Duplicate photo finder for Mac: The best way to clear duplicates

If you shoot as much as the next photographer, most of your hard drive is taken over by pictures. Now, try to imagine how many of them are duplicate photos or just visually really-really similar? Chances are, the answer is a lot.

With a digital camera, you shoot about 10-15 takes from one angle or of one posture before you’re satisfied, right? And then you only choose one for editing. That’s 14 pictures that you will never need right there, and that’s every scene of every photoshoot.

Two duplicate photos of a horse

You must already be thinking about getting an external hard drive or buying cloud storage and moving your gallery, because your Mac’s space is not infinite. Or you might have already done that. Anyway, in the long run, billions of photos you no longer need keep piling up and it seems like there’s no escape from it. But worry not, there is.

How to find duplicate photos on Mac

Finding duplicate photos on your Mac can be tedious and time-consuming. Especially if you’re trying to do that manually. But the problem with duplicate and visually similar photos is so commonplace that here at MacPaw we created Gemini 2, the duplicate photo finder. Let’s take a closer look at how you can sort your photos, both manually and with the help of the app.

1. Use a duplicate photo finder to clean up your Photos

First, you need to find duplicate photographs in your gallery. Then you have to figure out which version to delete in each case. All that takes loads of time if done manually, and Gemini 2 does 90% of the work for you.

To find duplicate photos on your Mac, do the following:

  1. Download Gemini for free and launch it
  2. Click Scan for Duplicates. Your Home folder is pre-selected, so Gemini 2 will check all files on your Mac.
  3. When the scan is over, hit Review Results
  4. All the duplicate photos you have on your Mac will be grouped under All Duplicates > Images. Click on the group of photos to view them (Gemini has a built-in photo preview).
  5. Bonus tip: If you switch to grid view using the icon at the top, you’ll see bigger previews of duplicate photos. Double click on a group of duplicates to see all copies side-by-side, along with their metadata and location. The icons at the top will highlight the differences between the duplicates, such as location or date modified.

  6. Once you choose which copies you want to delete, check mark them and proceed to the next set of duplicate images by using those little arrows on the sides.
  7. Screenshot of Gemini, The Duplicate Photo Finder for Mac: selecting duplicates
  8. Finally, click Smart Cleanup to delete all selected photos. And don’t worry, Gemini moves pics to a separate Gemini Duplicates album in Photos, so you can look through them once again before you give the final “Delete” command. That’s because Apple won’t let any third-party app delete anything from the Photos library.

If you think you have too many files in your Home folder and want to focus on pictures, try scanning just the Photos app. Here’s how to find duplicates in Apple’s Photos app:

  1. Download Gemini for free and launch it
  2. Click Restart Now, and then the big “+” in the middle of the screen
  3. Select the Pictures folder and hit Scan for Duplicates
  4. Follow steps 4-6 from the tutorial above

The Pictures folder contains your Photos library, so this should help you remove all the duplicate photos you have in there.

How to get rid of not-quite-duplicate photos

Once you have duplicates off your Mac, it’s time to take a look at similar photos. See, Gemini distinguishes between exact duplicate photos, which are several instances of the same image, and similars — photos that have different editing or were shot at slightly different angles.

For instance, here are two pictures with and without editing, in the same folder. Gemini will find them for you and mark as similar.

Similar images of a girl

Or here are three pictures that were taken a second apart. You definitely don’t need all three, unless you’re going for an art-housy installation on majestic horse breathing.

Three duplicate pictures of a horse breathing

To see all the similar photos the app has found, look right next to the duplicates in your left-hand menu.

Screenshot: Dealing with similar photos in Gemini 2, The Duplicate Photo Cleaner for Mac

Go through similar shots just like you did with exact duplicate pictures, selecting those you want to delete. When you’re done, click Remove and delete all unwanted copies in bulk.

Dealing with similars is pretty rewarding in terms of disk space, they usually take up even more than duplicates. After you get rid of similar images it's easy to organize your whole gallery and leave only those pictures that you’ll actually use.

2. Remove duplicates from Photos manually

When you import your pictures, the Photos app automatically detects duplicates, but it won’t help you with the ones already in your library. For those images already in your photo library, you’ll have to take a more manual approach.

It’s safe to assume most of your duplicates were taken at the same time, or at least on the same day. Thankfully, the Photos app, by default, sorts your pics by the date they were captured, making duplicate photos a little easier to spot as you’re scrolling through your library.

But if you’re still having trouble finding all of your duplicates, you can further narrow down your search by using Smart Albums. You can filter your pictures by filename, camera model, lens type, and other criteria to help you figure out if a photo has been duplicated. Follow these steps to start using Smart Albums in Photos:

  1. Open the Photos App.
  2. Click File > New Smart Album.
  3. In the pop-up window, name your Smart Album and set the filter criteria.
  4. Select the pictures you want to delete.
  5. Right-click (or hold down Command and click) on any of those images and click Delete.
  6. A window will pop up. Click Delete to confirm.
  7. In the sidebar, click Recently Deleted.
  8. Click Delete All in the top right corner.
Removing duplicates from the Photos app for Mac

Smart Albums are saved in the Photos app's sidebar, so you can return to your cleanup at any time and pick up right where you left off. Which you’ll find helpful if you have quite a few duplicates to go through.

3. Find duplicate photos on Mac in Finder

It’s normal for your Mac to fill up with duplicate files of all types, especially images. Sometimes you edit a photo and save versions of your edits. Or you download the same image from an email multiple times. And because of that, you might not always find your photos in your Pictures folder. They can be spread all over your hard drive from your Downloads folder to your Desktop.

Thankfully, you can set up Smart Folders in Finder to help you find and get rid of duplicates regardless of the specific folder they’re in. To use Smart Folders in Finder to find duplicates:

  1. Open a Finder window.
  2. Click File > New Smart Folder.
  3. Make sure This Mac is selected.
  4. Click the + in the top-right corner.
  5. Change the first drop-down menu to Kind and the second one to Image.
  6. Click on the Name column to sort your files by name. (It’s likely that duplicate images will have identical or consecutive names.)
  7. Select the duplicate photos you want to delete.
  8. Right-click (or hold down Command and click) on any of those images and click Move to Trash.

One of the best ways you can try to prevent duplicates is to import your pictures directly into the Photos app. As you read earlier, it automatically detects duplicate images as you import them. But if the pictures are already in your photo library, then that’s when you’ll need one of the methods mentioned above.

The nice thing about manually removing pictures with Smart Folders in Finder is that you’ll be able to find and remove pics across your entire hard drive, not just the ones in the Photos app. But obviously, the more images you have on your computer, the longer it will take for you to review them one-by-one.

However, that’s where Gemini 2 really excels. It does all the hard work of finding the duplicate and similar-looking images on your computer for you. So, instead of manually finding and deleting them, you just need to review the selections made by Gemini 2.

Final word on removing duplicate photos

We all know that euphoric state in which you return home with an SD-card full of new pictures. We’ve all been there, editing feverishly to publish or print them right away. It’s ok to be a little messy in that moment, but months later you notice that your whole Mac is a mess.

Don’t let those useless files eat up the drive space you need for future photoshoots. There’s nothing more frustrating than the “Startup Disk is almost full” alert when you’re uploading new pictures. It’s best to let Gemini 2 deal with space wasters long before that happens.

Have a good day and may the Photoshop be with you.

Gemini 2
Gemini 2

Your know-how to fight duplicates