Collections and Editing


Today’s Question: My questions have to do with editing a photo I have put into a collection in Lightroom. When I edit a photo in my collections does it change it in the folder where it lives as well? I have purchased the MacPhun software collections and have been re-editing my photos from my collections since that is usually where my favorite photos are. Once I edit the photo in the collection it creates another photo a places it beside the already edited version, if I like the edit better than the first edit done in Lightroom then I delete the edited Lightroom photo in the collection. I then started to wonder whether I am starting to create a mess of my photo cataloging?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A photo in a collection in Lightroom is (by default) a reference to the original photo in a folder. Thus, if you make changes to a photo in a collection, those changes will also be reflected in the original photo in Lightroom. However, there are some nuances here that can be important to understand.

More Detail: To begin with, it is possible to create a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection. As noted above, by default a photo added to a collection is simply a reference to the “original” photo found in a particular folder. Thus, changes you make to the “copy” of the photo in the collection will be reflected in the original photo in the source folder.

However, if you use the option to create a virtual copy of a photo when adding that photo to a collection, then this behavior changes. In this case the changes applied to the virtual copy version of the photo would not be reflected in the original. But again, as long as you don’t create a virtual copy, this isn’t a concern.

There is some similar variability related to removing photos from a collection that you’ll want to be aware of. If you have added a photo to a collection without creating a virtual copy, then “deleting” the photo from the collection is simply removing that reference within the collection. The source photo would not be affected.

However, if you created a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection, the adjustments you applied in the Develop module would only apply to the virtual copy. Thus, if you remove the virtual copy from the collection, you would lose that version of the image in terms of the adjustments applied. But again, you would not lose the source photo from the applicable folder.

When you use a plug-in to work with a photo, a new version of the image is created as a separate file (generally a TIFF image). With the workflow described in the question, a derivative image (presumably a TIFF file) is created from the photo contained within the collection. If you’re happy with the results for this derivative image, you could certainly delete the photo from the collection, assuming it is not a virtual copy. In other words, just as outlined above, the version of the image in the collection would be a reference to the original, and deleting that reference is really just removing the reference from the collection. The source photo will still be contained in the applicable folder.

So, if you have not created a virtual copy of a photo, then removing a photo from a collection will not harm the original photo. And furthermore, removing that reference from a collection will not affect the new file you created when sending a photo to a plug-in from Lightroom.