Photo Organization: How To Name Your Image Files

image file naming schemeWhen you are just starting to shoot weddings, you may not realize the importance of having a good image numbering system. However, after a couple years (and thousands of images later) You'll realize the need to organize your images and use a solid photo numbering system.

Let's say you want to organize images for a new website-how are you going to do that if you choose several images that are named 37 or 322? It's not going to work-I can tell you that from experience. You need to have a good way to organize and file name your images so that you can always reference certain details from the image just by reading the file name.


Here's the breakdown:

DATE – First, we add the date to each image, which is very helpful in understanding what wedding it came from. Start with the year first, then month, then day, so that the images will sort themselves according to the date taken.

COUPLE'S INITIALS – After the date, we then add 2 initials for the bride and groom. Some studios simply use the bride's first and last initial, but since we typically “think” of our clients by their first names, this is how we do it. For portraits, we just use the client's first and last initials.

IMAGE NUMBER – After the initials, we then number the images 0001 to whatever the edit comes out to be. By keeping it to a four number sequence, we give ourselves a little cushion for the very rare occasion an event's final edit goes over 1,000.

PHOTOGRAPHER – The final part of our image numbering scheme is a letter that indicates to us the photographer. Besides Geoff and I, we work with a team of second shooters and also have other lead photographers. Having the ability to know which photographer took an image means nothing to the client, but it allows us to study our own work, see improvements, and understand our own styles. In terms of second shooters, I often look back at the final edit to see how many of the second shooter's images made the cut. Plus if a client wants to see the portfolio of a second shooter, its easy to pull together recent work.

How do you name your system?  Share your image organization ideas in the comments below.

 


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Bonnie Gustin August 14, 2012 at 3:55 am

Perfect…consistent and organized. I will start using this naming scheme from LR4 once I have the final images selected, edited and ready to export to JPEG…then the clients will see consecutive numbers on their Photoshelter gallery and – bonus – will not know how many images were culled… 🙂

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Kerri May 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hi Lara,

Love PhotoMint! Just a quick question, when you have images for more than one photographer how do you batch process the images for the change in photographer initial.

so images that end in photographer k that did the 1st 3 images kept and then images 4-10 are photographer m for example and then back to photographer k.

I might figure it out before hand but would love to hear how you do it.
thanks
Kerri

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Eric March 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm

In LR I create a folder for the year. In that folder I create a folder for weddings. In that folder I create a folder with the brides name. In that folder I create multiple folders for her, wedding, engagement, bridal, etc. If it is a large wedding we will even break down the wedding folder into before, wedding, reception. Works for me but probably not logical to many others. But then I have been a photographer for so many years my brain is warped

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mark omohundro March 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I have a MacBook Pro. If I wanted to go through in iPhoto and rename pretty much all of my files do you know of an easy way to re-categorize many files at once? Or is it best just to go through and rename each one individually?

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William February 13, 2012 at 7:09 am

I dislike long file name. So, I use different folder name. Eg, under wedding folder, I use name of client to create sub folder. Under the sub folder, there will be further sub folders for “rejected” photos, etc. I use the capability of file explorer to the max, eg, sorting images according to name, date/time, type, etc. The image name stays as it is. However, every time the image counter reached 9999, I will increase the image prefix by one, eg, DSC_9999 will next become DSD_0001. I don’t need to monitor when it reaches 9999 as I often do mass renaming using command generated using xls (Excel) and Command (CMD).

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Lara White February 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

Hi William,

We had done a similar type of system early on, but as our image catalog grew and grew over th years, we found it difficult that files had the same names but were different files. For example every wedding has a file named 0323, so when you have two of those files, how would you know what wedding they came from? We found this became a real problem as our marketing developed and we were using files for marketing purposes-putting slideshows together of great images from a particular venue (might be images from 6 weddings) and we would have several images we wanted to show that had the same image file name. It began happening all the time-in marketing-in choosing portfolio images for a new website, putting slideshows together for a consultation or a venue, putting together a collection of the best of weddings, etc. etc. So if you are not using your images for marketing or putting together collections to show prospective clients, then it probably wouldn’t come up as much.

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Luiz Muzzi November 9, 2011 at 2:54 am

Dear Lara White,
I really like your posts and your ideas. Congratulations!
I myself use something similar to name my files…the only difference is that I do not use a sequence number (so that I don’t have to rename the files every time I delete some of them). Instead I use the capture time (hour,minute and second) as a sorting method.
Regards,

-Luiz Muzzi

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Lara White November 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

Hi Luiz,

when we renumber our image files, we have already completed our complete edit of the images. Once that is done, the images are then sorted (we’ll pull details together to make it easier to find them) and renumbered.

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bambang November 8, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Thanks, for the tips. It will inspire me to rename the file. I still have question how to select the good and the bad photo ?
How to organize the folder, since i use it to organise the file ?

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Lara White November 9, 2011 at 7:37 am

First we go through all the images and edit for the ones that are going to make the cut. Once we have the complete set of images, we then renumber them. That way we dont have to do this several times.

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Tony fanning November 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thanks for the tips. Do you rename The files you supply to the client differently, or keep it the same?

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Lara White November 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

No, not at all. That would be extra work, that doesn’t really add any value to the product.

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Francine October 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm

This is really great info, thanks for all the wonderful tips, please keep them coming.

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Artie L October 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Having clearly defined folder as well if you are storing the pics on your computer also helps a lot. Sometimes I have lost important work because I quickly made some throw away folder name and forgot what I called it : (

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Matt Snyder June 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

The couples initials and photographer are really good ideas.

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Lara White July 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

thanks Matt, we have found it super easy to work with. Just knowing where the image came from, means we can get to it quickly or figure out very easily where that photo came from, who it belongs to, etc. Sometimes we aren’t certain where a certain bouquet or detail shot is from, but with the dates and couple’s initials, it becomes a matter of seconds to find out. Once your photo collection grows to a certain point, you have to do something in order to keep it all catalouged.

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John W. June 27, 2011 at 9:30 am

Thanks for this insightful post. I hadn’t thought of how my photo catalog might look 5 years down the road, but now I can see the importance of having a numbering sequence for your photo collection.

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Lara White June 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

John, initially we didn’t do this, we just used a simple numbering system for our image catalog. The problem was when I began putting together folders of images for various marketing purposes-new website, highlights slideshow, etc. And it started happening more and more, where I would have 2 images selected with the same number. The image numbering system has been really great. We can look at a random image, and now we know exactly where it came from, when it was taken etc.

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