Has this ever happened to you? You download images from a website multiple times because you forgot where you download it to. You export images multiple times from Lightroom because you forgot where you exported it to. What you wind up with is duplicate images scattered across your hard drive and no easy way to clean them up.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to use Lightroom to clean up those duplicate images from your hard drive. Just in time for spring cleaning!
Disclaimer: This tutorial isn’t really meant for your original processed images since the catalog contains all the edit data. Even if you use XMP sidecar files, you might lose important information. This tutorial is more for removing duplicate exported, downloaded, or stock images. Remember to always back up your catalog before doing bulk moves!
Ok, the disclaimer is out of the way, so let’s get started!
For this tutorial, I created three folders of stock images. Each folder had some unique images as well as images that were duplicated in other folders.
I also created an empty catalog to highlight the process and because I didn’t want to clutter up my working catalog.
The magic of Lightroom comes in to play during the import process. Basically, we’re going to leverage Lightroom’s duplicate recognition to import only one copy of an image. Lightroom will recognize duplicates by comparing all the images being imported and also by comparing the incoming images against what is already in the catalog. In this tutorial, since I’m starting with an empty catalog, I’m relying only on Lightroom comparing all the incoming images for duplicates.
In the import dialog below, I’ve navigated to the top level folder that contains the three stock image folders I created in the setup. As you can see, there are some duplicate images in the list, including the iTunes logos and the iLife logo.
When I click on the Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates checkbox, Lightroom will gray out any images that it suspects are duplicates.
Now, Lightroom has grayed out the copies of the iLife and iTunes logos, along with the other images that have multiple copies.
When I click on import, Lightroom will only import the images that are not grayed out, which means I’m getting only one copy of an image.
Technically, the duplicate images still exist on my hard drive, but Lightroom has only imported pointers to one copy of each image. If you notice the folder list on the left, it has a handful of images from each folder.
Moving The Unique Images To New Folder
Now I’m going to move the physical image files in to a new folder so that I have one folder with a unique set of images. To do this, I select all the images in the Lightroom catalog and then right-click on the top-level folder. I created a folder named depulicated (somehow I butchered the deduplicated title) and checked the Include selected photos option.
Lightroom will create the new folder and move the unique image files in to the new folder, which will also be reflected in your catalog.
Checking my hard drive, I can see the depulicated folder, which contains the unique image files.
Deleting The Duplicates
What’s left over in the stock image folders are all the duplicate images, which I can now safely delete.
That’s all there is to it!