “Before/After Top/Bottom.”

If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, you can press Option + Y (Mac) or Alt + Y (PC) to toggle the top and bottom before and after view.

This view stacks your images one on top of the other. The before image will be on top, with your edited image on the bottom. Once again, you can use the before and after labels to tell them apart if needed.

– Vertical Split Screen Before And After

Now, what if you don’t want to see your entire photos side by side? Perhaps you’re looking for a nice before and after view right down the middle. With the horizontal split-screen view in Lightroom, you can do just that.

To access this view, press the arrow beside the Y|Y icon and select “Before/After Left/Right Split.”

You can also press Shift + Y on both Mac and PC. With this shortcut, you may end up in the side-by-side view, but by pressing this shortcut twice, it will switch over to a split-screen view instead.

Just as with the side-by-side view, the before image will be on the left, with the after image on the right of the split.

– Horizontal Split Screen Before And After

If you need a split-screen before and after in Lightroom, but the vertical view isn’t floating your boat, a horizontal split-screen will do just the trick.

To access this view, press the arrow before the Y|Y icon in the toolbar and press “Before/After Top/Bottom Split.”

To get to this view with a keyboard shortcut, press Option + Y (Mac) or Alt + Y (PC).

You might have noticed that this shortcut is the same as the top and bottom before and after view. However, if you had previously selected the top/bottom split option manually, this shortcut will automatically go to this same view.

If this shortcut takes you into the standard top and bottom view, press Shift + Y to toggle to the horizontal split-screen view instead.

Can You Slide Before & After Previews In Lightroom?

Lightroom does not have sliding before and after previews available in the program. Instead, you will have to use the Left/Right Split option by pressing Shift + Y. This offers a before and after preview going down the center of your image, but it cannot slide back and forth.

As tempting as it may seem with the horizontal and vertical split-screen options, Lightroom has yet to make it available. In other programs such as Luminar, this feature is included. So if this missing feature ruins Lightroom for you, perhaps it’s time to look for another program.

Ok, maybe we are being a bit dramatic…

How To View Lightroom Before And Afters In Full Screen

To view the before and after of your edit in full screen, right-click on your image and choose Create Virtual Copy. Select the virtual copy image and press Command/Control + Shift + R to reset it. Press F on your keyboard to full screen and use the arrow keys to toggle the before and after images. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to use the previous shortcuts you learned while in the full screen viewing mode of Lightroom. Instead, you need to use a workaround that involves creating a virtual copy.

In short, a virtual copy creates a duplicate of your file, but only inside of Lightroom. The actual file itself does not get duplicated on your computer, so you don’t need to worry about storage space!

First, right-click on your edited image and choose “Create Virtual Copy.” An exact duplicate of your image will be created that can be found directly beside the original image in your toolbar.

Select the newly created virtual copy and reset it by clicking on the Reset button beneath the editing panels. You can also press Command + Shift + R (Mac) or Control + Shift + R (PC) to reset the virtual copy back to the original state as well. This will take off all of the edits you added and reset it back to the original image.

You will have two duplicate images, one version with your edit, and a virtual copy serving as the before image. To full screen your image, press F on your keyboard or go to Window > Screen Mode > Full Screen Preview.

Before image in full screen preview.

With the image displayed in full screen, press the left or right arrow keys to toggle between your before (the virtual copy) and the after images. With the arrow keys, you are switching between the two photos in your filmstrip.

After in full screen preview mode.

To exit full screen mode, press F once again on your keyboard. If you no longer need the virtual copy, you can delete it by selecting it and pressing the delete key.

How To Change The Before State Of A Photo In Lightroom

To change the before state of an image in Lightroom, first access the History panel. Choose a history state you wish to use, click on it, then press the “Copy After’s Settings To Before” button in the toolbar. Now select the most recent history state to reset the After image to its final look.

With that said, there is a little bit to elaborate on to make this process a little bit clearer. I’ll also get into another way of changing the before look of an image with the help of snapshots in Lightroom.

