Lightroom: How To Create Virtual Copies of Photos

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom allows users to adjust, add effects or manipulate photos similar to the more expensive standard Photoshop.  Besides being able to edit photos, Lightroom also allows users to create virtual copies of photos, allowing users to see what types of adjustments have been made to the photo in the past.

Step 1: Understanding Virtual Copies

Virtual copies are not real copies. Instead, these are just copies of the metadata associated with the adjustments to the settings of the original photo. This metadata is stored in the photo catalog. Before ever making adjustments to a photo, users need to create a virtual copy of the original. There is no limit to the number of virtual copies that can be made. Users can even make the original a virtual copy or make a virtual copy of the original photo.

Virtual copies can be seen when users are either in the Grid view or viewing the Filmstrip feature. The original photo is usually listed first in the sequence of thumbnails. Virtual copies will all have page-turn icons in the lower left-hand corner of the thumbnail.

Step 2: How to Create Virtual Copies

Users can create virtual copies by following the below procedures. In the Filmstrip feature, users should follow the below steps:

  1. Click on several photos within the Filmstrip.
  2. Then, users should right-click in the Windows Operating System or do Control-click in Mac Operating System on one of the photos.
  3. To create multiple virtual copies of photos, users should select Create Virtual Copies of These Photos from the drop-down menu.

If users are in the Grid view, they'll follow the same steps, but virtual copies will be made of a group of photos as opposed to one or two photos. If users are having issues creating virtual copies in the Grid view, the images may be in a collapsed stack, which means that the stacks need to be expanded. This can be done by following the below steps:

  1. Go to the Photo tab.
  2. Then, go to Stacking, and then Expand All Stacks.

Users should now be able to create virtual copies. If not, the photos might be filtered, which means that users should try displaying as something different. Now, users should be able to see all the virtual copies next to the original copy. If users want to make one of the copies the "master" or main copy, they can follow the below procedures:

  1. Go into the Library module.
  2. Users should pick the copy that they wish to turn into a master.
  3. Go to Photo, and then hit Set Copy as Master.

Now, the virtual copy is the master copy.

Step 3: Why Create Virtual Copies?

Virtual copies will retain all the metadata of all changes that have been made to an original photo. If users are doing a number of adjustments, this will keep track of all the adjustments that have been made. This could be useful if further down the line, the user decides to make a previous adjustment permanent. They don't have to try and remember what they did.