Metadata for Virtual Copies


Today’s Question: [Monday’s question] brings up something I have been curious about. You recommend copying the metadata from Lightroom into the source files (sidecar in the case of RAW). When I create a virtual copy and then make modifications to it, do those changes ever get written to the source file, even when my preferences are set to do so?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No. When you save metadata to your photos from within Lightroom, that information is only saved for the original (master) photo, not for your virtual copies.

More Detail: When you create a virtual copy within Lightroom, that virtual copy and the metadata updates (or adjustments) you apply only exist within the Lightroom catalog. The option to save metadata directly to the source files on your hard drive is not available for virtual copies within Lightroom. In addition, if you enable the option to automatically write metadata updates to the source files in the Catalog Settings dialog, that setting will not apply for virtual copies.

There is something of an exception here, however. If you export a virtual copy from Lightroom, a new copy of the image file will be created, and that new copy will contain the metadata updates you applied to the virtual copy as long as you choose to include the applicable metadata as part of the image file(s) within the Export dialog. For example, it is possible to export both the original (master) version of a photo as well as a virtual copy for that photo, and end up with two copies of the original RAW capture with an XMP sidecar file for each of those images.

When it comes to writing metadata updates directly to your source image files from within Lightroom, however, only the original (master) image is updated. Virtual copy metadata updates are only saved within the Lightroom catalog, or as part of new copies of photos created during the export process.