In its June 2020 update, Adobe added Versions to Lightroom CC on desktop and mobile. These enable you to keep different edited versions of the same image, but how do they work and how are Lightroom CC Versions different to Lightroom Classic Virtual Copies?
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Since I originally published this article, Adobe has changed the way Versions are accessed but not the way, the work, so I’ve updated this article to show the changes to the screen layout. But first, some important information…
Lightroom Versions are NOT Virtual Copies
There are two very important differences between Lightroom Versions (Lightroom CC) and Virtual Copies (Lightroom Classic)
- Lightroom Versions are not displayed as separate images/thumbnails in your library
- Selecting a Lightroom Version will override any current edits – important! It is extremely easy to lose manual adjustments in a way that it never was before
Lightroom Versions are effectively Snapshots, but with thumbnails. When you work on an image Lightroom saves your full edit history, and Versions (Snapshots) are a way to ‘freeze’ images at a particular editing state and store these different versions within the image.
What Lightroom CC does is to assign these different Versions a thumbnail image, so you get a much more visual representation of your different image treatments.
The difference is that Lightroom does not display these Versions as separate images. With Virtual Copies in Lightroom Classic you get separate images which can be in different folders, different metadata and appear in different searches.
With Lightroom Versions you don’t get that. The Lightroom library will only display a single image regardless of how many Versions you have created within it. You can choose which one is used for the image thumbnail, but that’s it.
So Lightroom Versions are great for keeping different image states and processing variations, but they do not give you separate, searchable variations that are visible within your library.
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How to use Lightroom Versions
It’s not complicated but it’s important to understand what Lightroom is doing.
01 Create an edit you want to save
Here, I’ve used Lightroom’s Blue Drama adaptive preset on this shot of a lighthouse. Let’s say I want to save this as a Version.
02 How to save a new Version
So the first thing to do is click the Versions button in the right sidebar. This used to be a big square button in the bottom right corner of the screen, but it’s moved. You can also use the shift-V shortcut. Interesting that Adobe has used the international symbol (probably) for a History panel here. That’s a clue right there. Next, click the Create Version button at the top of the Versions panel.
03 Name your new version
If you’ve just used a preset, Lightroom will drop in its name by default. Otherwise, just type in a name that makes sense to you.
04 Add more versions
Just to populate our Versions panel a bit more fully, let’s add some more. This is a preset from ON1 software, one of a bunch of free ON1 presets for Lightroom users.
And here’s a Vintage preset from the same publisher. These are all ‘looks’ we might want to use on our image, and by saving them as Versions we can return to them at any time.
05 How the Versions panel works
So if we go back to the Versions panel we can see all the Versions I’ve created for this image. I can click on any of them to apply those adjustments and I can delete Versions I don’t want – but I can’t change the order.
The Version currently selected is the one used for the image thumbnail in your Lightroom library. The others are still stored in the image but you won’t see them – or even know they are there, for that matter.
If you like a Version but make some changes, these will be lost if you then click a different Version. This is annoying!
The trick to keeping edits you’ve made manually is either to save them as a new Version or NOT click on any other version.
If you remember that Lightroom Versions are simply saved history states you shouldn’t go too far wrong. They might looks as if they offer some of the benefits of Virtual Copies in Lightroom Classic, but functionally they are not the same thing at all.
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