08 October 2009

How to name your digital photos on your computer

It is important to have a strategy how to name your digital photos. At first I had one folder for each shooting session. This became soon too cumbersome and error-prone, because I couldn't find the photos I was looking for, and the name of the folder had no structure.

Since 2005 I use the following strategy to store and name my digital photos. The files are stored in a hierarchy of folders. I divide the photos in several folders based on the date and time the photos were taken. Each year has its own folder. Photos taken in a year are further subdivided into subfolders.
  • Each year has its own folder.
    Example: a folder with the name '2009'.
  • Within the 'year folder' I have a folder for each month, starting with 01 and ending with 12.
    Example: photos taken in the month October are stored in the folder 2009\2009-10
  • Within the 'month folder' I have a folder for each day when one or more photos were taken.
    Example: 2009-10-07
  • Each digital photo has a name with the form yymmdd-hhmmss_nnnn_ccc
    yy = year ranging from 00-99 (2000-2099)
    mm = month ranging from 01-12
    dd = day ranging from 01-31
    hh = hours ranging from 00-23
    mm = minutes ranging from 00-59
    ss = seconds ranging from 00-59
    nnnn = unique number, generated by the camera
    ccc = label for camera used (Downloader Pro generates this label)
    Example: 50D, 350D
Example of full path and file name:

The directory structure prevents that you get folders with hundreds of files packed together.
The advantage of long file names with these fields is that the photos are sorted on date and time taken when you sort the file list by name. I can combine my pictures with pictures from other photographers, sort the list by name and view all the pictures in chronological order. There are no problems with files with same names, or photos which are out of order.
The unique number is necessary when you are shooting multiple photos within a second. My Canon 50D is capable of shooting 6 frames per second. Without the unique number, all photos would have the same name.

The above folder structure and filenames are automatically generated when I download the pictures from my memory cards to my computer. Downloader Pro (http://www.breezesys.com/Downloader/) takes care of this. I have also instructed Downloader Pro to insert EXIF fields with my name and e-mail adress into the file. This way every file is copyrighted. And when I upload the file to Flickr the original file name will automatically be filled in the Flickr description field.

My Downloader Pro 2.1 settings are:
  • download directory: d:\user\\pictures\{Y}\{Y}-{m}\{Y}-{m}-{D}
  • filename template: {d}-{t}_{J} {r4}_{T3}
  • auto-rotate JPEGs after downloading
  • use image capture time for timestamp
  • add IPTC/XMP data to downloaded images
  • IPTC/XMP Caption - Data - Description: {d}-{t}_{J} {r4}_{T3}.{e}

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