Temporary Adjustments


Today’s Question: How can you make a “one time only” adjustment when exporting photographs from Lightroom, so the adjustment won’t be in effect next time you edit the image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a couple of ways you could approach this, but my recommendation is to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom when you want to make a “one-time” adjustment for purposes of exporting with special settings. You can then delete the Virtual Copy when you’re finished.

More Detail: Lightroom enables you to create Virtual Copies, which provide the ability to create different versions of the same source photo, with unique adjustments for each Virtual Copy you create. In the case of wanting to create a unique version of a photo to be exported for a particular purpose, you could create a Virtual Copy that will include those specific adjustments. You could then delete the Virtual Copy if it is no longer needed, and at any time could return to the original image, since the Virtual Copy won’t have altered the original.

To create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom you can simply right-click on the photo you want to create a new version of and choose the “Create Virtual Copy” option from the popup menu that appears. This will create another copy of the photo as a Virtual Copy, without actually duplicating the source image on your hard drive. The thumbnail for the Virtual Copy will have a turned-up corner graphic to help you identify the copy compared to the source image. The filename for the Virtual Copy will also indicate “Copy”, along with the copy number, after the actual filename for the source image.

The Virtual Copy will inherit the current adjustment settings for the source image when you create the Virtual Copy. However, you can then go to the Develop module and apply any adjustments for this specific version of the image. For example, I often need to create a version of a photo that is cropped to a specific aspect ratio for certain publication uses. You can apply any adjustments you’d like, however, for the Virtual Copy.

When you use the Export feature to create a file based on the Virtual Copy, that exported image will of course reflect the adjustments you applied to the Virtual Copy. And when you’re finished working with this unique version of the original photo, if you don’t need the Virtual Copy anymore you can delete it. To do so, simply right-click on the Virtual Copy and choose “Remove Photo” from the popup menu that appears. You will be asked to confirm that you want to remove the selected Virtual Copy, at which point you can click the “Remove” button to actually remove the Virtual Copy from your Lightroom catalog. The original image will remain in place in your catalog and on your hard drive, unaffected by your work on the Virtual Copy.