I just upgraded to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 and the program’s new polished look gave me the nudge I needed to take on a library clean-up project. Namely, I wanted to convert all of my photos stored in various raw formats to DNG (if you haven’t jumped on the DNG bandwagon yet, it might be time to reconsider as Adobe has added some impressive new features) and I wanted to forever rid my library of duplicate images.
Convert to DNG
It’s easy to convert images to DNG in Lightroom 4. Start in Library mode and click on your main storage folder (I keep all of my year folders in my main “Shoots” folder). Then initiate Lightroom’s “find” function or Library Filter by hitting “Cmd + f” (I’m using a mac — hit “Ctrl + f” for PC). When the find bar opens filter by Text and choose the options “Filename” and “Contains.” I wanted to convert my Olympus ORF files and my leftover NEF files, so I conducted two separate searches with those terms in the search bar.
After finding the files that I wanted to convert, I simply selected all of the images, clicked on “Library” at the top of the Lightroom window and then picked “Convert to DNG.” Even though I had already filtered my results to only included RAW files, I chose the “Only convert Raw files” option just to be safe. I also selected “Embed Fast Load Data” as this option makes images load 8x faster when working in Develop Mode. There’s also an option to convert images into a lossy format — a good idea if you know you’ll never print the files in question. I’ve got a ton of storage on my Mac Pro, so I’ll leave reducing file size for a future clean-up project.
Removing Duplicate Images
Storing all of your images in a single file format (actually, I still have a few JPGs in the collection from my pre-RAW days) will simplify the process of finding duplicates in your photo collection. If you’re like me, your library contains thousands of photos, some of which were taken years ago, and your original organization system was probably somewhat shoddy. I started out using a combination of Photoshop and Bridge for editing and organization. Bridge allowed me to slide files and folders around my hard drive like I was playing a shell game, but in the process of constantly re-organizing my files I introduced duplicates into the system. (Don’t make this mistake with Lightroom — in fact, don’t make any of these mistakes).
I looked at plugins that could do the job of cleaning up my existing photo library, but I decided that I would rather learn to make the changes I needed using Lightroom’s existing functionality. I found that eliminating duplicate images was actually quite easy.
Most of my duplicates were created when I imported files into the library more than once. Lightroom has a “prevent overwrite” feature that quietly appends a “-2″ to the end of duplicate image files. To find these files and remove them use Lightroom’s text search feature by clicking “Cmd + f” again, but instead of selecting “Filename” and “Contains,” pick “Ends With.” Now type “-2″ then a dot and the file type (in my case DNG). The final search parameter should look like this:
But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Ones
Before deleting the images brought up in the search we’ll want to ensure that the photos we’re going to delete are actually duplicates and not just edits. To do this navigate to “View” on the top menu and select “View Options.” In the “Library View Options” panel choose the “Compact Cells” option and make sure that “Top Label” is selected.
Now, with your image’s titles visible, make sure you’re not deleting edits or other shots that you actually want to keep. I checked a few of my similar looking images using “Compare View” to make sure that the images I was about to toss were indeed taken at the same time and were the same size.
When you’re ready to rid your computer of the offending detritus building up in your Lightroom library, select all of the files you want to delete, right click on one, choose “Delete,” and then choose the “Delete From Disk” option. On a Mac the deleted images will end up in the Trash, so I finished the procedure by emptying my trash, and my library was already starting to feel lighter. Overall, I found and removed over 200 duplicate DNGs.
One More Step
Not all of my duplicate images related to import mistakes. I knew there were more extraneous files lurking in my library, so I selected my main storage folder once again and conducted a quick visual search of my library. Quick might not be the right word. With over 18,000 images in my collection, having a look at every one would have taken a while.
I assumed that the majority of mistakes would have been made in my older folders, so I started at the top and clicked through as fast as my computer would load preview images. When I found photos that looked similar I checked their file names to see if they might be duplicates, and then used Compare View to look into the matter.
I found that a number of duplicates had been imported using different file names. These duplicates shared portions of their file names (for instance, all of the photos in one set contained “P818″), so I used the text search function again to ferret out any interlopers.
In less than a half hour I had my Lightroom photo collection looking good and I was ready to start playing with Lightroom 4.