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Photography and Photoshop Tutorials
Using the Photoshop History Palette and Snapshots Effectively...
Or, whos your friend baby...

The photoshop history is a beautiful thing… If anything has your back as a photo editor this is it!

I recommend going into the Photoshop Preferences and setting the number of history states up to at least 100. This is how many changes you can undo and as one click on a brush is a change it is good to have this number set to something higher then the default.

Setting this too high can impact your performance so it is wise to be cool and not just set it to something irrational.

Here is a quick breakdown of the different parts of the history palette.

Photoshop History Palette


The most current step is at the bottom of the list. The current image state is indicated by the blue current state indicator widget. If you click on a step that is not the last the actions after that step will be undone and they will appear greyed out. If you continue editing at this point they will be erased from the history and your current actions will be recorded.

If you have non liner history turned on you will be able to drag a single step into the trash without disturbing the rest of the list, you can set this in the palette options dialog. A good example of this is if you move a layer by accident and continue with the edit for a few minutes before you hit the OMG what happenned point.

The dark underbelly of the non-linear history is that it will always add new actions after the last step so I always have it turned off until I need to delete a non-linear step.

The History palette’s options dialog is accessed from the palettes sub-menu. This sub-menu is on the upper right corner of the dialog.

Photoshop History Options Dialog

I like to set it as follows:

Automatically Create First Snapshot: ON

This will make an initial snapshot of the open state. This is very useful in comparing the current state of your edit to where you started.

Automatically Create New Snapshot When Saving: ON

Creates a new snapshot of each save. These are good place markers if you forget to make a snapshot every-so-often.

Allow Non-Linear History: OFF

Allows you to delete a history step without deleting all subsequent steps. I generally have this off except when I want to delete a step from the middle. If this is the case I turn it on and then off again.

Show New Snapshot Dialog By Default: OFF

This gives you the choice of naming snapshots or not, it will auto name the automatically generated ones and name the rest Snapshot 1 etc.

You can rename a snapshot by double clicking on the name.

Make Layer Visibility Changes Undoable: OFF

Changing layer visibility is a non-destructive change so I don’t like it in my history.

* * *

Once you have learned the parts of the History palette you will rapidly find ways to leverage it in editing photographs.

One of my standard tactics is to make a snapshot prior to making a change that I am unsure of, make the change and another snapshot.

Then I can flip between the pre-change state and the post-change state with a single click to see if I am achieving my goal or simply making a mess of it…

Here is an action set that uses the snapshots to preview different B&W renditions using the channel mixer. This is in a zip file so you will have to unzip it prior to loading the action set.

Download B&W Renditions Action Set

Run the "CM Snaps LAB Lightness" action and then look in the history palette. You will find a set of snapshots that give you some basic different settings of the channel mixer.

By flipping through these snapshots you can rapidly determine which of the states makes the B&W conversion of your image look best.

There are 3 actions in the set, one is straight ahead RGB channel mixer settings, the next does that with the addition of a LAB Luminance layer snapshot which is diffefent from the RGB renditions and the third is the Luminance snapshot only.

I find that often adding the Luminance layer on top of a B&W conversion and adjusting the layer transparency you can add some sparkle to the highlights.

Try making snapshots as you work. You will definitely find them to be helpful but... remember to make a snapshot before selecting an older snapshot to allow you to get back to your latest edit easily.



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Web Site by Cooksey-Talbott Studio

Fine art photography of California by master nature photographer Cooksey-Talbott. Hundreds of beautiful photographs are displayed for sale online as raw or ready to hang images.

Cooksey-Talbott Gallery is an online gallery of nature photographs. The collection includes pictures of the High Sierra, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Yosemite, Trinity Alps, Sonora Pass, Santa Barbara Hills, East Bay Hills and Garin Park as well as hundreds of different waterfalls. Legacy images are from medium and large format film taken with the Mamiya RB-67 and a variety of 4x5 view cameras. Some of the more recent work is shot with a Nikon D200, Canon 5D Mark II and the Sony A7r.

We offer archival quality prints in a wide range of sizes and media. We print on a heavy art papers and canvas using a Canon iPF8300 44 inch 12 color printer with pigmented inks. Our images are first party prints made directly by the artist. Prints are signed and numbered and include a Certificate of Authenticity.

Ralph Cooksey-Talbott Thomas has been working as a photographer since 1972 when he moved to California from Michigan. During the 1970’s he studied under Ansel Adams in Yosemite. Ansel published one of his photographs in the portfolio section of his book "Polaroid Land Photography" Ansel and Orah Moore, another of Ansel’s students, suggested that he shorten his name to Cooksey-Talbott, and that is the name he has worked under since. Cooksey also studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the San Francisco Academy of Art. He has lectured in photography at the U.C. Berkeley Extension, Studio One in Oakland and Santa Barbara City College. Cooksey is currently working as a photographer and facilitating which is a monthly photo walk that meets up in Niles California.