Metadata for Virtual Copies


Today’s Question: I know you can use virtual copies in Lightroom Classic to have different interpretations of a photo. But in Friday’s answer you made reference to metadata as well. Don’t virtual copies inherit the metadata of the original image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you create a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic it does inherit the metadata of the original photo. However, after creating a virtual copy new metadata updates are not synchronized between the original photo and the virtual copy.

More Detail: A virtual copy in Lightroom Classic is often thought of as providing the ability to create more than one interpretation of a photo in the Develop module. For example, the original image might be in color, and you might make a virtual copy for a black and white interpretation, and yet another virtual copy for a sepia-tone version.

However, a virtual copy is really a complete additional set of metadata for the source photo. So, for example, after creating one or more virtual copies for a photo you can assign different star ratings to each version of the image. You can also assign different keywords and other metadata for each photo. And, as noted above, you can apply different adjustments in the Develop module for each image.

In some ways this is very good, so that you can assign different star ratings to the different versions of the photo to help you decide which is your favorite version.

Of course, this can also be a little bit of a challenge. If you’re adding keywords later in your workflow, after you had already created one or more virtual copies, those keywords won’t propagate to all versions of the image. You would need to update the metadata for all versions of the image or synchronize that metadata after applying it to one version of the image.

To some extent you can think of a virtual copy as being a completely separate copy of the original image. Of course, in reality a virtual copy is simply an “extra” set of metadata that relates to the source image. But it is important to keep in mind that the metadata for a virtual copy can be different from the metadata for the source image.