Today’s Question: I have imported an image into Lightroom Classic, then worked on it and created several virtual copies. One day Lightroom Classic shows an exclamation mark in the upper right corner of each. If I want to click on the exclamation point and find the original image that these came from, do I have to figure out which of the images in the library is the first one, or can I use any of the virtual copies to reconnect?
Tim’s Quick Answer: You can reconnect the original or a virtual copy with the source file, and all the related images will be reconnected properly. Note, however, that you can also determine which images is the virtual copy based on the turned page icon at the bottom-left corner of the thumbnail, or by a text such as “Copy 1” being shown in the Copy Name field in metadata.
More Detail: When you create virtual copies based on an original image in Lightroom Classic, those virtual copies point to the source image file just like the original within your catalog. In effect, the original and the virtual copies are interchangeable, and simply represent different versions of adjustments and metadata based on the same source image.
If you have an original and virtual copies that are missing, reconnecting any of those image references to the source image file will reconnect all. So, for example, if you reconnected one of the virtual copies the original and all virtual copies would all get reconnected as part of that process.
In other words, you don’t need to worry about whether you choose to reconnect an original or a virtual copy, as they are all related to each other.
Having said that, it is also relatively easy to identify which images are the virtual copies versus the original. As long as you haven’t disabled badges for the thumbnails in Lightroom Classic you’ll see a turned page icon at the bottom-left corner of the thumbnails for virtual copies. You’ll also see text in the Copy Name field in metadata for virtual copies, which by default would be the word “Copy” followed by a number indicating the number of virtual copies you’ve created for that source image.
You can also filter images based on being original images versus virtual copies using the Kind option on the Attribute tab of the Library Filter bar. But again, even if you can’t identify which image is the original versus a virtual copy, you don’t need to make that determination in order to reconnect the images to the original file.