How to De-Duplicate Your Photos: The Simple Way

Duplicate vintage b+w images of a young man in marching band uniform

Let’s talk about how to de-duplicate your photos the simple way.

Chances are you have a lot of duplicates scattered throughout your photo collection, and they can take up a ton of space. Not only in your physical collection but on your computer, tablet, and/or smartphone, as well. Knowing you have a lot of duplicates can force you to take action. De-duplicating your photos is pretty easy. And what seems like an overwhelming amount of photos can become a much more manageable collection with a few steps.

The great thing about de-duplicating your photos is it doesn’t take much time and effort. For digital photos, you can run an image-duplication program (for example, we use Photo Sweeper on our Macs). These programs quickly eliminate duplicates and save precious memory space. They identify the duplicates and you chose which ones to keep. Note: you have to set the software’s duplicate search criteria, which can be set in a number of ways and combinations for the best results, so there is a small learning curve there.

Back when printing photos was more common, it’s likely you received duplicates or even triplicates anytime you developed a roll of film. While extra copies seemed like a good idea at the time, too many copies clutter up a collection. If you have boxes of or envelopes of prints that still have duplicates, this is a great place to start de-duplicating. You can sort through prints quickly and get rid of any you don’t want. This is especially helpful if you are planning to hire a professional photo organizer to organize your photos. Doing this process yourself will save you time and money!

I’m often reminded that duplicate photos can stretch back in time – even as early as the 1900s. As I sort through my client’s print photo collections, I frequently discover the same subjects again and again. I note any differing information found on the backs of these print duplicates. It’s important to review and preserve this metadata. It can clarify questions as well as add extra info and stories about the images.

So what do you do with all those extra physical copies? In most cases, photographs can’t be recycled because of the chemicals used in processing them. However, they don’t need to head to the landfill.

Here’s a few ideas:
  • Give copies to the people (or their families) in the photos, who may be delighted to have a print they haven’t seen or had forgotten about.
  • Duplicates can be added to an album – this doesn’t need to be archival quality since the photos are copies, not originals.
  • Consider donating your old photographs to local schools and colleges (art classes love photos!).
  • Talk to local historical societies about your family photos – they may be of interest.
  • Or do a search online for creative projects with old print photos.


Being able to quickly and easily clear out a box of duplicate prints (or a virtual trash can of digital photos) is so satisfying – and a great way to preserve your photo collection going forward.