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Last week I received an interesting question from a reader who asked “Is there any way to find duplicate images in Lightroom and delete them?” It sounds like a simple request. But, surprisingly, there’s no easy way to find duplicate photos in Lightroom.
The good news is that there are a couple of plugins you can use to find any duplicate images. But before we look at them, let’s think about why you might end up with duplicate photos in your Catalog in the first place.
1. The Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates box in the Import window isn’t ticked. This option prevents you from importing photos that you’ve already added to your Catalog. If it’s unticked, you may re-import photos and end up with duplicates.
2. You’ve merged one or more Catalogs that contain the same photos.
3. You’ve exported copies of a photo for a client or to upload to a website and added the copies to your Catalog.
4. You shoot Raw+JPEG.
5. You send a photo to Photoshop or a plugin, which results in a new version of the photo (normally in the TIFF format) being added to your Catalog.
Why finding duplicate photos in Lightroom isn’t easy
There are a couple of reasons that finding duplicate photos is more difficult than you might have thought.
1. You may have photos in your Catalog that are different but share the same filename. This happens if you don’t change the name of your photos when you import them, and your camera cycles back through its naming system. Or if you use more two or more cameras that use the same naming system.
2. You may have several copies of the same photo with different file extensions or filenames. There are several scenarios listed above where this can happen, and the end result is that you end up with two files, one called something like IMG_0001.CR2 and the other IMG_0001.jpg or IMG_0001.tiff.
This gets even more complicated if you change the name of your file completely on output, something you might do if you’re preparing files for a client. In that case you might have two identical photos, one called IMG_0001.CR2 and the other something like clientname_jobname_001.jpg.
Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s see how you can find those duplicate photos.
How to find duplicate photos in Lightroom with the Filter Bar
The only way you can find duplicate images in Lightroom without a plugin is to open the Filter Bar and search for a photo by name. The drawback of this method is that you can only search for one filename at a time. It also doesn’t find duplicate photos that have different names. Use this method if you want to search for other instances of a specific photo (including Virtual Copies).
Here’s how it works.
1. Go to the Catalog panel in the Library module and click on the All Photographs Collection. This selects all the photos in your Catalog.
2. Click G to go to Grid View (if you’re not there already). If you can’t see the Filter Bar press the \ key to display it at the top of Grid View.
3. To carry out the search, click Text and select Filename and Contains All (see below). Type the name of the file you’re searching for into the search bar. You can omit the file extension to reveal more versions of the photo.
The search reveals all photos that share the filename entered. You can enter a partial filename instead of a full one if that helps your search.
Here is the result when I searched for the filename IMG_0002.CR2 in my Catalog. There are five photos with the same name, but none of them are duplicates.
How to find duplicate photos in Lightroom with the Duplicate Finder plugin
As we have seen, finding duplicate photos is slightly trickier than you might at first imagine. There are two plugins that can help you with this task.
The Duplicate Finder plugin is the first of these. It helps you find duplicate photos with different names by searching for photos with matching time and date stamps, plus other criteria you select, as well as filename.
You can download the Duplicate Finder plugin and run it to test it out for yourself, but the functionality is limited to finding a handful of duplicate photos, rather than every duplicate photo in your Catalog.
A small fee of $US 11.99 unlocks the plugin’s full functionality. It comes with a PDF instruction manual that explains how it works in full detail. See the instructions for installing Lightroom plugins below if it’s the first time you’ve done this.
How to install a Lightroom plugin
To install one of these plugins, download it, unzip the file and save it to a folder on your computer (it’s a good idea to keep all your plugins in the same folder so they are easy to find).
Open the Plugin Manager by going to File > Plug-in Manager. Click the Add button in the bottom left corner (see below), navigate to the folder containing your plugins, select the plugin you want to install and click the Add Plug-in button. Lightroom takes care of the rest.
