Updated: January 4, 2024 | Contains affiliate links

8 Easy Steps to Eliminate Duplicate Photos

We take so many photos these days and we have so many ways to publish our pictures that we are bound to end up with duplicate photos. Modern photo editing software programs make it very easy to edit our photos but in the process we can create duplicates of our images. With so many photos it is very hard to remember what we do and this can bring confusion when we look at our photos on our computers. We can end up with lots of duplicate photos. Fortunately, I found a few simple steps to avoid and eliminate duplicate photos. Read on to find out how you can also avoid and eliminate duplicate photos on your computer.

The best way to eliminate duplicate photos is to avoid generating them and importing them to your computer.  Prevention is the best method. In this article we will explore how to avoid creating but also how to find and eliminate duplicate photos from your media collection.

How do you eliminate duplicate photos?
With so many ways for producing photos, we easily create duplicate photos on our computers. This complicates the task of organizing and finding our photos.

1. Set the File Numbering Scheme

In order to eliminate duplicate photos we have to start at the source, with your camera.

Unfortunately for your phone, there is nothing you can do as the file numbering scheme is already set for your phone. Fortunately however, most modern phones have the continuous file naming scheme already in use, so you can pretty much skip this step if your phone is the only camera you use.

Modern standalone digital cameras (those devices that are only cameras…not your phone) have different file naming schemes available. The most common two schemes are Continuous and Auto Reset.

The Continuous file naming scheme will continually number your images from 0001 to 9999 and then reset back to 0001. This means that you get 10,000 pictures (yeah it’s actually 9999) with unique image numbers.

This is the first good measure to guard against duplicate files.

If you choose Auto Reset, then your file numbering will start with 1 every time you put in a memory card in your camera.

2. Delete Your Digital Photos After Each Transfer

Next step in order to eliminate duplicate photos is to address the process for transferring photos from our camera (or phone) to our computer. This is where duplicate photos can enter our computer.

After transferring photos from your phone to your computer, I always empty my phone photo storage. This way I can’t transfer the same photos twice.

Talking about a stand alone camera now, the next thing to do is to empty your memory card after you transfer your pictures to the computer. This way you will never transfer the same pictures to your computer.

I know that to some photographers this is really bad advice. What happens if your computer crashes? You have only one copy of your pictures and that’s very risky.

I agree in principle, but if you have a regular backup setup every day, then there’s nothing to worry about. You will get at least one more copy when the backup kicks in.

I would want to say that since I have started deleting my memory cards after each transfer, I have never ran into duplicate images on my computer. That is very cool I say !

To setup a backup strategy read my tutorial on creating an efficient backup strategy for your digital photos.

3. Do not Transfer Duplicate Photos to Your Computer

Duh! Of course, if you don’t transfer duplicate photos then you won’t have duplicate photos…you may say. However, it’s very difficult to achieve this goal, especially if you don’t delete your memory card after each photo transfer.

One good thing that helps you not transfer duplicate files is to use your software to detect duplicates.

In Lightroom, FastStone and Picasa for example you can configure the import process so that it will not import duplicate files. This setting however only works if you always import your photos in the same folder structure and you never move folders and photos around on your hard drive.  My STORE method relies on having a separate TRANSFER area which in this case will not help you detecting duplicate photos upon transfer.

In Picasa for example you can configure this setting under Tools -> Options -> General tab make sure you check the “Detect Duplicates while importing”.

4. Remove Your External Backup Drive From Software

Another source of duplication is having your backup drive connected to your software. If it is then your software (like Picasa) will show your pictures twice. So, make sure your remove your backup drives from the “watched” folders in your software.

For example, if you’re not careful you can add both your main photo storage area and the external backup drive into your software.  This is especially true if you allow your software to scan for photos automatically.

Long time ago when I was using Picasa for example, I excluded my backup drive from the folders Picasa scans. I configured my synchronized folders in Picasa using Tools –> Folder Manager and making sure all my “watched” folders are what I need.

5. Have Patience With Your Software

If you are using database image processing software like Adobe Lightroom (or Picasa), you have to remember that if you change the folder structure outside of the software, then it will take a while for the software to read the changes and update its database.

In Lightroom for example, unless you synchronize a folder with your catalog, the changes you make outside of Lightroom will not be visible inside Lightroom.  This is always a source of frustration for Lightroom users as there is not automatic synchronization for all folders in a catalog.

