Today’s Question: Let’s say I am about to export an image [from Lightroom Classic] that I have in one of my Collections. But then I notice something that needs a quick cleanup or removal and I make that correction, but am doing so in my Collections, not going back to the image in my Folder. I am assuming with some testing that I have done, there is no problem in making the correction in Collections but just want to be sure that something is not going to be amiss in not making the correction in my Folder.
Tim’s Quick Answer: Making changes to an image that has been selected from a collection rather than a folder will cause the changes to be reflected in the source image in the folder. Just keep in mind that the source image could be a virtual copy rather than the original capture.
More Detail: When you add a photo to a collection in Lightroom Classic you are not making a copy of the source image file. Rather, you are simply adding a reference to the image in the collection, so that you can group various photos together and make it easier to locate certain images quickly.
As a result, when you modify an image in a collection, you are in effect actually altering the source image in the folder. For example, whether you assign a star rating or a keyword by first selecting the image from a folder versus a collection, the result is exactly the same. When you later locate the image by selecting it in either a folder or collection, you’ll see the metadata updates. The same applies to adjustments made in the Develop module.
However, it is important to keep in mind that virtual copies can be added to collections, and virtual copies represent a separate version of the original image. For example, if you create a virtual copy and then add a keyword to the original image, the virtual copy will not contain that new keyword. This feature is primarily aimed at enabling you to create different versions of photos in the Develop module.
If you add a virtual copy to a collection you would then be adjusting the virtual copy if you selected it in the collection. In the source folder you would be able to locate both the source image and the virtual copy, but you might have only added the virtual copy to the collection.
So, any work you perform on an image in a collection will be reflected for the same image in the source folder. Just make sure you know when you’re working on a virtual copy rather than the source image file, so that you know which specific image you’re actually affecting when selecting an image from a collection.