How to Simultaneously Preview Multiple Lightroom Presets

Saikat Basu 04-01-2018

Adobe Lightroom is the Swiss knife for every photographer. Lightroom Presets 1500+ Free Lightroom Presets for Any Occasion What are Adobe Lightroom presets? Here's what they are, how to use them, and where to get the best free Lightroom presets. Read More are the easiest multi-tools for automatic tweaks to your photos, and there are many ways to use them.


But what if you want to see how the same photo looks after different presets are applied — at the same time?

Well, you can make several copies of the same image and apply different presets to them, but I am sure you will agree that it’s a chore and a waste of space for your hard drive. The solution we want should have three qualities:

  1. It should be the exact copy of the original image.
  2. The change to the copies should not affect the original image.
  3. The new multiple copies should not eat up space in your photo catalog.

The answer to the above three can be found in a simple Lightroom feature: Virtual Copy.

What Is a “Virtual Copy” in Lightroom?

A virtual copy is a duplicate of the original image but it is not a new physical copy of the image on your computer. Instead, just the editing and adjustment information is stored in the Lightroom catalog.

The virtual copy exists in Lightroom alone, though you can convert and save them as actual physical copies if you want. Let’s see it at work on an image.


How to Simultaneously Preview Multiple Lightroom Presets

  1. Launch Lightroom and import the original image you want virtual copies for.
  2. Go to Photo > Create Virtual Copy. Alternatively, use the Right-Click context menu. Or use keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + ‘ (Windows) and Command + ‘ (Mac).
    Lightroom - Create Virtual Copy
  3. Lightroom creates the first Virtual Copy and places it in the same Collection as the original image.
    Three Virtual Copies

You can repeat the same step to create as many virtual copies you want for the original image. Notice that the images are numbered and named as Copy 1…, Copy 2…, Copy 3…, etc. Select the unwanted copy and go to Photo > Remove Photo when you want to delete an extra copy.

Now, you can process each virtual copy in a different way. 

I converted the first virtual copy to a Black and White. Then, I toned down the second virtual copy after applying a Custom Color Preset.

Lightroom -- Virtual Copies with Edits Applied

As you can see, virtual copies allow you to create multiple versions of the same image and view them side-by-side before you decide on the final look. You can select and export the virtual copies as final images to your desktop or print them like a contact sheet.

So, try all the experiments you want the next time you are undecided about the tweaks you want to apply to an image. Virtual copies can handle them all.

Do you use virtual copies for any specific reason in Adobe Lightroom? Do add your own tips in the comments.

Image Credit: Usama Allam via Shutterstock

Related topics: Adobe Lightroom, Creativity, Graphic Design, Lightroom Presets, Photography.

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