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For those of you who still use Picasa, it detects changes automatically. Picasa will show you a small image thumbnail and the file name on the bottom right part of the screen. This tells you it’s working to read changes it has detected. Just wait until the software finishes.

In Picasa find a folder that has duplicate pictures and then right-click on the folder and choose “Locate on disk”. This will bring up a Windows Explorer window, make sure you have thumbnails turned on and just go through the thumbnails…if you see duplicates then it’s normal for Picasa to show you duplicates. Just delete them through Picasa by hitting the delete key.

6. Editing Photos Can Create Duplicates

Most modern photo management software will allow you to apply different changes to the pixels without actually modifying your pictures until you export your edited photos.

Software like Lightroom, ACDSee and the now defunct Picasa,  will apply changes to brightness, contrast, exposure and so many other effects while not really modifying your pictures. All these changes will be applied when you export your pictures and create new versions of your pictures.

Until you save your picture to another image file, you will only have the original picture on your hard drive without any changes to it even though you have worked a lot on it.

So when you want to create a new image with the changes you have performed on this picture, you will end up with two images. The original image and the new image. The two images will have almost the same file name.

Essentially, your edited photos are not really duplicate photos as they contain edits to your originals.  However, I always separate my photo export area from my originals.  This way I always know that my originals are untouched. Photos that have specific purposes like: for a photo book, or for my travel website will always be separated into different folders from my originals.  See below for more details.

Lightroom makes it pretty clear in their Export display that you should specify a folder where you want your exported photo files to be placed.

In Picasa you can create a new image file from an existing one by clicking File -> Save a copy. This essentially creates a new image file with all the changes applied to it and it adds "-1" in the file name of the new image.

So, later on when you can’t remember what you have done and you look in the folder with the image you changed…you will see two images.

7. Have a Separate Folder for Exporting Photos

Now we come to a crucial step to eliminate duplicate photos. This is the step most photographers ignore, because it takes some effort to create it and most of all it takes perseverance to use it every time you export your edited photos.

As you know, I have all my pictures in one folder called My Pictures. Within this folder I have one folder for transferring new pictures and one folder for exporting edited photos for different purposes. In essence I have something like this:

My Pictures
      [various subfolders]
      [various subfolders]

This way all my duplicate photosI create from editing and resizing, will be in the EXPORT folder and not interfere with my original pictures under FAMILY.

8. Find and Eliminate Duplicate Photos

Most software that claims to find and eliminate duplicate photos will only check for variations in the file name. When duplicate photos are imported, the software and operating system will add “-1” or “_1” to the file name if it already detects the same file name existing in your import destination.

For example: when my iPhone creates a file name IMG_12345.jpg, my computer will attempt to copy this file to my transfer folder when I download photos from my phone to my computer. If my transfer folder will already have this file already, then my computer will create a new file called IMG_12345_1.jpg which will be easily visible in details mode with Mac Finder or Windows File Explorer.

But what happens when you rename duplicate files?

Most software will not find them…but, if you still use Picasa you have a chance to find and eliminate your duplicate photos. Picasa analyzes the pixels inside the image as well.

How do you use Picasa to find and eliminate duplicate photos?

You need 2 things:

  1. Make sure Picasa displays the file name under image thumbnails: View –> Thumbnail caption –> File name.
  2. Picasa click Tools –> Experimental –> Show duplicate Files. Scroll through the files and inspect the thumbnails and their captions.

If you are unsure make the thumbnails larger and use the properties panel to check the date.

Can You Eliminate Duplicate Photos Altogether?

Well, the answer is that it depends. I have duplicate images on my computer. However, the duplicate images I created were created for a specific purpose, like publishing on my travel blog, or sharing them online or printing them. While these images are duplicate photos, they are not exact copies as they have different resolution and edited.

However, if you want to eliminate duplicate photos on your computer, the steps I have outlined will help you avoid creating them altogether.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Excellent Lightroom alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac or ACDSee Photo Studio Professional for Windows is my preferred solution for organizing all my media. It has a very fast browser, great image editing and it's simple to use.

If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it has a steeper learning curve. Adobe Lightroom is my favorite for image editing.

I recommend Backblaze Personal Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

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