Today’s Question: If you make a virtual copy and decide that the virtual copy is your preferred edit can you delete the original file and just keep the virtual copy, or would that cause you to lose all copies of the photo? Would I just need to keep both copies even though I only really want the virtual copy?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In this situation you can actually convert the virtual copy to the master, which will cause what had been the master photo to be a virtual copy. That virtual copy can then be removed, retaining what had been the virtual copy interpretation of the photo as the new master version of the photo.
More Detail: Lightroom Classic enables you to have more than one interpretation of the same photo. That is implemented by having a master photo in addition to the option to have one or more virtual copies based on the master photo. For example, you might have a master photo in color, and then a virtual copy for that same photo as a black and white interpretation.
If you were to delete the master photo, all virtual copies based on that master photo would also be deleted. So, in this context you definitely don’t want to delete the master photo.
Instead, you can convert your preferred virtual copy to become the master photo. Simply select that virtual copy and from the menu choose Photo > Set Copy as Original. This will effectively swap the master photo and the virtual copy. In the example above the black and white image would become the master image, and the color image would be the virtual copy.
At that point, since the master image reflects the desired adjustments, you can delete the virtual copy that you now consider an outtake. To remove the virtual copy simply right-click and choose Remove Photo from the popup menu.
I realize this can all be a little confusing. The thing to keep in mind is that adjustments in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic simply represents metadata assigned to the image. Initially the Develop metadata is assigned to the master image. When you create a virtual copy a new set of adjustment metadata is assigned to the virtual copy, but really both are referencing the same image file on your hard drive. As noted above, you can then choose to define a virtual copy as the master image in terms of the adjustments you prefer, and then remove any virtual copies that you no longer want to retain.