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Tips, Tricks and Updates

Lightroom's magical "what if" button.

Gabriel Bousquet

There are many wonderful features in Lightroom that don’t get used to their full potential. Today we are going to focus on the “what if” button. This magical and often underutilized button can help you explore new avenues and styles of your photography with just a couple simple clicks.

So, what is the “What If” button you ask? It’s also known as “create virtual copy”.

Fig 1 -  Click on image to expand. 

This simple button allows you to try multiple versions of a single image without hassle or confusion. Some images scream for experimentation. Will it look better in black and white, high key or with selective color? What if you could see an example of all versions and pick your favorite.

Fig 2 - Click on image to expand. 

Boring Technical Details: 

You: But Gabriel, how do I make a virtual copy? 

Me: Great question and I'm glad you asked it. There are a few ways but here are the easiest.

  1. 1) Right click on the image you would like to make a virtual copy of. From the menu that shows up, click on  "Create Virtual Copy" as seen in Fig 1. 
  2. 2) Make sure the image you want to make a virtual copy of is selected, then click on "Photo" in the top menu and then click on "Create Virtual Copy". 
  3. 3) Make sure the image you want to make a virtual copy of is selected, then press the CTRL button and the ' button at the sametime. 

You: But Gabriel, how will I know what ones are the virtual copies?

Me: Man, you are full of good questions today! Each virtual image will have a slight "page turn" effect added to the bottom left corner seen in Fig 3. 

Fig 3 - Click on image to expand. 


You: Gabriel! This is awesome! But I'm pretty set in my ways, I'm not sure if I will start using this, what can I do to make sure I start using it? 

Me: Good question. Here is one idea. Go back and find one image in the past that you have made and make three to five different virtual copies of it and play with them. Try different treatments, crops or styles. Feel free to post all versions on the Google+ page to show off your amazing creations. 

Next, the next time you're out shooting, take an image with the intention of making many different versions. The more you play with it, the more you will remember to use it. 

This has been an incredibly useful and powerful tool in my Lightroom arsenal, I hope it helps you as well.