Adobe Lightroom: Snapshots vs Virtual Copies – How to Use Them

A great way to experiment with different versions of adjustments and develop work. A snapshot is a record of how an image looks at a certain point of development and you can get back to it with only one click. It’s helpful for saving your progress when you have complex development and they really come in handy when you want experiment without having to make multiple copies of your photo.

A virtual copy is not an actual copy of an image but it’s a new set of instructions for it, so it doesn’t take up a ton of disk space like an actual copy would. However virtual copies act like independent images and you can even add them to collections. They’re also very helpful when you want to try out different effects and perhaps make both black and white and color versions or take a different path.

When to Use Snapshots and Virtual Copies

2 Responses to “Adobe Lightroom: Snapshots vs Virtual Copies – How to Use Them”

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  1. Nora says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Quick question: Let’s say you like both versions of your virtual copies, or snapshots and you have saved them independently to your collection, does it automatically apply it to the original photo?

    And if you export them are you getting the full quality, since its the not the actual photo?

    • Hi Nora,

      Great question. Let’s go back to the concept of the catalog. You already know that when you import your image you’re creating an association between your original image and the Lightroom catalog, it’s not physically inside Lightroom. Lightroom never makes actual, pixel changes to your original image, so it’s totally non-destructive. You can edit the image and create several virtual copies and adjust them all differently and export all of them and your original, master file remains untouched.

      When you export your photo, you’re making a JPEG (or TIFF) copy of the file with the adjustments while preserving the original. You will get full quality as long as you keep the export settings to 90-100 for print. Around 60-70 is ok for screen.

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