Lightroom Tips

What's a Lightroom "Snapshot"

During a recent workshop I had some one ask what a Snapshot was (its a panel on the left side in the Develop module). Then everyone else kinda chimed in with a “yeah what the heck is that?”. They don’t get used a lot, but I think they definitely do come in useful at times.

Basically, a snapshot is a freeze-frame of your photo at that moment in time. It’s a way to save all of your develop settings at a certain point in case you ever wanted to revert back to them. So let’s say you’re working on a photo. You’re pretty happy with the way the photo looks but you want to try a couple of other things as well. Sure, you could create a virtual copy (here’s a video on how to do that) and try things out on the copy but I find virtual copies better for when you want to compare two different versions of a photo. If I just want to experiment but want an easy way back, create a snapshot first, and have at it. Experiment away, knowing that you can get back to your happy place (the exact settings where you created the snapshot) with just one click in the Snapshots panel.

That’s my story for the day. Have a good one.



  1. Alvin 20 June, 2011 at 12:32 Reply

    Will my develop settings be saved automatically (if I have the “write changes automtaically into XMP” on), even if I don’t use snapshots?

    That is, say I transfer my photos to another computer along with the xmp file. If I don’t have any snapshots written, will I still be able to see my develop settings? This will save me an extra step, as I have been creating snapshots for every image I tweak, in fear that the XMP file will not “save” it without a snapshot… is this true?

  2. Carlos 28 September, 2010 at 11:11 Reply

    Great explanation, it was ages since the last time I used lightroom and I’m getting up to date quickly thanks to your tips. By the way, the virtual copies video is not working 🙁 since the comments are closed in the corresponding post, I’m commenting it here.

  3. Chris Bishop 30 November, 2009 at 20:40 Reply

    Snapshots can save a VC out to DNG and hence out of LR.
    VC’s are stuck inside LR.
    Get a VC to its final state and save it as a snapshot. this is then saved in the DNG and can be read by Bridge and I believe other programs as well??
    Chris Bishop

  4. ordinaryimages 11 November, 2009 at 15:54 Reply

    I Develop for both screen and print. After developing for Screen I hit Cmd/Ctrl + N to make a Snapshot titled Screen. Upon further developing for Print, [usually brighter] I make a Snapshot titled Print. I can choose either edit at a later date to fit the requirement without making a VC. To add tweaks done after the original Snapshot, hold Ctrl/Alt [right click] and hover over a Snapshot, then choose “Update with current settings”.

  5. Tony Hart 11 November, 2009 at 15:15 Reply

    Every single photo I edit gets a ‘Produced’ snapshot once it’s finished. This way I can quickly flick between what I shot, and what I ended up with after editing. It also gives me a starting point if I want to try different versions of an image. It’s a great feature and I’d be lost without it!

  6. Doug S 9 November, 2009 at 16:28 Reply

    Haha! I can’t believe it… This tip just made an extremely repetitive part of my workflow seem so ridiculous. I’m constantly flipping between two history states, then hitting the L twice to black everything out, and then Cmd-Z-ing and Cmd-Shift-Z-ing to see if my changes are for better or for worse.

    That was one sweet killer tip, Matt!

    And William Haun’s idea about the saving different crops is genius!


  7. Paul Weinrauch 6 November, 2009 at 14:57 Reply

    I love snapshots! Snapshots help me get out of my comfort zone and try something different without losing what I think looks good. I try never to be satisfied with OK. Snapshots allow me to push my art a little farther.

  8. Dennis Zito 6 November, 2009 at 09:40 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I knew about this from one of your previous trainings, but just lost site of it. I’m in a situation right now where this is a perfect solution! I guess I’m just trying to store too much stuff at one time in my brain! I guess I could use the fact that I’m going on 70 as an excuse. 🙂

    Thanks for all you do for us!


  9. William Haun 6 November, 2009 at 02:05 Reply

    I use snapshots all the time to save different crops of a photo. Since standard print sizes aren’t the same ratios (4×6, 5×7, 8×10,11×14, etc…) I use it to make it easy to export a photo for printing at a specific size when a client orders a print.

    I title each snapshot based on the ratio it is.

  10. Pierre 5 November, 2009 at 13:32 Reply

    I use this a lot. I name them with numbers, so that they get listed chronologically, sometime followed with a star (*) as well if it’s a candidate I like, before experimenting further. If I do a dramatic change after let say snapshot 9, I give the next snapshot number 20. That way I can still go back and tweak snapshot 9 and make new snapshots (10, 11…) from the snapshot 9 “branch” and keep the chronology in the snapshots.

  11. erik 5 November, 2009 at 11:32 Reply

    I use this feature all the time. It’s great for “saving” B&W and color versions of the same photo, or for saving different crops.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *