Virtual Copy Workflow


Today’s Question: How aggressive are you about using virtual copies [in Lightroom Classic]? I have considered, but not routinely implemented, a practice of making virtual copies of the original any time I do a significant crop to an original image. Is this something you do, or would support? Catalogue drive space required is small, and cropping options are not absolute in my experience, and without knowing what I have cropped from, these options are effectively foreclosed. Comments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My general approach is to use Virtual Copies in Adobe Lightroom Classic whenever I want to create a completely different interpretation of a photo, or when I want to create a slight variation on an image (such as with a crop) while being sure not to risk losing the original interpretation of the image.

More Detail: A Virtual Copy in Lightroom Classic enables you to make multiple versions of a single source image, meaning different interpretations based on your adjustments in the Develop module. These can be helpful both in terms of creating different interpretations of a photo (such as a color and a black & white version), as well as for workflow reasons.

In most cases I settle on a single interpretation of a given photo, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes I use different versions of a photo in different contexts. Regardless, if I want to maintain two different interpretations of the same photo, I’ll create a Virtual Copy for that purpose.

Sometimes I may have a difficult time deciding which version of a photo I like best as I’m working toward creating a “final” version of the image. In those cases I would still create a Virtual Copy to explore both options, but if I ultimately decide on a single version as my “final” version, then I would generally delete the “extra” Virtual Copy just to avoid confusion.

I also sometimes use Virtual Copies for workflow purposes. If I decide I will crop an image to suit the limitations of Instagram for example, I might create a virtual copy for the purpose of creating that copy of the photo, to preserve the original version of the image. In this type of scenario I would typically create the Virtual Copy, crop or otherwise alter that Virtual Copy, export for sharing, and then delete the Virtual Copy.

So, I don’t use Virtual Copies extensively, and I try to make a distinction between Virtual Copies I want to retain permanently, and those being used for temporary purposes. If the purpose is temporary, I try to remember to delete the unneeded Virtual Copy as soon as it is no longer needed, to avoid clutter or confusion in my Lightroom Classic catalog.