Using Search By Filename to Find Duplicate Images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

February 26, 2011 | | Comments 5

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Search By Filename Dialog Closeup ScreenshotAccidents happen. Sometimes the same image is accidentally imported into your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog more than once. These duplicate files suck up useful disk space and can make your Lightroom Catalog needlessly bloated. Searching for hundreds, or thousands, of duplicate images by hand is a real pain. Scrolling through folder after folder of images looking for duplicate photographs is time consuming and inefficient.

The goal–getting rid of the duplicate images–is easy. The big question is how to find them all without scrolling and scrolling. There are lots of tricks and even a “duplicate finder plugin” that you can purchase, but my favorite way to find duplicates is to search for them by filename. This will not work every time but I often find that the best way to clean these files out is to search for them en masse.

The trick is to use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s text search feature to find all of the files whose names end with “-2” plus a file extension. Files whose names end with “” are almost always potential duplicates. This search by filename trick usually works because Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a smart program. True, it is not smart enough to prevent you from ever importing the same file twice, but Lightroom has been trained to respect a fundamental law in computing.

Computers cannot store two files with the same exact name in the same exact folder. Lightroom knows this rule and it silently respects it upon import. If you force Lightroom to put two files with the same exact name in the same folder then the program will automatically append the letters “-2” onto the end of the second file’s name. It adds this extra text string onto the file’s name so that the second file does not overwrite the first! This secret feature stops us from overwriting good images with lousy ones and it is a great help in cleaning out duplicates because it creates a consistent pattern.

Searching for Duplicate Filenames in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Screenshot

Most digital cameras, and most digital imaging software, do not use this naming convention. Most other programs are not smart enough to secretly change your filenames. Thus, searching for the right string at the end of the filename is often the easiest way to find hundreds or thousands of duplicate images whose filenames were silently changed when Lightroom moved or copied them onto your hard drive. In this video tutorial I am going to use this trick to find and eliminate unwanted duplicates in no time! Check it out.

This is the sort of trick that I like to emphasize in my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom workshops and private tutoring sessions. Not to toot my own horn, but anyone can teach you to push buttons. I like to focus my classes on techniques and features that make Lightroom more efficient. Learning to harness Lightroom’s search tool is one of my favorite lecture subjects and I believe that it is one of the secrets to maximum productivity with this wonderful program. If you like our online content please come see us in person!

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About the Author: David Marx is a digital photography instructor whose engaging teaching style inspires photographers of all skill levels. David is an Adobe Certified Lightroom Expert. To learn more about David's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit or follow David Marx on Google+.