What to do with all those digital photos? Part 1: Image/Folder Naming

One of the first things that anyone getting started with digital photography will notice is how quickly the number of files can add up on their hard drive (or, heaven forbid,  memory cards for those who don’t back up to HD…more on that in Part 3).  It can be very overwhelming for both new and seasoned photographers alike to open up a folder containing hundreds, thousands even tens of thousands of similarly named files.  So, rather than wading through tons of files named “IMG_xxxx” searching for a single image, here are some possible strategies for your naming and archiving needs.

When I first got started in digital photography I discovered the website Digital Photography Review and found it to be an indispensable resource for keeping up with new cameras and the world of digital photography in general.  The forums alone are worth all of its members weight in gold.  One of the first things I learned while browsing the site was the importance of having a good file naming and organization structure that works and is logical for you.

The naming conventions that I currently use were actually adopted from a screenshot in an article on the DPReview site from many years ago and it has served me well since.  Here is an example of my folder structure and naming style:

My File-Folder Structure

My File-Folder Structure

Digital Photo Library

  • 2010
    • 20101225-Christmas
  • 2011
    • 20110214-Valentine’s Dinner
      • 20110214-Valentine’s Dinner0001.jpg
      • Edited
        • 20110214-Valentine’s Dinner0001.psd
        • 20110214-Valentine’s Dinner0001.png

As you can see I use “Digital Photo Library” as my top level folder and have individual sub-folders for each year.  From there I give each day of photos its own folder and name it with the 8 digit year, month and date followed by a hyphen and a descriptive title based on the subject matter.  Any given day may actually have multiple folders depending on where I go or what I shoot that day.  The image files then follow the same folder naming convention but add a 4 digit number at the end to maintain the original shooting order.  If I should edit any images for the web or for print I create an additional folder named “Edited” and save any processed image files in there.

To batch rename my files I use FastStone Image Viewer, a free photo browser, editor and converter which I will be discussing in parts 2 and 4 of this series of posts.   I have slightly changed one aspect of the individual file names at some point in the past though.  I used to want to keep track of the original file name of my photos so used names like this: 20110214-Valentine’s Dinner0001 (IMGP0821).jpg.  After shooting so many photos, however, I decided I didn’t really care what the original file name was so dropped it from my renamed photos.

Everyone should have a naming and organizational structure that makes sense to them so if what I use doesn’t look or feel right or seem logical to you, that’s ok.  Maybe you want to add monthly sub-folders or even put your edited or in-progress photos into a totally different top level folder.  It’s up to you.  Depending on make and model, at the most basic level of organization your camera may create new folders for each day of photos and may or may not give them names that make sense.  If they do, by all means, start off with that.  Just copy your folders from your memory card to your hard drive but make sure you at least keep your naming consistent.  It’ll make things much easier in the future.

Great Blue Heron, Columbus, OH. F 6.7, 1/800s @ 300mm - ISO 200

Great Blue Heron, Columbus, OH. F 6.7, 1/800s @ 300mm – ISO 200

I hope you enjoyed and maybe took something from part 1 of my “What to do with all those digital photos?” series.  To make sure you don’t miss the rest of this post series, or any other posts, be sure to sign up for e-mail updates in the yellow box below.  As usual, if you have any comments or questions go ahead and leave them below and I’ll respond.

Here’s a couple more resources for naming ideas if you don’t like mine or want to see how others do it:

Take care and happy shooting!

What to do with all those digital photos?

  1. Image/Folder Naming
  2. Image/Folder Organization
  3. File Storage
  4. Image Editing

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