I usually set Lightroom to save the develop settings in a .XMP sidecar file, due to I don't like the whole "catalog" thing. Whenever I want to re-develop a photo, the developing information is right there in the sidecar.

But, as you can make "virtual copies" of a single photo, when the catalog gets deleted, the virtual copy develop settings are gone.

Is there any way to save the virtual copies develop settings in a .XMP sidecar file? Can a single XMP file hold two developing settings for a single image?

If not, what other workarounds exists?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I've been assuming for years that virtual copy settings were stored in a separate XMP. I never even checked! +1 for correcting me. :) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 21, 2011 at 7:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly this is just a limitation of Lightroom at its current state. It isn't perfect:) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Sep 27, 2011 at 20:25

4 Answers 4



there is a second, potentially better, method that i have found.

  • on your original file, save snapshot "original"
  • on your virtual copy, save snapshot "virtual copy"
  • "save metadata to file" on your original file
  • the xmp will contain 2 snapshots. one of your original, one for your virtual copy.

open up the linked xmp file in a text editor and you will see settings for "OriginalSettings" and "VirtualCopySettings"


Having said all this, you are making quite a bit of work here. The catalog is in effect invisible to me as a user, apart from when reminded the user to backup. What in particular don't you like about it? Why trust xmp files and not the sql catalogue file?

  • \$\begingroup\$ We have a winner! The XMP has both develop information, although when you load the raw file it doesn't show the virtual copy, so it's own (virtual copy) develop settings appear hidden under the Snapshots panel. Your other solution also works well but you have to manage two files instead of one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andres
    Oct 1, 2011 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the catalog point, I just don't like them. I prefer to have the develop settings in an unique XMP file, which allows me to transfer that specific settings to anyone without sending the whole catalog (which also will make trouble if you don't put the files in the exact same location as in the original source) \$\endgroup\$
    – Andres
    Oct 1, 2011 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ glad you've got a workaround andres. take it easy. \$\endgroup\$
    – rapscalli
    Oct 1, 2011 at 22:00

It is not currently possible to either save multiple .XMP files per image nor to save multiple versions of settings in a single .XMP file. Here are a couple workarounds:

  • Instead of creating a virtual copy, make one set of adjustments and save a snapshot in the Develop module, then go on and make the other set of adjustments. This is kind of clunky, but you can quickly get to that snsapshot.

  • Once you have one version of the file, save it out as a DNG. You now have two version of the file.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This snapshot workaround is going to save a separate .xmp file? Or that adjustments will be gone once the catalog gets deleted? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andres
    Sep 25, 2011 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ hi ahockley, see my second answer below, it is possible to save multiple snapshots in a single xmp file. whilst these are slightly different to virtual copies, it does allow saving multiple versions to a single xml. \$\endgroup\$
    – rapscalli
    Sep 30, 2011 at 14:14

The only way possible that I know of is to do the following workaround:-

  • create a smart collection using "copy name" - "is not empty"
  • this will create a smart collection of all your virtual copies
  • export using "file format" "original"
  • choose a folder for your exported files, or use "same folder as original image". you may want to put the virtual copies in sub-folders, and probably best to "add to catalogue".
  • If you do chose to export to the original folder, you will need to rename the file, possibly "original filename" - "custom text", and set custom text to "-virtual-copy" or something you chose.
  • You can also select the original file and the exported file, and chose to "group into stack" (keyboard shortcut ctrl+g or cmd+g), but only if you exported to the original folder. You cannot create stacks of pictures in different folders.

You will now have xmp for your virtual copies, but this creates another raw file to associate with. I believe the root of the problem is that raw files are paired 1:1 with sidecar files, and named identically apart from the suffix.


My assumption is that the virtual copy and its associated develop settings are important because this is now your favorite version of the image. The workaround I believe is pretty simple in this case. Instead of having this virtual copy, simply switch it to a Master Copy.

  1. In the Library module, select a virtual copy of another photo.
  2. Choose Photo > Set Copy As Master.

The root issue here is that Lightroom does not store the virtual copy develop settings in the XMP sidecar, rather it stores that data in the Lightroom Catalog(ref). You can see others have found this "bug/defect/issue" and noted it in the Adobe forums as long ago as 2008.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But still, there will be one xmp sidecar and the other develop setting will be gone, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andres
    Sep 28, 2011 at 14:21

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