Finding the Source for a Virtual Copy


Today’s Question: When I make a virtual copy, there is nothing in the history for the original file to indicate that I did so. Sometimes I would like to know the “source” file for the virtual copy. If I have since made additional edits to the original file, is there any way to go back and figure out the point in time the virtual copy was made?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is relatively easy to track down the source image for a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic using the file name referenced with the virtual copy, or by a trick for navigating to the folder that contains the source image.

More Detail: When you create a virtual copy from a source image in Lightroom Classic, you aren’t actually creating a copy of the source image file. Rather, you’re simply creating a unique version of the source image, which is focused on enabling you to create two interpretations of the same image using the adjustments in the Develop module.

You may find at times you have located a virtual copy, but you don’t know where the source image is. There are several easy ways to track down the source image in this scenario.

Perhaps the simplest approach is to automatically navigate to the folder containing the source image. For example, if you have located a virtual copy contained in a collection, you won’t necessarily know which folder the source image is stored. However, you can right-click on the virtual copy and choose “Go to Folder in Library” from the popup menu.

When Lightroom Classic switches you to the folder containing the source image, the virtual copy will still be selected. You can turn off any filters to make sure you’re seeing all photos, and then set the sort order to either Capture Time or File Name. The source image and virtual copy will then be right next to each other, since they share those two attributes as references to the same source capture.

It is also worth keeping in mind that a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic will still reference the filename of the original source image. While browsing a virtual copy, you can go to the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module. There you can find the File Name field, where the virtual copy will show the filename for the source photo. Note that the Copy Name field shows the reference to the virtual copy, with a default name such as “Copy 1”. You can change that Copy Name value to something more meaningful if you prefer. But the point is that since you can find the source filename associated with the virtual copy, you could also easily search your library for that filename in order to locate the source image.