Have you ever gone looking for an image on your computer and can't remember the name? Did you name it something meaningful at the time you stored it, but not sure what the name is now? Or perhaps you have a directory full of files with names like image-002.jpg, CRW_3209.crw, or something else just as cryptic.
Naming one’s photographic image files is a necessary, but time consuming, process when it comes to dealing with your digital library. It makes handling and storage of your images much easier. I’ve had conversations with folks who are just starting out in digital photography and are having problems in keeping up with their images.
Some folks just dump all of their images into the Pictures folder on their PC then spend forever sifting through them and trying to find a particular image. Other’s actually try and sort their images into folders such as Aunt Junes Wedding, Junior’s Graduations, Sally and the Puppies, and so on. Good start, but then the actual image may get misfiled and not make any sense when viewing that particular folder/directory. Heaven help you if you get some images from friends and family and they happen to have the same camera that uses the same default naming scheme as yours. If you are not careful, you will write over your images with these copies.
As you should start to see, naming your images is an important first step in managing your photo collection. If you just use the default names that your camera assigns your images, you will start running into duplicate image names within a relatively short amount of time. Especially if you are a prolific photographer. Most cameras only allow for 9999 image then they start over from 0001.
What I’m going to discuss is my method of naming my digital files. This is not necessarily the best method for you. It is only the method that I currently use. Of course, I may change my method at some future date if I find something that I feel provides me with a better method of managing my images. Bottom line, you have to be able to find the image you are looking for and that takes some sort of organization.
I feel that this organization starts with how you name your images. Basically you need to make sure that your images have a unique name regardless of how many images you have. You also need to make sure that your images can be identified as yours and not someone else’s. I share computers and network storage with my wife. We often photograph the same subject at the same time. We just have different styles.
I use a basic 3 part naming scheme.
So my file names will look like: JHN-2010-09-26--001.DNG Now, this provides me with a unique name that will not be duplicated. Just so you know, my wife’s files are KBM-2010-09-26--001.JPG and are not confused with any of mine. Of course we keep separate directories/folder for our respective images, but there are times that we need to combine images for presentations or shows.
The first part identifies the image as mine. I use my initials: JHN
I then use the date the image was shot in a year-moth-date format: 2010-09-26. I do it in this format so that the images will be sorted in date order. I initially store my images in folders based on the date but when I’m putting a show or presentation together the copies may get dumped into a working folder. It helps that the images get sorted by date.
The third part is a sequence number. It just makes sense to sequence your images. I use a 3 digit number starting with 001. I know wedding photographer who will shot well over 1000 images per wedding. Plus they will have one or more assistants shooting as well. If you are prolific, then you may wish to start your numbering scheme with 4 significant spaces. e.g. --0001. Personally, I have never manages to shot more than 999 images in a single day so I keep it to 3 significant digits.