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Create Multiple Versions of Your Photos with Lightroom Virtual Copies and Snapshots

Lightroom virtual copies and snapshotsIf you want to experiment with different versions of develop work on a photo, virtual copies and/or snapshots are two great ways to do this — all without having to create a second file on your hard drive. Snapshots allow you to save your work at different points in time so that you can easily get back to any point, and allow you to go off in different directions with a photo. Virtual copies in effect are separate copies of your photos, that can be developed differently.  Watch the video below, from my Lightroom 5: The Fundamentals & Beyond workshop on video, to learn how to use virtual copies and snapshots. These techniques are applicable to later versions of Lightroom as well.

(For best quality, hit Play, then click on the Youtube sprocket wheel in the bottom right and choose 720/HD).

If you enjoyed this 8 minute video, check out the full 15½ hour series!

2017-07-10T10:47:51+00:00 October 23rd, 2013|11 Comments


  1. Rodney November 1, 2013 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Hi Laura,
    How do I sync a setting, say crop, from one photo to another when the photo I want to duplicate the crop on is to the left of the cropped photo? I can’t use the “Previous” button, because that will take data from the previous photo and apply it to the photo on it’s right. But if I choose sync then how does it know which photo to choose as the donor photo, so to speak, the photo from which the changes need to come from? Hard to explain, sorry if it’s clear as mud. Thanks for your help.

  2. Seb November 12, 2013 at 4:13 am - Reply


    Thanks for this tutorial.

    I use snapshots a lot on my work and I usually create snapshots for color & BW versions, but I’m often in a situation where I want to export one set of photos (let’s say the BW ones). Is there a simple way to export multiple photos using one snapshot (based on the name of the snapshot)? So far I’m always going to each image select the snapshot and export the image.



    • Laura Shoe November 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Not that I’m aware of, Seb. I would use virtual copies instead. Fill in the Copy Name field in the Metadata panel, and then when you export, make a file naming template that includes Copy Name.

      • Seb November 29, 2013 at 3:29 am - Reply

        Thanks for the tip Laura!

  3. Susan August 9, 2015 at 6:49 am - Reply

    Laura, I’m really loving your video tutorials, thank you so much! Questions on Snapshots vs Virtual Copies:

    1) I am having a hard time understanding the ultimate differences between them. In either case, you can quickly return to different versions of the image, so I’m struggling to understand when I would use one over the other. I do see one major difference – the snapshots ALL retain ALL the history of both versions and regardless of the number of snapshots I make, there is only ever one image in my grid.

    2) Given that last fact (that all snapshots retain all history of all versions), I’m a bit confused about the effect of the history settings on one snapshot over another. For instance, if I have a B&W and Color version, and increase the red in my B&W version (which shows in the history of the color version), what happens if I go back to a history step prior to that change while in the color version?

    3) I did NOT get an automatic 3rd snapshot of the “as imported” version. Does that only occur if the image you are working with had not had any development actions since it was imported?

    Thanks, again, for your really wonderful tutorials!

  4. Jay Amundson April 21, 2017 at 6:14 am - Reply

    Thanks for a great video, however I have a question.

    I noticed under Snapshot there is an “Import” version of the picture you were working on. Is there a setting to do this automatically on Import or did you have to do this individually for each image you import?

    I’ve looked in “Preferences” but I didn’t see anything.

    Jay Amundson

    • Laura Shoe April 21, 2017 at 10:06 am - Reply

      A snapshot is created automatically upon import, Jay. I have seen instances where it doesn’t happen – I haven’t paid enough attention to figure out why. There’s really no need for an import snapshot when there has been no editing prior to import (in another program, in another catalog), since you can always hit Reset to get back to that state.

      • Jay Amundson April 21, 2017 at 4:12 pm - Reply

        Thanks Laura!

        I just noticed it in your video and wondered if there was a setting for it. I was thinking it would be handy to have. Also, I didn’t think about the Reset button.


  5. Fiona McGuire January 25, 2018 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Hi Laura, Thanks for the video, it really helped me with wedding edit where they want variations of edits. Fiona

    • Laura Shoe January 27, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Fiona!

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