by Art Suwansang Published 01/08/2011
Renaming Virtual Copy
To understand this behavior, I've created three separate scenarios to explain it. Each scenario will have the same six master images, with one of them having three virtual copies (please see figure 7 for a full visual explanation). First scenario, the images are arranged in sequence and the image that has the three Virtual Copies stack is collapsed. When they are renamed sequentially, the result, as expected, begins with a number count starting at 1 and goes up in order. All the images in the stack, which are Virtual Copies, will have the same name and number as the master file.
Second scenario, all images are in sequence and the image with the three Virtual Copies stack is expanded. When these images are renamed sequentially, the resulting file numbers start to look different. The images would not be sequentially numbered in a traditional sense; instead, Lightroom treats the file number increment similar to a ranking system. In this case, all Virtual Copies would still have the same name as the renamed master file. The group of images within the stack is assigned a numeric value, computed from the total number of images in the stack, and the image count in the sequence up to the stack when applicable. For example, if there is one image with two Virtual Copies, the combined count total is three; when these files are renamed, the sequential number for all of them would be 3 and not 1, 2 and 3 in a traditional sense (fig. 8).
The last scenario, Master and Virtual Copy images are mixed together in non-sequential order with no stack involved. When renaming these files in a sequential order, the resulting file number almost seems random. Similar to the second scenario, Lightroom treats the sequential increment count like a ranking system. All master files without Virtual Copy will get counted and renamed normally. Master files with Virtual Copies will all have the same file name and sequence rank number. Lightroom determines the sequential value for the set of master and its Virtual Copies by counting all the images to be renamed in a continuous order, while skipping the count for each image that belongs to the Virtual Copy set, and use the highest count numeric value for the set sequential number (a visual explanation for these three scenarios can be seen in figure 9).
As we can see, renaming files in sequential order, with Virtual Copy, can produce an unexpected file-numbering result. Here are a few recommended practices to prevent this from occurring. It is best not to break apart a stack of images that contain Virtual Copies, unless there is justification to do so. Collapse all stacks with Virtual Copies, before renaming, by selecting all of the images and use the short-cut key "S" or the Photo > Stack menu to perform the task. A stack will get renamed normally, regardless of whether a master image or a Virtual Copy is at the top (first image) of the collapsed stack.
Exporting Virtual Copy
Using Virtual Copies in Lightroom for organisation and image editing is great. However, at some point we need to export these final images for other uses. When exporting a mixed group of originals with Virtual Copies, and depending on your export criteria, the resulting file number can also vary. If Lightroom is set to retain the original file name on export, every Virtual Copy will have a dash, and incremental count, starting at 2, next to the original file name. For example, let's take a RAW file named A.nef, with three virtual copies; when these files are exported, regardless of final file format, they will have the following name: A.jpg, A-2.jpg, A-3.jpg, A-4.jpg (fig. 10).
If the workflow is different, and images are set to be renamed sequentially, upon export, then all of the final files will be numbered sequentially without dashes, and an incremental count, as in the previous example. The one big downside to this method is a file name and number mismatch between what is delivered to the client, and what's in the Lightroom library. In the long run, this approach generally involves more work referencing back-images for any sub-sequential export and delivery.
Virtual Copy is a wonderful tool that enables us to expand our creative expression. It allows us to experiment with new and adaptive methods of image processing by generating virtual versions for further processing. Best of all, it does all of this with only a few lines of code, maximising disk storage space and retaining the original edited version. Virtual Copy is one of the best features that digital photography can offer. Now is the time to imagine and get creative!
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