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Stay Organized — Name Your Lightroom Virtual Copies

If you want different versions of an image, such as with different crops or both a black and white and color one, you can create virtual copies in Lightroom.   These aren’t duplicates of your file — you will still just have one file on your hard drive, but multiple sets of Develop instructions for that file.  To create a virtual copy, right-click on your image and select Create Virtual Copy.  In the filmstrip you will see that the virtual copy has a turned-up page corner (if your filmstrip is big enough), and that Lightroom automatically stacks (links) the two together.

You probably already knew all that, but did you know that you can name virtual copies?  They are actually automatically named Copy 1, Copy 2, etc…  This isn’t the File Name, but rather the Copy Name, which is another metadata field.  As you hover over the virtual copy in the filmstrip, it shows the Copy Name after the file name (see above).   I always use this field to document what the virtual copy is for — otherwise I end up with lots of virtual copies that I can’t for the life of me remember why I created.

Changing the name requires going to the Metadata panel in the Library module — scroll all the way down on the right side.   Simply click  and type in the Copy Name field and then hit Enter/Return.

I also find it useful to display the Copy Name above my thumbnails in Grid view in the Library Module:

You can do this by going to View>View Options, and setting the following circled in Red:

When you export virtual copies, you can also rename the exported copies to include the Copy Name.  In the Filename Template Editor, Copy Name is under the dropdown called Original Filename.

I’m not going to go into how to use the template editor here, but I do have a video on using it  HERE.   It’s an old one, so (a) it uses Lightroom 2, but there have been no changes, and (b) you’ll need to turn the volume way up.  (I have of course since learned how to do this in the video production!)

So you can see how handy and easy it is to name your virtual copies — so I say, just do it!

2018-09-27T15:31:23+00:00August 4th, 2011|24 Comments


  1. Mel August 4, 2011 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Hey – that’s very cool. And answers a question I’ve had for a while, which is how to preserve various versions of images where I want to keep my Develop histories and still be able to search for them later.


  2. Lightroom Tuesday! » Heninger Fotographik August 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    […] Shoe has lots of goodies for those wanting to learn Lightroom.  Go watch and then maybe help her out […]

  3. Julie August 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Laura, thank you! This is brilliant and will surely help me keep things in better order….

  4. Roy Booth August 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Great tip Laura I’ve got a stack of virtual copies that I can now rename. Thanks

  5. april March 24, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    I am working with lightroom 4… made virtual copies, cropped virtual copies, publish master and virtuals in collection to hard drive and the crops aren’t sticking … just getting two full size images… am I missing a setting? Thanks for any light you can shed …

    • Laura Shoe March 26, 2012 at 7:10 am - Reply

      Most likely, April, in the File Settings section, you have chosen File Type “Original”. Choose one of the others.

  6. Sue Myburgh March 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Hi I enjoyed your live webcast last week and have your tutorials too but love these reminders of other stuff as there is so much too learn.

    Can I ask what programme you use to capture your screen recordings?

    Keep up the great work your name is really getting out there here is Australia 🙂

  7. kate May 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura

    I’m creating virtual copies to convert the original photo to black and white. I then however want to crop both images – do you know of a way to do this, so when I crop the original image the black and white version is affected too?

  8. Jonathan Trueman July 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura

    I want to thank you for this super time saving tip. I am a social photographer in the UK, including weddings where the volume involved makes not being able to recognise which copy is which a nightmare of shuffling between LR and my website when clients want to order prints.

    Appreciate you taking the time to let others know.

    All the best


    • Laura Shoe July 13, 2013 at 11:37 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Jonathan!

  9. Dave Bray July 16, 2015 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Hi Laura. Awesome tutorials thanks.

    How can I rename all 150 images, including virtual copies, to be numbered 1 to 150? If I have 15 virtual copies (from 150 originals) I only get renaming of 1 to 135 and where there is a copy it names it “copy 1″etc. Where I want to get to is to have file names, for example, “Dave and Wendy 1” through to “Dave and Wendy 150”. Is this possible?

    Many thanks. Dave.

    • Laura Shoe July 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Dave, use the “Custom name sequence” renaming template, and type “Dave and Wendy” in for the custom name. Images will be numbered based on the order in the grid.

