8 steps for avoiding duplicate pictures

We take so many pictures these days and we have so many ways to publish our pictures that we are bound to end up with duplicates of our pictures. Modern image 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 pictures it is very hard to remember what we do and this can bring confusion when we look at our pictures on our computers. We can end up with lots of duplicates. There are some simple things that can be done to avoid having duplicate files. Read on to find out some simple ways to avoid having duplicate images on your computer.

Set the file numbering scheme on your camera to continuous file naming

Modern digital cameras have different file naming schemes available. The most common two schemes are Continuous and Auto Reset.

The Continous 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.

Delete your digital pictures from the memory card after you transfer them to your computer

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.

Do not transfer duplicate image files to your computer

Duh! Of course, if you don’t transfer duplicates then you won’t have duplicates…you may say. However, it’s not very easy to achieve 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 Picasa for example you can set Picasa so that it will not import duplicate files: under Tools -> Options -> General tab make sure you check the “Detect Duplicates while importing”.

Other software programs have similar settings that can help.

Remove your image backup drive from your 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 in Picasa, I exclude my backup drive from the folders Picasa scans. I do this by using Tools –> Folder Manager and making sure all my “watched” folders are what I need.

Have patience as your software picks up changes to your folder structure

If you are using database image processing software like Picasa or Adobe Lightroom, 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.

When Picasa detects changes, it 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.

Editing your digital photos can create duplicates

The best software for working on your pictures, will allow you to apply different changes to the pixels without actually modifying your pictures.

Software like Picasa and Adobe Lightroom 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.

For example, 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.

Have a separate folder for exporting your pictures

As you well 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 pictures for different purposes. In essence I have something like this:

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

Use Picasa to find duplicates

Most software that claims to find and delete 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.

But what happens when you rename duplicate files?

Most software will not find them…but Picasa has a chance to find them because Picasa analyzes yhe pixels inside the image as well.

How do you use Picasa to find 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 avoid having duplicate digital photos on your computer?

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 website, or sharing them online or printing them.

So if you’re surprised to have duplicate images on your computer and you don’t know why you have them, then the steps I have put together will help you avoid them.

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