When it comes to image file names, there seems to be two opposing schools.  There is one group of photographers who are happy with the file names created by the camera, and, at the opposite extreme, another group that wants to include all information possible in the file name.  The first group has files with names such as DSC8531.nef, while the second group might have an image named Eddie_in_his_pirate_costume_2013Halloween5375.jpg (and yes, that is a actual file name I saw last week, and which prompted this blog post).

I would suggest a middle ground, a simple file naming convention that precludes ever having two files with the same name (a potential problem for the first group), while eliminating the incredibly lengthy and unwieldy file names of the second group.

I rename my files by the date the image was taken (metadata automatically recorded by your camera, so long as you set the clock in your camera to the correct local time).  My convention is YYMMDD + the filename and number created by the camera.  Nikon allows setting a three digit filename in Shooting Menu > File Naming, so I set my Nikon D4 camera as D4N.  Then I made and saved a file renaming template in Lightroom (and a similar template in Downloader Pro, which I use when I have hundreds of files to download).

By using the template, a file from my D4 downloads along the lines of 131206_D4N_2764.nef.  By using YYMMDD all my files will automatically be in chronological order, and unless I shoot more than 10,000 images in one day with that particular camera, I’ll never have the problem of duplicate file names.

For more about file organization see my October 1, 2012, blog piece on File Storage.

One Comment

  1. Dennis Kowalewski December 7, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    John, Couldn’t agree with you more in taking advantage of metadata that is already there. I do similar file naming convention using YYYYMMDD + my initials. The Nikon D800 will do this automatically when you initially set it up. When importing into Lightroom, they are imported by YYYY-MM-DD. My file structure is Year and next level of indenture below that is month and day. I think more importantly is to take advantage of setting up a key work structure and key wording all your photos. A little work in the beginning but saves you in the long run. By doing this you can find any photo in your collection,e.g. I can find any waterfall shot in Pennsylvania during the summer.