      • Rebecca September 25, 2015 at 8:14 pm - Reply

        Hi Laura,

        I tried this and my sequence was still not an accurate reflection of the amount of photos. All of the virtual copies were reading “sequence_custom name – copy 1” and were the same sequence number as the original file. I would like for the virtual copy to read as the next number in the sequence. Is this possible? Do I need to create a different type of file other than a virtual copy? I am just creating a virtual copy to give my clients copies of original files in black and white, so they have the color and B&W files.

        I am using Creative Cloud.

        Thanks so much for your help… this has been driving me bonkers! 🙂


        • Laura Shoe October 1, 2015 at 11:13 am - Reply

          Rebecca, it sounds like you don’t need the copy name as part of your file name. Instead, choose Custom Name – Sequence, and type in custom text that is descriptive of your shoot. This way all will be sequentially numbered. Note that before you export, be sure that any stacks with virtual copies are expanded, so you can see them, not collapsed.

  10. Wenda Pyman November 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I keep my LR catalog and the actual images on one partitioned drive. I work between 2 computers. While on a trip, i was editing in LR on my laptop and for some images, using a third party software to convert to B/W. I would edit the original, then make virtual copies and convert to B/W. Everything seemed fine, but when I took this hard drive to my desktop computer, the virtual copies did not show up, even though I had backed up to the same drive. I clicked on the actual catalog and was able to find them. I then opened them in Photoshop and saved to my desktop. Thank God, since I really like them. My question is, do I import them back into LR so it will show up? If so, what happens to the virtual copies that I see on my laptop.I don’t understand why, if using the same partitioned HD with my catalog and LR back-ups on it, why it doesn’t show on the desktop.

    • Laura Shoe November 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      I’m afraid I don’t understand your process, Wenda. It sounds to me like you work with one Lightroom catalog that is on an external drive, on both computers. However, later you say that when you clicked on the actual catalog you were able to find them. Where were you looking for your virtual copies that you weren’t able to find them? They won’t show up as files on your hard drive – they exist in your catalog only.

      • Wenda Pyman November 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm - Reply

        My external HD is partitioned into 2: #1 is just the LR back-ups which I do as I shut down each time. #2 is the complete catalog of the images, by folder. On the laptop, the virtual copies show next to the original. I did not rename or export them. When I take this same ext. HD to the desktop computer, those virtual images do not show up in the Library or Develop module. However, I can click on the actual LR catalog on that HD, outside of LR and see the copies as edits. The work around I did, was to go to Photoshop and open them and save them externally. I want to keep them in my Library. Do I rename them so they won’t be virtual copies and re-import them? Also, if I am opening LR from the back-up that is on the HD, and using the same on the desktop, why doesn’t it show up?

        • Laura Shoe November 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm - Reply

          Hi Wenda,

          Your perception of what the catalog is is not correct. It is one file – an .lrcat file – that contains all your Lightroom editing work, including your virtual copies. It resides separately on your hard drive from your folders of photos. You can’t browse your catalog out on your hard drive, and you will not be able to see virtual copies anywhere on your hard drive. You will only see them in Lightroom. Nevertheless there is no need to go to Photoshop and open and save them externally. If you need to share a photo, whether a virtual copy or a regular photo, with the outside world (for print, web, email, etc), then you will “export” a copy.

          You’ll find all this covered in my Fundamentals & Beyond video series. While it isn’t updated for CC/6 yet, it is still very applicable.

  11. Wenda Pyman November 8, 2015 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    I agree with you; I guess I’m not using the right term. My back-ups are all in .lrcat format. I’m talking about the actual images associated with that catalog, which also resides on my partitioned drive. When I open up the last back-up or catalog as you call it on my laptop, I see all the edits I did. Bring that same catalog to my desktop and they are not visible in LR, but when I look at the actual images, it is there along with the originals. I’ll take a look at your video and i hope that may answer my question. Thanks.

    • Laura Shoe November 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Wenda,

      I’m afraid that I’m still not clear. I would suggest posting your question on, where it easier to have a back-and-forth conversation and you can post screenshots to show what you are looking at.

  12. Shawnie April 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Ok I got those two tips. Awesome Laura! Thank you so much!

  13. Steve Hughes June 14, 2017 at 4:17 am - Reply

    Don’t suppose there is a way to ‘batch rename’ the copy names of more than one image.

    • Laura Shoe June 16, 2017 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      If you want the exact same copy name, Steve, you can select your photos in Grid (G) view, and then type it in the Metadata panel.

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