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An Overview of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s History Panel

December 16, 2008 | | Comments 5

Lightroom History Panel

The History panel is, to me, the unsung hero of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The breakthrough killer feature, if you will. Think about this with me. As long as an image is in Lightroom, every edit you make on it is infinitely un-doable and re-doable. Every black and white conversion, every crop, every dust and spot removal, every brush stroke…everything…is stored in a database of changes and can be undone at any point down the road. Wow!

Unlike its more powerful (and more complicated) companion, Photoshop, each change made to an image in Lightroom is only stored as a small set of instructions. These instructions tell Lightroom how to show the image to us when we are viewing it (that’s why the edits we make in Lightroom are visible to us) and how to process it when we export it for some external use (further editing in Photoshop, printing, emailing to a friend, posting on a web gallery, etc.). For more information on non-destructive editing, please read David’s recent post on Understanding Lightroom’s Nondestructive Image Enhancement System.

All of these editing changes are listed in the History panel. The panel is located on the left side of the Develop Module. If it is closed, you can show it by clicking on or next to the word “History” or with the keyboard shortcut Cmd+Ctrl+3 on a Mac (Ctrl+Shift+3 on a PC).

Click next to History to open the History Panel

Click next to History to open the History Panel

If you’ve made any changes to your image in Lightroom, you’ll see a list of each change you’ve made in the History panel. You most recent change will be listed at the top, and your first changes will be at the bottom. The very first step (at the bottom), or the only step if you’ve yet to make any changes to your image, will say “Import ([Date and Time])”. As you can imagine, clicking on that step will return your image to the way it was when you first brought it into Lightroom.

The first step in the History panel

The first step in the History panel

As you mouse over the steps in the History panel, you should see a preview of what that stage in your history would look like in the Navigator panel. Check out this article for more on the Navigator panel. If you click on that history step, your image will change to what looked like at that stage in your developing. To go back to the way your image was, click on the top history step or tap Cmd/Ctrl-Z to undo the history state change.

To clear all of your history steps, click the X at the top of the History panel. (If you accidentally clear the history, you can tap Cmd/Ctrl-Z immediately afterwords to undo.) Keep in mind, however, that there’s no compelling reason for you to clear the History panel, it’s really not hurting anything.

Click the X to clear all steps in the History panel.

Click the X to clear all steps in the History panel.

Unlike Photoshop’s history which is stored in the RAM (your computer’s temporary storage location), Lightroom’s history is stored in the Lightroom database. This means that extra history steps won’t really slow down your computer and they can be stored indefinitely. When you quit Lightroom and come back, your History steps are still there.

There a couple of other neat features that are History panel-related, but they deserve their own articles. Coming very soon:

Here’s a short video that reviews the features of the History panel:


An Overview of the Lightroom History Panel from Scott Rouse on Vimeo.

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Filed Under: (05) Lightroom Image Enhancement (Basic)Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorials

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About the Author: Scott Rouse is an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE), photographer, teacher, and graphic- and web-designer in Missoula, MT. His photography focuses on wildlife and adventure sports and can be viewed at ScottRousePhotography.com. His design and consulting work can be seen at ScottRouseDigital.com.