Today’s Question: A very basic question I know, but a friend and I cannot agree. She maintains that in Lightroom CC before you start any processing on an image in the Develop Module you should make a [virtual] copy and work on the copy so that the original is always there. I have never done that, believing that if I work on an image then if I want the original I can take a virtual copy and reset. In fact in my mind I still end up at the same point that she does. Which is the best way to go? And to settle a point please!
Tim’s Quick Answer: There is certainly no need to create a Virtual Copy for every photo you work on in the Develop module. To me, taking this approach simply creates unnecessary clutter, and doesn’t provide a significant advantage considering Lightroom’s non-destructive approach to photo editing.
More Detail: A Virtual Copy in Lightroom simply represents an additional set of adjustments for a given source photo. Those adjustments are always kept separate from the underlying source photo, which is why we describe Lightroom as providing a non-destructive workflow when editing images.
Creating a Virtual Copy before working on a photo would obviously provide you with the potential to have the source image represent the “before” version of the photo, while the Virtual Copy represents the “after” version of the photo. But you could also use the Before/After views in the Develop module to see what the image looked like before versus after applying all of your adjustments.
As noted in the question, it is also quite possible to create a Virtual Copy after you’ve applied adjustments to the source photo in Lightroom. You could then click the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module for either the source image or the Virtual Copy, so you would have the same net effect as though you had created a Virtual Copy before you got started.
Since you can create the same Virtual Copy after applying adjustments in the Develop module, my personal preference would certainly be to not create a Virtual Copy for every photo I work on in the Develop module. Instead, I would only create a Virtual Copy when I feel that I actually need one for any reason, avoiding the unnecessary visual duplication for the photos I work on in most cases.