How to Duplicate a Photo in Lightroom

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If you’re new to Lightroom or want to try new effects and adjustments on your photo, you can duplicate the image, apply the effects, and then compare and go with the most pleasing version. Learning how to duplicate a photo in Lightroom will help you create the different versions non-destructively.

How to Duplicate a Photo in Lightroom

In most cases, you will want to create different versions of the same photo so you can try different adjustments. Unlike other photo manipulation applications like Photoshop, Lightroom is a non-destructive photo editor that allows you to apply effects and make adjustments on RAW images without affecting the actual files.

An image of a woman on how to duplicate a photo in lightroom

That means Lightroom keeps a record of the effects and adjustments you are applying and generates a processed JPEG file preview so you can see the progress. Typically, this makes Lightroom versatile, as you can duplicate the RAW file itself or duplicate the instructions regarding the RAW file rather than the RAW file itself.

However, if you decide to duplicate the RAW file, the new file will occupy around the same hard drive space as the original version and might fill up your space. Whether you want a virtual copy or an original RAW file duplicate, you can use the following methods to duplicate a photo in Lightroom.

Duplicating an Image With Virtual Copies

Lightroom comes with a virtual copy feature that allows you to save the different adjustments of your editing job as a new and separate version without necessarily duplicating the original file. Usually, Lightroom stores the new version of the set of instructions in XMP sidecar format.

As you choose the different virtual copies of your photo, Lightroom loads the instructions from the XMP sidecar file applies them to your original file, and creates a JPEG preview with the instructions. Since the original file remains untouched, there is no significant impact on your storage space.

Usually, this makes this method the best for creating a large number of duplicates as it won’t slow down the application. Regardless of the Lightroom version you are using, you can make duplicates using the following steps.

  • With the image open in Lightroom, right-click on the image and then select Create Virtual Copy from the Filmstrip panel. Alternatively, you can create it by right-clicking on the thumbnail in the Library module or the enlarged image from the Lightroom’s Library or Develop module.
  • You can also hit the shortcut keys Ctrl + ‘ if you are using a Windows PC or Command + ‘ if using a Mac. You can repeat the same action to create more virtual copies, and the number of copies will be shown in the upper left-hand corner of the photo thumbnail in the Filmstrip panel or Library module.
  • Depending on the number of copies you have created, you can right-click on the number of copies to stack them for a more organized view. Keep in mind that you can revert to the previous view by right-clicking again on the number of virtual copies.
  • If you want to create copies of multiple images, first select the images and then use the above steps to create duplicates.
  • In case you have created copies you don’t need, you can delete them by selecting the image and then hitting the Delete key. Keep in mind that you should delete the copies, not the original photo imported into Lightroom. Deleting the Master photo will also delete the copies.
  • If you want to make one of your copies to be the master photo, navigate to the Library module, choose the virtual copy and then from the drop-down menu, select Set Copy as Master. Usually, the master image will be the first, marked as 1 of (the number of copies).
Woman editing photo

Duplicating an Image With Snapshots Panel

The Lightroom Snapshot feature is another way you can have different versions of the same image without necessarily duplicating the original image file, saving on your storage space. However, unlike the virtual copies, snapshots store the edits you do to an image at a given point in a time.

That means the snapshot method has a drawback as you can’t edit a photo in different ways simultaneously, like when using virtual copies. Generally, the Snapshot panel is closely related to the History panel, where you can revert the image to certain earlier adjustments.

However, snapshots help to save time as you won’t need to go through the History panel searching for the edits you want to return to. Regardless of the edits, you can use the following snapshot steps to save the edits as different versions of the same photo.

  • Navigate to Develop and then choose New Snapshot. You can also hit the keyboard shortcut keys Ctrl + N if you are using a Windows PC or Command + N if using a Mac.
  • Although you can leave the snapshot’s name to the default name, which will be the current date and time, it’s advisable to rename it to something that can help you remember the effects and adjustments you had made by that time.
  • In the History panel, right-click on an entry and then select Create Snapshot. This will create a Snapshot version with the current edits and adjustments applied to the photo, allowing you to continue with edits and save more snapshots. Usually, this can help keep your workflow more organized and neat than when using virtual copies.

Duplicating the Original Image With the Export Module

If you are new to Lightroom, you might fear losing the original RAW file during the edits and want to duplicate the original RAW file instead. Typically, you can use the following steps to duplicate the original image file using the Lightroom Export Module.

  • Choose the RAW file you want to duplicate from the Catalog Library. Go to File in the top left-hand side of the menu bar and then select Export or right-click on the image file and then choose Export in the drop-down menu that pops up.
  • Alternatively, you can hit the keyboard shortcut keys Ctrl + Shift + E if you are using a Windows PC or Command + Shift + E if using a Mac.
  • Usually, an export dialog box will pop up. Check to ensure the file names and file extensions are correct, and you have selected the right number of RAW files you want to duplicate.
  • Navigate to the Image Format drop-down under the File settings, choose Original and then hit on the Export button. Typically, this option will make Lightroom export a duplicate RAW file.
An image of duplicate photo

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Create a Duplicate Using the Lightroom Presets Instead of Snapshots?

It’s not advisable to use presets as an alternative to snapshots since Lightroom presets help store a group of adjustment settings for applying to single or multiple photos over time, such as brightness and contrast adjustments. Snapshots are much better for duplicates as they are photo-specific adjustments and edits.

How Can I Delete the Virtual Copies in Lightroom?

You can delete the virtual copies in Lightroom by filtering the images by name. Once you see the original file and the copies, delete the image’s virtual copy version.

How Can I Import Duplicate Images in Lightroom?

You can import duplicate images in Lightroom by navigating to File, choosing Import Photos and Videos, and then unchecking the Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates option. Keep in mind that Lightroom tries to prevent the importation of duplicate files by default, and you need to bypass this duplicate filter.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to duplicate a Photo in Lightroom will help you create a virtual copy of the image and simultaneously apply different adjustments and effects. You can also use snapshots to revert to a certain version of your edits, saving you the time to go through the History panel.