Finding Virtual Copies that Have Not Been Adjusted in Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom Classic

The other day a customer asked me if there was a way to quickly find all of the virtual copies in their Lightroom library that didn’t have any adjustments applied in the Develop module so that they could delete them. (Unfortunately, someone had told them that they had to make virtual copies to all of their files before they made any changes and they now had hundreds of virtual copies that had never been adjusted/useless.)

I thought that it might be helpful to share the solution:

• Create a new Smart Collection in the Library module.

• Set the Criteria to the following:

–Copy name “isn’t empty” (to find all the virtual copies)

–Develop > Has Adjustments = “false”.

These 2 criteria will find all the Virtual Copies that do not have a Develop Adjustment.

Then, do one of two things. Either:

1) Select all of the Virtual Copies that you want to permanently delete and choose cmd+shift+option+return (mac) or ctrl+shift+alt+backspace (Windows). Note: this removes the Virtual Copies from the collection as well as deletes them from the library)


2) Select all of the images in the Smart Collection.

• Use some type of “tag” such as the Reject Flag, a Star Rating, or a color label to somehow identify these virtual copies (something that you haven’t used to identify other images).

• Exit out of the Smart Collection by selecting “All Photographs” from the Catalog panel (or select a smaller subset by using the Folder Panel).

• Back in the grid view, filter for the virtual copies using the Library Filter bar at the top of the Grid view:

–Under Attributes, check the Virtual Copies icon.

–Then, add the attribute set in step 4 (flag or color etc.).

Note: I noticed that in the Lightroom 5 Beta, the Lens Correction attribute is not considered an adjustment…

Thanks Eric!

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Posted on 05-23-2013


  • By Eric - 5:49 AM on May 23, 2013  

    Why not just delete them straight from the smart collection with ctrl+shift+alt+backspace?

    • By Julieanne Kost - 8:01 AM on May 23, 2013  

      Excellent suggestion Eric. I didn’t know that shortcut! I will update the post right now!!!

  • By Mark - 6:21 AM on May 23, 2013  

    Juieanne, would you mind posting screen grabs of where to find these buttons.
    Set Criteria,
    Copy name

    I usually don’t use things like smart collections because I find it so confusing.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:21 AM on May 24, 2013  

      Select Library > New Smart Collection. The “Criteria” area all listed under the pull-down.

  • By Bryn - 8:36 AM on May 23, 2013  

    Couldn’t the virtual copies have different ratings or keywords? I thought develop adjustments only looked at develop changes or is it all changes?

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:01 AM on May 23, 2013  

      Bryn, you are totally correct. I have updated the blog to reflect that this specific customer was looking specifically for virtual copies that had adjustments made to them using Lightroom’s develop module. Please let me know if it’s still unclear, and thank you for the correction!

      • By Bryn Forbes - 9:21 AM on May 23, 2013  

        I think it’s clear now. For future, I hope there is a “any changes since import” search ability, because I (and students I have taught) have had metadata conflicts or catalog merges, where it’d be easy to just remove images from the catalog and reimport them because there haven’t been any changes, but it’s hard to really make sure. I have a smart collection set up that has:
        title is empty , keywords is empty, rating = 0, develop changes not changed, etc.

        • By Bryn Forbes - 9:29 AM on May 23, 2013  

          oops hit post too soon, sorry!

          Title is empty doesn’t exist for some reason. My smart collection is:

          Rating is 0 stars
          Pick flag is unflagged
          label color is none
          label text is empty
          has adjustments is false
          caption is empty
          keywords are empty
          metadata status is not has been changed (only show changes since metadata was saved to disk as I understand it)

  • By Alan Smith - 9:18 AM on May 23, 2013  

    This is strange that this happened to be posted today because I have a perplexing question about virtual copies myself.

    (my ramblings… jump down a paragraph if this one is too all over the place)
    I’m trying to clean out my lightroom library but I just noticed a problem with my process. In some cases I’ve made a virtual copy, made adjustments to both the original and the virtual, and then ended up liking the virtual better so it ends up as my exported image. What I was going to do is go through my library and delete all unflagged photos (in my process a flagged photo means it’s a keeper, unflagged generally go unused especially if there 3 stars or less). So now I’m about to go through and delete all unflagged photos but luckily by the 2nd album I noticed my previously mentioned problem.

    (too long/didn’t read)\/\/\/
    If I delete all unflagged photos, I might be deleting some originals with unwanted adjustments therefore removing my virtual copies with adjustments that I’d like to keep. that I’d like to keep.

    I’m dealing with a library of 22,000 images so….What sort of filtering or adjustments can I do to avoid this? Any tips?

    • By LS3 - 11:30 AM on May 29, 2013  

      If you don’t want the original, you can just swap the VC and Master (To apply the settings from a virtual copy to the master, select Photo > Set Copy as Master). If you do want to keep the original, you can export the VC as a tif, psd, jpg or even dng file.

      • By Alan Smith - 2:00 PM on June 25, 2013  

        Thank you!

  • By LS3 - 11:17 AM on May 29, 2013  

    Thanks so much! You are my hero!

  • By Robert Reiser - 3:05 AM on June 2, 2013  

    Something you might want to consider to add as a third criteria is ‘Cropped’ -> ‘is false’ – sometimes I use virtual copies to create different crops of an image for a specific purpose or output. Others might use a different approach, of course.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.