– Using The History Panel

To start things off, enter your desired before and after view in Lightroom with any of the methods you learned earlier. In this case, I’ll press Y to toggle the side by side before and after.

Now open your History panel, which can be found on the left side of your screen. Inside this panel is all of the adjustments you’ve made to your edit since you began, including exporting. By clicking on any of these history states, your after image will change to this particular stage in the editing process.

For now, find a history state that you want to use as your before image.

With a history state chosen, press the Copy After’s Settings To Before button found within the toolbar. This will copy the current state of your after image onto your before. Now you will have two matching images based on the history state you chose previously.

Going back to the History panel, select the most recent history state at the very top of the list to change your after image back to its most recent edited version.

Your before image will show the old history state you just copied over, while the after image will display the most current version of the photo. This is an easy way to change the before state of a photo in Lightroom, even if you forgot to create snapshots.

– Using Snapshots

Snapshots are a great way to quickly access previous history states without searching through the history panel. By creating a series of snapshots, you can quickly toggle between different editing stages to use as your before image.

You can create a snapshot while you edit by clicking on the plus icon in the snapshots panel to create a new snapshot. Set a name that you’re happy with and click create.

Your new snapshot will appear in the snapshots panel that saves that particular stage in your edit quick access later on.

As a second option, you can create snapshots from history states as well. By right-clicking your desired history state, select Create Snapshot to save that history state as a new snapshot. The goal here is to create a snapshot to use as a new before comparison for your current Lightroom edit.

Now it’s time to use your snapshots to change the before state of the before and after preview. By pressing Y to access the before and after preview, right-click on your snapshot and choose “Copy Snapshot Settings To Before.” This applies your snapshot settings onto the before image for easy comparison with the current edit!

Snapshots are handy for changing the before image in Lightroom, and it’s worthwhile to create one for any major step in your edit. For example, you could create a snapshot after brightening adjustments, another one after color adjustments, and a third after selective adjustments. This way, it’s easy to compare your photo to any stage in the editing process.

Before And After Keyboard Shortcuts In Lightroom (List)

The before and after keyboard shortcuts in Lightroom are:

  1. \ – View Before Image Only
  2. Y – Before/After Side By Side
  3. Option/Alt + Y – Before/After Top/Bottom
  4. Shift + Y – Before/After Split

As a final viewing option to go along with these 4 shortcuts, you can also press Shift + Tab to hide all panels. This is an alternative workaround to the full screen preview method I mentioned previously. Although you don’t technically get a “full” screen, it does a great job enlarging your images while in any of these before and after previews.

Before And After Not Working In Lightroom – How To Fix

If the before and after preview is not working in Lightroom, make sure that you are in the Develop Module. To access it, click “Develop” in the upper bar or press D on your keyboard. Now press Y on your keyboard to toggle the before and after of your image. 

When you are working in any other Lightroom module such as Library, Map, Book, Slideshow, etc., before and after previews are not available. Instead, they can only be accessed while in the Develop Module.

Once inside the Develop Module, you can click on the Y|Y icon in the toolbar to toggle the before and after manually. If this toolbar is not visible, press T on your keyboard to bring it back into view.

With these simple tips, you can quickly solve any before and after issues you have in Lightroom.

How To See Before And After In Lightroom Mobile

To see the before and after in Lightroom Mobile, click and hold on your photo to toggle the “Before” image. After letting go, your photo will automatically switch back to the “After” version of the image. You can do this multiple times to go back and forth between before and after previews quickly.

Unlike Lightroom desktop, viewing before and afters in Lightroom Mobile is far more straightforward. The caveat to this is fewer preview options, such as the side-by-side or top and bottom displays found in Lightroom desktop.

Now you know everything there is to know about seeing the before and after of a photo in Lightroom or Lightroom Mobile. All that’s left is to start making your edits look better than ever with some eye-catching adjustments.

To help you quickly make your photos stand out from the crowd, check out Photo Editing Unlocked to learn the secrets behind professional-looking images in Lightroom!

Happy Editing,

Brendan 🙂

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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