File Naming

by Ian McGregor

You are no doubt accustomed to seeing the default file names that comes out of various brands of cameras, with automatically incrementing numbers following an alpha numeric prefix). Some camera software will also allow you to customize the name of the file (to some extent). This may be suitable for your purposes, knowing you rename your file after the fact or you have a system whereby the names of your images really don't matter (great key words or other identifying system).

I used to include a reference number in my photo title, but this is quite distracting

I use Adobe Lightroom to organize my photos, and I always place keywords into photos I am going to publish. In my workflow, however, I like to be able to track down a specific photo in my library, even if it has multiple versions or edits. The proves very useful when dealing with prints, clients, competitions or simply going back to find a photo.

While my system may not work for everyone, I am happy to share it with you as an idea for something you might want to use.

I have programmed my camera bodies to prefix my images with something unique (e.g. IDM for my D810 and IMP for another body). So, an example of a file imported into Lightroom may be: IDM_0749.dng (I automatically convert my Nikon RAW files to Adobe Digial Negative during import hence the DNG extension).

Once I begin to work on a photo I change the filename and title to match my naming convention.

Adobe Lightroom Screen Shot - Ian McGregor Photography
Adobe Lightroom File Naming

In this example, I have titled my photo "Country Burst". I then modify the original file name IDM_0749 to CountryBurst074917 (.tif in this case as it has been edited in Photoshop). I don't use spaces in my file names so those get dropped. I start with the title followed by the four digits from the original file name followed by a two-digit year the photo was captured in.

IDM_0749 becomes CountryBurst074917.tif

If I were to make a monochrome version of this photo I would insert BW (for black and white) into the name as such: CountryBurstBW074917.tif

For a rework of the image (version 2 for example) I would insert V2: CountryBurstV2074917.tif.

You may still run into this from some of my old posts though "Country Burst 0749_17". I used to include a reference number in my photo title, but this is quite distracting when it comes to publishing a photo online and at some point, I decided to keep clean titles and keep the reference within the file name itself.

Whatever you decide, it can't hurt to come up with a system and introduce into your regular workflow.

This article and all images are © Ian McGregor.