Nerdy photography talk ahead. Look away if you’re not interested.
If you’re like me, you use the ‘Create Virtual Copy’ feature a lot in Lightroom. This allows you to create a any number of copies of a master photo which you can apply separate edits to. I do this, for example, when I can’t decide whether I want a particular photo to be black & white or color. Either way, I do some amount of processing, so I’ll just create a virtual copy and process one in color and another in b&w.
It probably should have been obvious based on the name ‘Virtual Copy’, but I didn’t realize until this weekend that no data is written to disk for a virtual copy; it’s only data stored in the Lightroom catalog database. I discovered this because I removed some photos from Lightroom and re-imported them, and my virtual copies were gone. This caused me many sadnesses, but fortunately I had a backup of my catalog from just a couple days earlier, so I was able to recover them.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to just write out XMP files for the virtual copies (which would be my preferred solution), but you can export virtual copies to DNG files, so at least you’ll have a ‘hard’(-ish) copy of the file saved in a non-destructive format in case your catalog gets corrupted or something, or you just do something dumb like I did.
- Make sure you are in Grid mode.
- In the ‘Catalog’ box, click on “All Photographs”.
- Show the Library Filter toolbar by going to View -> Show Filter Bar, or pressing the ‘\’ key.
- Next, click on the icon on the far right of the Library Filter toolbar to show only virtual copies.
- Hit Ctrl+A to select all photographs.
- Right-click on any photo and go to Export->Export…
- The Export settings I like to use are: ‘Export To: Same folder as original photo’, leave the filename the same as the original, and be sure to choose ‘Format: DNG’. You can check the ‘Embed Original Raw File’ if you like, but I didn’t see a need, since that’s more for passing around files between people.
- Click ‘Export’, and you are done! Now you have actual files for each virtual copy, which can be re-imported into your catalog if necessary.