Once the plugin is installed go to Library > Plug-in Extras > Find Duplicates 2 to run the Duplicate Finder plugin. You’ll see a window like this.
To start with I recommend leaving the settings at their default. You can change them later if you want to do more advanced searches.
The plugin takes a few minutes to scan your Catalog (the more photos in your Catalog the longer it takes). When it’s finished it creates a Collection Set in your Catalog called Duplicate Photos. The Collection Set contains ten Smart Collections that categorize potential duplicate photos in various ways.
How to find duplicate photos in Lightroom with the Teekesselchen plugin
The Teekesselchen plugin is a good alternative to the Duplicate Finder plugin. No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, but if it helps according to Google Translate Teekesselchen is Western Frisian (a dialect spoken in the northern Netherlands) for Teapot.
Don’t let the name put you off – the plugin works well and even better you can download Teekesselchen and use it for free. Teekesselchen is donationware, which means the author asks for a donation if you like the software.
Once you’ve installed the plugin go to Library > Plug-in Extras > Find Duplicates (under Teekesselchen) to run the Duplicate Finder plugin. You’ll see a window like this.
Before you click the Find Duplicates button it’s a good idea to go to the Marks tab and untick the Mark duplicates as rejected and Abuse color labels for sorting box (see below). This prevents any confusion that arises from the plugin deciding which images to reject, or using color labels that you already use for something else.
Other than that, you can use the default search settings. Click the Find Duplicates button to get started. As with the Duplicate Finder plugin, the search process takes at least a few minutes. When it’s done, the plugin adds any duplicate photos it finds to a new Smart Collection called Duplicates.
How to find and delete duplicate photos
Regardless of which plugin you use the ultimate task of deciding which photos are genuine duplicates and need to be deleted is left up to you.
One of the problems you’ll have is being able to tell the difference between your original photos and any duplicates. The solution is to set the View Options so that you can see Expanded Cells in Grid View. Expanded Cells are ideal for this task as they display the crucial information about each photo you need to tell which ones are duplicates.
This is what an Expanded Cell looks like, with the metadata displayed at the top.
There are two ways to display Expanded Cells in Grid View if you don’t see them already.
1. Go to View > Grid View Style and make sure the Expanded Cells option is ticked (see below).
2. Alternatively, press the J shortcut until you see the Expanded Cell display.
The reason that Expanded Cells are so useful is that you can customize the metadata displayed at the top of the cell. If you click on any of the four Metadata entries a menu appears that lets you select the information you’d like to see.
Important information you need includes the File Name (the name of the photo), Copy Name (the name of the Virtual Copy) and Cropped Dimensions (the size of the photo in pixels). The last is important because it lets you see whether you’re looking at a full size photo or a smaller version you may have created for a purpose like uploading to a website.
For example, here you can see that I have three identical photos in my Catalog.
We can see that the first image is the original and the other two are duplicates. There are two pieces of information that tell us this.
1. The first image is a .CR2 Raw file, the others are JPEG files.
2. The first image is full size (2592 x 3888 pixels) and the others are cropped (1667 x 2500 pixels).
If you decided you want to delete a photo then press the X key to flag it as a reject. When you do this Lightroom displays a black flag (see below) to indicate the Reject status, and fades the photo out if it isn’t selected.
When you are done selecting which photos (if any) to delete, go to the All Photographs Collection in the Catalog panel, select Attribute in the Filter Bar and select the black flag icon (see below).
Make sure none of the other attributes are selected. For example, if you click on both the white and black flag icons, Lightroom displays all photos which have been flagged as Picks and Rejects. You want to see Rejects only. This is so you can make one final check to make sure that you don’t Reject any photos you want to keep.
When you’re ready, go to Photo > Delete Rejected Photos. The next window that appears gives you the option to Cancel (if you change your mind), remove the photos from Lightroom (but not from your hard drive) or to remove the photos from Lightroom and delete them from your hard drive. The choice is yours.
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