Editing Photos in Collections


Today’s Question: I have edited photos in Lightroom. I have selected some to be added to a collection so I can look at them as a group. If I continue editing a photo in the collection do those edits transfer to the original photo in the original folder? If I edit the original in the original folder, do those edits transfer to the photo in the collection?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The behavior here would depend on whether you added the images to the collection as virtual copies, or as simple references to the source image. Adjustments applied to virtual copies will not be reflected in the original source image, and changes to the original source image will not be reflected in the virtual copies.

More Detail: If you simply drag-and-drop photos from a folder into a collection, you are simply creating a reference to the original photo within the collection. In other words, in this case you can think of the collection as being something of a “saved search” for specific images. If you make changes to such images in a collection, the original source image will be updated to reflect those changes, because the image in the collection is simply a reference to the original photo.

If you create a collection after selecting images you want to include in the collection, you have the option in the Create Collection dialog to make new virtual copies for these images. In addition, you could of course create virtual copies on your own and then drag those virtual copies (rather than the original source images) into the collection. If you use virtual copies within a collection, then the changes you apply to the virtual copies will not be reflected in the original source photo, and adjustments applied to the original source photo will not be applied to the virtual copies.

You can tell whether a specific image is a virtual copy in a few ways. First, the thumbnails for virtual copies will show a visual of a turned up corner at the bottom-left of the thumbnail, whereas the original source image does not have this indication. In addition, the file information shown above the thumbnails on the Filmstrip on the bottom panel will show the word “Copy” along with a copy number for a virtual copy you have selected. The original image will show the filename without the “Copy” text after it.

Based on these options, you can choose whether you want the photos you add to a collection to match the original source photo, or if you want a different version of the photo. The answer here depends in part, of course, on your intent for creating the collection in the first place. But based on your specific needs, you can choose whether you want photos in collections and their related source images in a folder to retain all changes you apply, or to represent different versions of specific images.