Today’s Question: If things like virtual copies are not preserved when you select “automatically write changes into XMP,” [in Catalog Setting for Lightroom Classic] what do you do to preserve them?
Tim’s Quick Answer: To preserve virtual copies in Lightroom Classic you can either ensure that your catalog remains safe, or export copies of the virtual copies to create new files reflecting the changes applied to virtual copies.
More Detail: I recommend turning on the “Automatically Write Changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic so that standard metadata updates are preserved along with the source image file in addition to being saved in the catalog. However, this does not preserve some of the features that are specific to Lightroom Classic, such as virtual copies.
To preserve virtual copies, you can of course just make sure your catalog remains safe, since virtual copy information is only stored within the catalog. That means backing up the catalog regularly as a basic starting point. I also highly recommend using the built-in catalog backup feature in Lightroom Classic with the “Test integrity before backing up” checkbox turned on when you perform the backup. This will help ensure that any problems with the catalog are detected and repaired before they become a serious issue.
In addition, you could create additional copies of the virtual copy, so you have a file representing the virtual copy saved beyond the catalog. For example, you could export the virtual copy using the “Original” option selected for Image Format. In the case of a raw capture this would create a copy of the original raw capture along with an XMP sidecar file representing the metadata from Lightroom Classic, which would include the adjustment settings from the Develop module. You could also choose the “Same folder as original photo” option for the Export To popup, and turn on the “Add to This Catalog” checkbox so the additional raw capture representing a different interpretation of the image is preserved alongside the original capture both as an additional file on the hard drive and in the Lightroom Classic catalog.
You could also export a copy of the virtual copy to another format, such as exporting as a TIFF image that would include all the adjustments as part of the new derivative file created as part of this process. You could also use the options to export that copy to the same folder as the original and add the derivative copy to the catalog so it would be alongside the original capture as an additional version.
The point is that by either protecting the Lightroom Classic catalog so you will have long-term access to the virtual copy, or by creating an additional file based on the virtual copy, you can help ensure that you always have access to virtual copies in addition to original images.