[2024] How To Snapshot In After Effects - 3 Easy Steps

In the dynamic world of motion graphics, understanding the intricacies of After Effects is paramount. One feature that often eludes both novices and seasoned professionals alike is the art of capturing the perfect screenshot or snapshot. Believe me, mastering this seemingly simple task can elevate the quality of your work and streamline your workflow.

February 11, 2024
[2024] How To Snapshot In After Effects - 3 Easy Steps
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Adobe After Effects How To Take Screenshot

Screenshots and snapshots, though often used interchangeably, serve distinct purposes in After Effects. Whether you're looking to save a frame for external use or capture a momentary reference within your composition, knowing the difference and the process is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into:

  • The fundamental differences between screenshots and snapshots.
  • A step-by-step walkthrough on capturing and utilizing both.
  • Pro tips to enhance your efficiency and elevate your After Effects game.

Snapshots vs. Screenshots: What's the Difference?


What are they? Snapshots are temporary captures of a single frame within your composition. Think of them as quick references.

How are they stored? They reside in your computer's memory. You can't export or use them outside of After Effects.

Why use them? They're perfect for internal comparisons, especially when you're tweaking animations and need to compare changes.


What are they? Screenshots, on the other hand, are actual saved files of a particular frame.

How are they stored? They're saved to a location of your choice on your computer.

Why use them? They're ideal for external use, sharing, or importing into other software like Photoshop.

Capturing and Utilizing Snapshots

Selecting the Frame:

  1. Drag your time indicator to the frame you wish to capture.
  2. Click on the Photo Camera icon or, better yet, use the shortcut (Shift-F5). You'll hear a shutter sound, indicating the snapshot has been taken.

Viewing the Snapshot:

  1. Move your time indicator to a different frame.
  2. Click on the snapshot icon or use the shortcut (Hold F5 and release). You'll see the snapshot you took for comparison.

Managing Snapshots:

  • After Effects allows you to store up to four snapshots. To clear them, navigate to Edit > Purge > Snapshot. Believe me, it's a good practice to clear them out periodically to free up memory.

Exporting Screenshots: A Detailed Walkthrough

Positioning the Frame:

  • First, position your time indicator on the frame you wish to export. This is crucial as it determines which frame gets saved.

Navigating to Save Options:

  1. Head to Composition > Save Frame As…
  2. Here, you'll encounter two options: 'File' and 'Photoshop Layers'. For most users, 'File' is the go-to option. It allows you to save in popular formats like JPG, PNG, and TIFF.

Adjusting Settings:

  1. By default, the image will be saved as a PSD. But, in a nutshell, if you want a different format, click on the blue text next to the ‘Output Module’. This opens up a menu where you can select your desired format.
  2. Rename your image and specify where you want it saved on your computer.


  • Now, the fun part. Click the Render button. In my experience, After Effects is pretty swift, and it shouldn't take more than a few seconds to process your screenshot.

Pro Tips for an Efficient Workflow

FX Console Plugin: If you ask me, this is a game-changer. This free plugin by Video Copilot lets you capture screenshots with a single click. It's seriously a massive time-saver, especially when you're working on extensive projects.

Setting Up Image Presets: For those who frequently export frames, setting up render presets is a lifesaver. You can save, share, and even sync these with your Creative Cloud account. It's all about efficiency, and this step ensures you're always ready to go.

The PSD Consideration: A quick heads-up - when exporting to PSD, there might be slight variations when you open the file in Photoshop. This is due to the differences in effects or transfer modes between the two platforms. So, always double-check your PSDs.