Today’s Question: If apply edits to a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic and then save it as a TIFF or JPEG, will I have a complete copy or just another virtual copy?
Tim’s Quick Answer: If you generated a TIFF or JPEG image based on a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic, you would indeed be creating an actual TIFF or JPEG file, not another virtual copy.
More Detail: A virtual copy in Lightroom Classic is really just a second reference to a raw capture. When you apply adjustments to a raw capture you aren’t altering the source capture file. Rather, you’re effectively saving metadata associated with the original capture. Creating a virtual copy is simply a process of creating an additional set of metadata for the same source capture.
Creating a TIFF or JPEG copy based on a source image generally involves using the export feature in Lightroom Classic. When you export a photo, you’re making an additional derivative image file, not simply creating a new virtual copy. The fact that you selected a virtual copy as the source image for the export isn’t a factor. Exporting a virtual copy is effectively the same as exporting the original raw capture, for example. In both cases a new derivative image file is created based on the original capture, just based on potentially different settings for the original versus the virtual copy.
Of course, when you export a file in this way, the resulting image will be based on the source image. With a virtual copy that means the exported image will match the appearance of the virtual copy. So, for example, if the original capture was in color, but you converted the virtual copy to black and white, exporting based on the original would produce a color derivative image, while exporting the virtual copy would result in a black and white derivative image.