PhotoSweeper – A duplicate photograph Finder

These days with the facilities that we have with our super duper cameras we can quite quickly fill up hard drives upon hard drives with our photographs. It could be that you are using the setting on the camera to take multiple shots in order to help you catch the action. Maybe you do like I do, where you take bracketed shots so that you can do HDR photos and when you have finished using Photomatix Pro to create your high dynamic range image you just want to get rid of the photos you used to do that. There could be other reasons why you end up with multiple images even down to the possibility that maybe you copy them over twice by mistake. I have been having a look at an application called PhotoSweeper which gives you some extra tools for finding duplicates. These duplicates can be found by looking in specific folders, you just drag and drop the folder into the application and tell it to have a look. Or you might be using one of the photo management applications like Lightroom, Aperture or iPhoto. This PhotoSweeper application will also do what needs to be done in this situation also.

Getting started with PhotoSweeper

When you first open it up there is a small six panel set of getting started help information. It only takes a minute to read through it, because the application is actually quite easy to use. I used this with my Aperture library and the first thing that I had to do was to use the media browser to add the library to this application. It is possible to drag and drop the Aperture library into this media browser and there is also a plus button that can be clicked to let you go finding the library in Finder.

Working with the settings in PhotoSweeper

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Generally you work with the application on a folder, project or album level, getting started by dragging the container you are working with into the main window of the application. I first of all dragged in an Aperture project from the media browser and I found that it worked just as well with bringing in an album that was part of a project. I also dragged in a folder directly from Finder into the main window of the application and that was no problem at all.

On the set up page you get to choose how you want the application to look for duplicates. This can be as simple as photos that are exact duplicates or you can use settings to find photos that are just similar. One of the most useful settings would be to use time plus bitmap and this will look at the timestamp on the photo and then it will look through the actual bitmap of the image to find similarities. You can also set the time interval that it should use for deciding if these might be duplicates by moving a slider to the left to get a longer time period and the other way for shorter. You might choose to use a time interval of ten seconds or less, three minutes and less and then you might want to go the whole hog for twenty-four hours or less.

What have you got in your Camera Bag

When you have set up the search that you want to do, all you have to do is to click on the Compare button at the bottom of the screen. It is quite amazing how fast the application does the job of looking through the photos and when it has scanned them it will ask you if you want it to auto-mark the ones that it thinks are duplicates or similar. I did find that when looking at photos that I had taken with a bracketed exposures that the application didn’t choose the properly exposed photo of the three. For some reason or other PhotoSweeper seemed to prefer the photo that was underexposed by two stops. It would be handy if in a future version of this application there was a setting that allowed you to do a better sorting of bracketed photos in the setup.

What to do with the results

If you go for the auto-marking of the photos then you can look more closely at the results and make specific choices to remove the marker or to add a marker to the duplicates that are laid out in groups. The photos that are to be kept are marked with a green label and the ones that are marked for removal have a red one. It is possible to go through these groupings one by one and two double click on a photo in order to toggle the marked status.

PhotoSweeper and Preview of Untitled and MarsEdit
There is a slider in the bottom right-hand corner of the application which will give you a zoom level, so if you need to see a bigger version or a smaller version it is easy to do so. This is when you are looking at the group list. You can also change this to a view which is called face-to-face which gives you a pair of photos to look at, even when the group has more than two in it. The text in between the two photos gives you a time difference between the two and underneath it gives you a percentage which must be the amount of similarity from one photo to the next. There are also arrows that you can use to scroll through the pairings of that group.

With a right click on a photo you get extra choices, such as removing from the list or moving a single photo directly to the trash. When you have gone through each of the groups and made the decisions of which photos you want to keep and which ones you want to delete, then you go to the menu Marked and decide how you are going to deal with those deletions. You might decide to move all the marked photos directly to the trash or you can move marked photos into another folder. So it is perfectly possible for you to clean up your Aperture library and yet to still keep your hands on all of the photographs that you have. So you can have all of your keepers within your container whether that is the photo management tool or within a folder and then move everything else out into a separate place.

A workflow to use when importing photos into the computer

One way of doing this would be to import photos from the camera, either directly from the SD card or from a folder on the hard drive that you have copied them to. Sorting out the duplicates in the PhotoSweeper application before you put them into your photo management app. This would be a way to sort the wheat from the chaff and only have the keepers in your Aperture, iPhoto or Lighroom application. You can use this to sort out your artistic photos that you have been editing in Pixelmator.

Personally I would prefer to just get everything into Aperture using the Aperture import facilities and only after that to do the weeding out of the photos that I don’t want. Whichever way you decide to go about dealing with your duplicates, within PhotoSweeper you can choose to to copy duplicates or to remove duplicates. You can even rename photos that are dealt with by PhotoSweeper.