Today’s Question: [In Lightroom Classic] Assuming you have the “save changes to xmp” option turned on, when you create a virtual copy does it save the info from both the virtual and original to the xmp file? Or create a separate xmp? Or keep the data for the virtual copy only within the catalog?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The metadata related to virtual copies in Lightroom Classic is only saved in the catalog, not in an XMP sidecar file as would be the case for the metadata related to the master image.
More Detail: I recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic. This will cause updates to standard metadata fields (but not Lightroom-specific metadata) to be written to the source image file on your hard drive, which in the case of a raw capture means that the information will be written to an XMP “sidecar” file.
However, for virtual copies, the metadata updates are only saved in the Lightroom Classic catalog. The XMP sidecar file for the original raw capture will not contain the information for the virtual copy.
If you export the virtual copy, the information from the virtual copy will be included in the metadata for that image, assuming you include metadata as part of the export. For example, if you export a virtual copy of a raw capture with the “Original” option selected for the Image Format setting, an XMP sidecar file will be created with the metadata from the virtual copy.
So, in general virtual copies should be thought of as a Lightroom-specific feature, meaning standard metadata that might otherwise be written to original image files (or XMP sidecar files in the case of raw captures) will not be written to a file for virtual copies. It is also worth noting that other Lightroom-specific features are not reflected in metadata, even when you have the option to write metadata to XMP enabled.
For example, pick and reject flags, inclusion in collections, virtual copies, and history are not written to metadata for images. Rather, these Lightroom-specific features are only saved within the Lightroom Classic catalog, which is one of the reasons it is still important to back up your catalog, even if you have the option enabled to automatically write metadata updates to the source image files.