Today’s Question: While following your instructions about the before and after view options in Lightroom Classic, I noticed the Reference View button next to the before and after button. What is the difference between these view options, and do you recommend using Reference View?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The Reference View in Lightroom Classic enables you to apply adjustments to one image while simultaneously viewing another image alongside the image you’re working on. This can be helpful when you want to make an image appear similar to another photo, for example.
More Detail: The Reference View option is similar to the Before/After view option, except that with Reference View you are comparing the current image to a different image, rather than seeing the current image without adjustments applied to it.
Reference View is helpful when you want to adjust an image to make it look similar to another image, or you otherwise simply want to be able to reference a different photo while applying adjustments to an image.
To get started click the Reference View button on the toolbar below the image preview area in the Develop module. This is the button that has an “R” and an “A” on it, for “Reference” and “Active”. You can cycle between a Reference View with the two images side-by-side, or above and below each other.
Initially there won’t be a reference photo, so you will see an indication that you can drag-and-drop a photo into the Reference area in order to use that image as a reference. As you apply adjustments, only the Active photo will be updated, with the Reference photo remaining unchanged. In other words, the Reference photo is truly there just to refer to while applying adjustments to the Active photo.
You can change the current Reference photo by simply dragging a different photo into the Reference area. Note that if you switch out of the Develop module, by default the Reference photo will be removed, so that the Reference area is empty next time you return to the Develop module. You can prevent this “reset” by toggling the lock icon to appear locked to the right of the Reference Photo. Simply click on the icon of the lock to switch between having the current Reference photo locked versus unlocked. This lock feature only relates to whether the Reference photo will reset when you switch out of the Develop module.