Today’s Question: When you make Virtual Copies [in Lightroom Classic], can you print from them and save them as a photo on your hard drive?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, virtual copies can be printed or otherwise shared just like the original image. And you can export a virtual copy from Lightroom Classic to create an actual file on your hard drive, including a copy of the original raw capture with a separate set of adjustments contained within an XMP “sidecar” file.
More Detail: A virtual copy in Lightroom Classic is simply an additional set of adjustments and metadata for an image. So, if you have been optimizing a raw capture as a color image in the Develop module, for example, you could create a virtual copy of that image and apply adjustments that interpret the image as black and white.
You could even make additional virtual copies based on the same original image, so that you could have multiple interpretations of the same photo.
If you print or otherwise share a virtual copy, you’re simply processing the original raw capture with different settings. So, in the example above you could print the original raw capture to create a color print, or print from the virtual copy to print the exact same original raw capture but with a black and white interpretation.
You can also export a virtual copy from Lightroom Classic, which would be the same as exporting the original raw capture, except with different settings (such as black and white in the example above). You could even export a virtual copy using the “Original” option for the File Format setting during export. That would create a copy of the original raw capture, but with an XMP “sidecar” file that includes adjustments converting the image to black and white. So, if that raw capture were imported into a Lightroom Classic catalog or opened in Photoshop, you would see the black and white interpretation based on the raw capture.
Virtual Copies in Lightroom Classic can certainly be a little confusing. But if you keep in mind that a virtual copy simply represents different metadata and adjustments based on the same raw capture, I think that will help you better understand Virtual Copies.