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The Setup

Let’s set up a typical scenario. In the Develop module, you develop a photo as usual (white balance, exposure, toning, and so on). You’re happy with the result, and life is good. However, you’re interested in seeing how the photo might look in black-and-white or sepia, or maybe even with a different crop applied. Your first instinct probably would be to make those changes to the original. But then you’d have to remember whether you were happier with one version than another (and, if so, which one you liked best). Instead, you can use virtual copies as versions and compare them right next to each other.

Follow these steps:

  1. In the Library module, right-click the photo you want to use and choose Create Virtual Copy. This action makes an exact duplicate of the photo and stacks it with the original. You can tell which is the virtual copy and which is the original because the virtual copy has a little page curl icon at the lower-left corner of the photo (see Figure 1).

    Figure 1

  2. Click the virtual copy photo to edit it, and move to the Develop module. Let’s start by applying a different crop to this photo so you can see whether you like that better. Just press R to get to the Crop tool, and crop away. After you crop, notice that your original photo—you can see it in the bottom filmstrip—is perfectly intact, just the way you left it (see Figure 2).

    Figure 2

  • Now we have two "versions" of the photo—the original photo and the cropped virtual copy. Let’s create another. You can go back to the Library to do it, or just right-click the original in the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen (see Figure 3) and choose Create Virtual Copy. (Remember, the original doesn’t have the little page curl icon.) Your new virtual copy appears next to the original. Now you have three "versions."

    Figure 3

  • This time, let’s apply one of the black-and-white presets. Click any preset that you like in the Presets panel on the left to apply it to this virtual copy. (I’ve used the General - Grayscale preset in Figure 4.) Your original photo as well as the previous virtual copy you created are left untouched.
  • Let’s do this one more time so you really get a feel for the power we have here. Right-click the original photo in the filmstrip again and choose Create Virtual Copy. Now you have four versions of this photo. Click the Sepia preset in the Presets panel to apply it to this copy (see Figure 5).
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