Lightroom Tips

Tip – Unlimited Undos

Most of you use Photoshop right? That means you’re probably used to the fact that Photoshop gives you 20 undos by default. So if you do more then 20 things to your photo, Photoshop drops the earlier ones and you’ll eventually not be able to undo (you’d basically have to start over if you needed to get back). Now you can change that in Photoshop’s Performance preferences but what about Lightroom? How does it handle undos? It’s easy actually. Every single thing you do is tracked in the History panel (in the Develop module). Whether you’ve made 5 changes or 500 they’ll all be listed there. Even better, when you close Photoshop, all of our undos go away. But when you close Lightroom they stay put. Even if you opened Lightroom to work on a photo a year later, when you come back you’ll always be able to undo what you did in that History panel. Go check it out next time you work on a photo that’s been in your library for a while and you’ll see what I mean.

Take care everyone and have a great weekend!



  1. Mark 2 February, 2009 at 00:43 Reply

    Matt: Just further clarification. When I converted the catalog from Version 1 to version 2, the resulting image in version 2 was the image containing all the changes done in version 1 develop mode, but with no history other than the import date (which was the date of the conversion – not the import date of the original file). Then, if you wanted to restore the file to it’s original, as-shot state, you click on Reset while it is selected and in the develop module.


  2. Howard Ignatius 1 February, 2009 at 15:52 Reply

    I think Nicholas was taking the filter of Meta data one step further by actually sorting photos by Focal length used – relating focal length to quality of images, etc. – and from that data you derive an understanding of your style that would tell you which lenses to purchase. Your tip would work if he always used primes but if you used say a general purpose zoom, like Nikon’s 18-200mm, and would like to know which focal lengths between 18-200 predominated most of your photography – perhaps to select a prime lens – then having access to a focal length filter would provide some insight. Maybe Nicholas can elaborate on that so I can understand it better myself.

    I do have a tip request. Maybe you can cover the uses for “Copy History Step Setting to Before”, “Copy After’s Setting to Before”, Copy Before’s Settings to After and Swap Before and After. I’m still trying to figure how to use these. You have a video on how to take a snapshot of history but I was unable to find one that covers the above.

    Thanks! Keep up the good work! Are you going to the Super Bowl today!

  3. Matt Kloskowski 1 February, 2009 at 13:08 Reply

    Dilip – Not that I know of.

    Nicholas – You could go into the Library module and click on All Photographs on the left side. Then go to your Filter Bar, Go to Metadata and use the “Lens” option to see what lenses were most popular.

    Erol – You can’t protect the images from accidentally changing ratings. But it’s a great idea!

    Irene – Actually it is a true undo. Every single history state is kept in the Develop module. You can undo back as long as or much as you want. Notice, I never said “Just hit Ctrl/Cmd – Z” to undo. You are correct, that would take into account module changes and such. All you have to do is look in the History panel and click on the History state you want. Just because it doesn’t use the keyboard shortcut doesn’t mean it’s not a true undo.

    Mark – That’s really interesting actually. I haven’t been able to confirm this but if what you say is true then that’s definitely an issue.


  4. Mark 1 February, 2009 at 09:14 Reply

    Matt: While your tip is true, it isn’t when we had to switch between Lightroom 1.* and 2.0. If you recall, you had to let lightroom “convert” the catalog, now all my history is gone and it just gives an import date. However, if I wanted to start with the original imagea again in Develop, I would click on “reset”. So, all the work I have done on my images in version 1 of lightroom have vanished after the conversion to version 2. This is something the techs need to take into consideration when a future major change is made to the program.

  5. Patrick De Smet 1 February, 2009 at 09:08 Reply

    @Irene Strow (and others):

    1. The plus and minus signs you see in Matt’s screenshot of the History panel are the values of the adjustments made to that particular element of the Develop module (e.g. Vibrance +10).

    2. Matt’s tip about “Unlimited Undos” is obviously presuming that one is working on a photo in the Develop Module.

  6. jakob 31 January, 2009 at 12:32 Reply

    AS more u can do with a program as more u want to take it a step further, just be happy with what u got. Lightroom is perfect now by ver 2. Just ask yourself: Are u a photographer or software developer? Other problems?

  7. Dennis Manhart 31 January, 2009 at 11:12 Reply

    I love the history but wish that I could turn on or off so that I could undo something three steps back without undoing the latest changes. For example, i may want to undo a sharpening change or contrast change by simply turning it off in the history. Maybe this is something that could be added in the form of an on or off to the left of the item in the history pallet.


  8. Irene Strow 30 January, 2009 at 22:13 Reply


    This is not a true undo – on a per image basis. If you choose Undo (Ctrl + Z) you will get the last thing you did in all of Lightroom undone, such as changing modules or changing pictures. You will not get an undo for the image that happens to be open. Or is there an option I can change to make Lightroom act differently?

    Or is this different on a Mac?

    Please explain how you would undo any item you show in your image at the top of this tip, such as Color Noise Reduction.

    And what are the little + and – characters on the right of each History item? I do not have this on my version of Windows Lightroom 2.2

    You definitely need to explain this in more detail – soon! Thanks.

  9. Erol Diener 30 January, 2009 at 17:14 Reply

    Hey guys.
    I have e important question. I have no idea how to do it!

    How can I protect my ratings from unwanted changes?
    Some times I recognize that all different ratings in a folder has changed to one and the same rating for all pictures. I think I did press one of the numbers from 1 to 5 on my keyboard when all pictures was selected for a change (e.g. set a keyword to all pix).
    Is there any chance to protect my ratings from this disaster?


  10. Dilip Barman 30 January, 2009 at 13:51 Reply

    That’s one of the big wins of LR – it is just maintaining a “recipe” of changes, and doesn’t touch the original. I wonder if it’s possible to access the date/time of items in the history list. I thought of this a few days ago as I wanted to undo something but couldn’t remember what rather subtle halftoning changes I had just done as opposed to the previous day.

  11. saintneko 30 January, 2009 at 12:57 Reply

    Good thing disk space is pretty much becoming unlimited – though with LR it’s probably easier than Photoshop since there isn’t as many potentially complex manipulations (though I’m very new to the program so if I’m completely wrong and there’s all sorta layering, masking, compositing and live filtering available please don’t sue me… though why they’d duplicate that in both photoshop, elements and lightroom is beyond me) and they are mostly applied to a whole image. I noticed that Photoshop CS4 basically does away with the need for history on a lot more actions now as the adjustments pallet just creates a new layer in your document, making “undo” as simple as deactivating the layer.

    Cheers mate, and thanks for running an awesome site.

    That said, Lightroom is an absolute f’ing wonder for managing shoots and almost everything I need to do for 99% of images (I just wish I could figure out if they’re hiding the “save for web and devices” imageready functions in there somewhere – I’ve come to highly prefer that to “save as” after hating it from version 5.5 to CS2 :D).I suspect I’ll tumble across that or something like it any day now (and if not PSCS4 64bit load *so* fast it’s not even an issue of convenience, just one or two less keystrokes in my workflow).

  12. Nick 30 January, 2009 at 12:30 Reply

    I go OFF TOPIC with a simple question: is it possibile, in Lightroom to straighten a photo while having it enlarged?
    I need to watch carefully some elements in the image, and I’d like to go 100% or more…


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