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Every now and then I feel a little indecisive about which direction I want to take in a particular photo. Or in other situations, I might really want to create multiple versions for example a full color version and a black and white version. Obviously both of them looking very different and requiring different adjustments. For those types of situations, we can make use of virtual copies in Lightroom. I use this feature mostly when I want to explore creative avenues for a photo, but you can use it in a wide variety of situations. Let's assume for example that I have been working with this image.
I've selected this image of pine trees in the snow on the Filmstrip, and perhaps I'll make some adjustments to the overall appearance of the image. Perhaps cooling it down just a little bit so it looks a bit more wintery and maybe even enhancing contrast just a little bit, basically applying whatever adjustments I think might work for this image. But somewhere along the way I might decide that I would like to have a different interpretation of the image and so that's where the virtual copy comes into play. To create a virtual copy with the image selected I can choose Photo > Create virtual copy from the menu, I can also right-click on the Photo and then choose Create virtual copy from that pop-up menu.
This will create a virtual copy, a second copy of the image, that is grouped in a stack with the original. Keep in mind that for both of these images, the original and the virtual copy, we are referencing the exact same original image. Lightroom is just keeping track of two different versions or interpretations of that particular photo. So I have my original here, the first image in the stack, and that has the minor adjustments I applied, cooling off the image and enhancing contrast for example.
I can now switch to my virtual copy and make some changes to that version of the image. Perhaps I want to experiment around with some more dramatic adjustments, maybe increase clarity, maybe boost the vibrance just to produce something that's a little more or almost graphical and dramatic. You can see that in this case I have two variations on a theme with the image and I can switch back and forth between them at any time. And of course, I'm not limited with the particular adjustments that I'm applying to the original versus the virtual copy, I could apply any adjustments I'd like.
Again, perhaps making one, a black and white interpretation. Perhaps making one, a more traditional color version or applying some very dramatic adjustments. I can do anything I'd like retaining as many virtual copies of an image as I'd like. So anytime that you feel you want to experiment around with an image, or you're happy with one version but you want to consider a possible other version of the image, using virtual copies really helps expand your flexibility when working on your images in Lightroom.
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