#CreativeFriday – Before and After preview in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop CC

Today’s blog is a deep dive into the new Before and After preview mode that has been available inside Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), within Photoshop CC. The before and after preview enhancement options where added to ACR inside Photoshop CC as part of the 8.4 ACR update.

This option is a welcomed feature and it’s extremely handy have this in the ACR panel. It means that adjustments can be reviewed against the original file or another base line effect. This feature also extends itself to the snapshots option within ACR (covered as part of this post).

Of course the before and after preview doesn’t only add value to the Photographer and RAW photographs, but also to any other users when using the Camera Raw as a Filter, which was added into Photoshop CC. The Camera RAW (ACR) as a filter option allows the powerful Camera raw adjustments to be used on anything inside Photoshop CC (including Layers, JPG, TIFF, Groups, video clips/sequences, 3D and many other combinations).

The example below will provide a deep dive in to all of the options available as part of the preview feature, what the options do and how it can be used in the real world. We will also cover how it works with snapshots for comparing adjustments to other snapshots.

The picture below was taken in a monastery in Bhutan, and I know there is some shadow information that I would like to show, and this can be achieved using the Shadow recovery in ACR (the same as Lightroom). As the image is being modified, the changes can be previewed against the original, as well as comparing an effect or a preset to another preset once I am happy with the ACR adjustments. Then I can really see which effect suits the image the best.


The bottom left of the image is a little dark, so the shadows can be opened up by using the shadow slider in combination with the Gradient tool. The Gradient tool is pulled into the frame from the lower left of the image and more detail is revealed.

Notice on the screen shot below that the tools now show the mask that is created by using the gradient, and an option to change the colour of the mask is available (marked in Red below).


The mask is turned off by unchecking the mask check box, which makes it easier to see the effect (marked red above).

To see the before and after preview the “before and after preview button” at the base of the image (marked red below), can be pressed (or by pressing the Q key). The previews that are available are on a cyclic view, which is enabled with multiple presses of the preview button, or by pressing the Q key multiple times. The previews that will be displayed as part of the cycle are available for configuration through the options that have been selected on the preview preferences panel. You can access the preview preferences by holding a right click on the preview button (marked red) and a small pop up box will appear (marked blue).


Once the preview preferences option has been selected a small panel will be displayed (as shown below)


The cycle preview modes option provides a way to have the preferred previews shown when cycling through the before and after preview views, meaning that if you like only Top/Bottom side-by-side view as your preview, selecting only this will show this view when the preview button is pressed (marked red above), or the Q key is pressed. The Draw items panel determines how the splits are shown on the screen and if the before and after labels are displayed (examples discussed within this post).

Each view is shown in the following screen shots.

Left/Right side-by-side


Left Right Split view

6 Top/Bottom side-by-side

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Top/Bottom split view


The view of the split screen or side by side views can be modified to your liking within the preview preferences panel (shown below). The Divider in side by side view (in preview preferences, marked in red below), this refers to the dividing line (marked red in both cases in the screen shot below), and shows a solid black line between the two images.

The Panel labels (marked blue) will label up each side of the view with before and after.


The following screen shot shows that you can select just one preview view.


Of course the before and after preview comes into it’s own once you zoom in and use the hand tool to explore and compare specific areas of the scene (marked red below).



Snapshots are available in the area marked in red below and will be empty on the first instance of opening Camera RAW (ACR). The are two distinct ways of using the snapshots. One is to create the look manually using the tools inside ACR, then create the snapshot to record the adjustment. Or a to use a preset adjustment and create a stored snapshot item to record a certain effect.


Using Presets

Moving to the snapshot panel (marked Orange below), will revel a fly out menu (marked Blue). In the screen shot below, the cursor is hovering over Apply preset. This means that any preset in ACR (marked pink), can be selected and applied this to the image. Once a preset has been selected (VSCO presets are used in this example, they available from https://vsco.co). The snapshot button (marked in Brown), will record this effect against a user defined name (marked Yellow), this will record the snapshot save it in the snapshot list. In this case the name is the same as the preset chosen (this will help me remember the preset that was used to achieve a certain effect).


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You can repeat this action of applying presets and saving as a snapshot as many times as is required.


N.B. If the original layer has been converted to a smart object (either from Lightroom or when the file was opened from ACR in the first place), the presets will be stored in the .PSD/.TIFF file. This procedure will create a re-editable ACR configuration which means the adjustments made in ACR are non destructive and can re-edited again and again, even when the file is closed and re-opened as a .PSD or a .TIFF.


Adjustments as snapshots

Presets are not the only way that snapshots can be used, adjustments that are made within the ACR tools (radial filter, gradients, brushes, exposure etc), can be saved as a snapshots as well.

Once the snapshots have been applied you can then cycle through them and see how they are different from the original image/before the snapshot was applied, and compare the different effects.


This is shown in the video below


You may wish to compare a selection of snapshots against a specific snapshot.

To achieve this, choose the snapshot that you would like to use as the before image, then press the “copy current settings to before “ buton (or pressing alt/option and P keys), marked in red below. This will make the before image the same as the current snapshot. Then the other snapshot can then be compared to this version


See the video below to see this in action


Hopefully this has given you a deeper understanding of using the new preview buttons and options in Camera Raw ACR 8.4.



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3 Responses to #CreativeFriday – Before and After preview in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop CC

  1. Steve Strike says:

    Terrible mistake Adobe to remove the original preview button. It was a highly efficient tool very fast for checking all manner of corrections in an instant as a toggle on/off option.

    Many photographers use laptops to do instant editing in the field to show clients potential options, the split screen options just don’t cut it on a laptop.

    Sorry Adobe you have destroyed one of the most valuable and efficient tools ever in Photoshop.

  2. Steve Strike says:

    Sorry I jumped the gun here…. If i un-tick all the options in the preview preference panel…… does the centre split pane preview button now work in the same fashion as the old “preview” button?

    • rcurtis says:

      Hi Steve.

      I hope you have found that the functionality of the previous version still exists if you press the ‘P’ key.