Duplicate Photo Mystery


Today’s Question: I found some duplicate iPhone photos on my computer. They have similar, but not identical numbers. For example, one is IMG_5497.jpg while another is IMG_E5497.jpg. Can you explain how this happens and how to prevent it from occurring in the future?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “extra” copy of the photo with a letter “E” included in the filename is an image that you edited on your iPhone. When you download your photos using Adobe Lightroom (or other software that supports downloading directly from an iPhone) the photos you have edited will be copied as both a “before” and “after” image.

More Detail: The editing features of the Photos app on the iPhone are non-destructive, meaning you can return to the same image in the Photos app and refine previous adjustments, apply additional adjustments, or reset all adjustments back to the default values.

That non-destructive editing continues through if you download and import those photos using the Photos app on a Macintosh computer, or if you synchronize your photos to other devices via iCloud.

However, software from companies other than Apple are not able to retain those non-destructive features for the edits on your iPhone, iPad, or computer. Therefore, software such as Adobe Lightroom will make two copies of any photo you have edited on the iPhone. One will be the original capture, without the letter “E” in the filename. The other will be the edited version of the image, with the letter “E” in the filename.

While this feature does lead to duplication of photos you have edited on your iPhone, it also helps ensure that you have flexibility in choosing which version of each of those photos you want to keep. I tend to preserve the original capture and apply new adjustments later in my workflow, but if you want to retain the adjustments you made on the iPhone, you can certainly retain the “after” version of the image instead of or in addition to the original version of the photo.

I suppose it is worth noting that if you want to avoid having this duplication altogether in the context of a Lightroom-based workflow, you would want to avoid editing photos directly on your iPhone. But, of course, it may be worth having the duplicates in order to be able to edit photos on the iPhone so you can share those photos more seamlessly.