Lightroom: Virtual Copies

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

Lightroom has this great feature: Virtual Copies

What’s a virtual copy?

  • It’s a copy of an existing photo, but that copy does not exist on the hard drive. The virtual copy of the photo only exists in Lightroom.
  • You can have as many virtual copies of a photo as you want. I have done more than 10 virtual copies of a single photo.

Why use virtual copies?

We all know that Lightroom makes non-destructive edits. This means that Lightroom does not change the original photo that is imported. Lightroom only keeps track of all the changes you do, and applies these changes every time that you view or use that photo. There is no right or wrong way of processing a photo. There are so many variations. I often show the customer, and each one will be a virtual copy:

  • Different crops
  • Different colour saturation
  • Different effects
  • B & W versus colour
  • Pick/flag per collection

After doing all these virtual copies, you can still change the master photo without affecting the virtual copies. Also, you can compare your virtual copies by switching to the Library mode, selecting your virtual copies and switching to the Survey View.

Creating a virtual copy

  • Select a photo
  • Photo > Create Virtual Copy

Lightroom: Create a virtual copy

Lightroom: Create a virtual copy

  • The virtual copy will have the bottom left corner folded

Lightroom: virtual copy indicator

Lightroom: virtual copy indicator

  • You can make all of your modifications and processing on the virtual copy.

Creating collections

If you want to have multiple versions for the photo for different markets or different customers, you can create a collection, and only add the virtual copy to the collection, instead of the actual photo.

Lightroom: Create a collection of only virtual copies

Lightroom: Create a collection of only virtual copies

Lightroom will create a new Collection which contains only virtual copies. You can then work on these virtual copies without affecting the original photo. I use this mainly to apply different presets, such as HDR look-a-like or Gritty look…

When deleting a virtual copy, there is NO warning. Lightroom does not ask you if you are sure and want to continue.