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Virtual Copies & Snapshots

Long Story Short

A virtual copy is a separate version of the original.

You can:

• Edit it.

• Place it in one or more collections.

• Easily export it.

A snapshot is like a bookmark.

Let's say you've edited a photograph in a realistic way.

There are twenty editing steps in the History panel.

You create a snapshot.

You continue editing the photograph—but now—in a surrealistic way.

There are now thirty more editing steps in the History panel—fifty total.

You create a second snapshot.

To compare the two versions of the photograph—realistic and surrealistic—simply click on the snapshots.

If you didn't have the snapshots—it would be hard to click on the right editing step in the History panel.

Where did the realistic editing end?

Without a snapshot—that step would be hard to find.

Virtual Copies

When you press Ctrl + ' Lightroom creates a virtual copy of the photograph.

The photograph file is not duplicated.

Lightroom creates a second editing instruction file for the photograph.

There are several ways you can create a virtual copy.

On Tool Bar?


Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl + '

Right Click Menu

Create Virtual Copy

Menu on Top of the Screen

Photo > Create Virtual Copy

On Preview Cell (Border)?


Other & Related Methods

When you create a new collection, you can select Create a Virtual Copy.

Which Is Which?


The virtual copy has the white corner.

Look in the lower-left corner of the two previews.

The lower-left corner of virtual copy is folded back.

If you don't see the white corner, press j until you do.


Here are some reasons why you may want to create a virtual copy.

Reason #1 - Compare

Let's say you're about to edit a photograph.

Make a virtual copy of it—and edit the virtual copy.

You can click back-and-forth between the original and the virtual copy.

You can do the above in the Develop module—without a virtual copy—by pressing y to see before-and-after views.

By creating a virtual copy, you can see the original and the edited virtual copy in the other modules.

Reason #2 - Cropping

You're about to crop a photograph.

Make a virtual copy of the photograph—and crop it—not the original.

Reason #3 - Several Variations

You've been editing a photograph.

You're about to convert it to black-and-white.

Make a virtual copy of the photograph—and convert it—not the original.

You edit the black-and-white virtual copy.

Then, you're about to experiment with split toning.

You can make a virtual copy of a virtual copy.

Make a virtual copy of the black-and-white virtual copy.

Then—split tone it—not the plain black-and-white virtual copy.

You now have three previews:

• Original

• Black-and-white version

• Split-toned version

Pros & Cons


• Virtual copies use very little memory.

• Virtual copies can be placed in more than one collection.

• You can export any combination of the original and its virtual copies all at once.


• The previous editing steps seen in the History panel of the original are not available in the History panel of the virtual copy.

• There may be more clutter.

Each virtual copy creates another preview.

However, you can stack the virtual copies with the original.


When you create a virtual copy of a photograph in a collection, the virtual copy also appears in the folder of the photograph.

Let's say you have the same photograph in three collections.

You create a virtual copy of the photograph in each of the three collections.

You have three virtual copies.

All three of them appear in the folder containing the original photograph.


Original, VC1, VC2, VC3

Collection A

Original, VC1

Collection B

Original, VC2

Collection C

Original, VC3

If a Virtual Copy Doesn't Appear

Library Filter

Let's say you're using a filter in the Library Filter panel (above your previews).

You've searched by a certain lens type.

This lens information is stored in the metadata of your original photograph.

A virtual copy doesn't inherit the metadata of its original.

Therefore, because of the lens-type filter in place, the filter won't find the virtual copy.

It's there, but not visible, due to the filter not finding it.

Also, in the Library Filter panel, if you've selected Master Photos, virtual copies won't appear.


Smart Collections

A virtual copy won't appear in a Smart Collection if it doesn't meet the rules of the smart collection.

For example, let's say you create a virtual copy of a photograph.

Later, you rate the original photograph as being five stars.

The virtual copy doesn't have the five star rating.

When you click on the Five Stars smart collection, the virtual copy won't appear because it doesn't have a five-star rating.

Collection Set Selected

If you have selected a collection set and make a virtual copy, it won't appear.

Collection sets can only contain collections.

Original photographs and their virtual copies can't be in a collection set.

Sort Menu

If you've set the Sort menu (below your previews) to Edit Time instead of Capture Time, the virtual copy will appear at the end of the previews.


After editing a photograph, you can designate when a series of editing steps is finished.

As mentioned, you can think of a snapshot as being like a bookmark.

You can quickly go back to a certain point in the editing steps by clicking the snapshot.

In the History panel, right click on the last editing step and select Create Snapshot.

Enter a descriptive name and click Create.


Create Snapshot

The snapshot, here called Ver 1, appears in the Snapshots and History panels.


Snapshots and History Panels

There are several ways you can create a snapshot.

On Tool Bar?


Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl + n

Right Click Menu

Create Snapshot

Menu on Top of the Screen

Develop > New Snapshot

On Preview Cell (Border)?


Other & Related Methods

Click the plus icon in the tab for the Snapshots panel.


The reasons for using snapshots are similar to the above virtual-copy reasons.

Where snapshots are different is when you're experimenting.

For example:

Edit a photograph.

Make a snapshot.

Edit the photograph in a new way.

Make another snapshot.

Edit the photograph in another new way.

Make another snapshot.

Click on the three snapshots to choose the best version.


Snapshots are saved alphabetically.

Therefore, you may want to preface the name of a snapshot with a number.

For example, three snapshots were created in this order:

1) WB

2) Exposure

3) Contrast

Lightroom orders them alphabetically.


Here they are named with numbers, to preserve the order.


Change the Before

After creating a snapshot, you may want to change the before view from the original to the edited version.

In the Snapshots panel, right click on the snapshot and select Copy Snapshot Settings to Before.

When you press y to look at the before-and-after views—the before is now the edited version—not the original.

Pros & Cons


• Snapshots use very little memory.

• There's less clutter.

You only see one preview.


• If a photograph has more than one snapshot, you can only export one snapshot at a time.

Snapshots in Virtual Copies

If your original photograph has snapshots—and you make a virtual copy—the snapshots appear in the virtual copy.

You can create a snapshot in a virtual copy.

When you do so—the snapshot is also added to the original photograph.

If you edit the original photograph—and create a new snapshot—the snapshot is added to the virtual copy.