File Naming Conventions For Photographers

This is a guest blog post by Leon Sandoval, Colorati‘s CEO. While he may be a tad bit too modest to say so, based in Carlsbad, CA Leon and his team provide the very best post production services in the business and help make for some very happy photographers.

Greetings, Tiffinbox community!

When Seshu and I had a conversation about content for a video tutorial I knew without a doubt we had to talk about file naming. Clearly, it’s one of the workflow elements that seems to cause photographers the most trouble. There are no standards or guidelines and we all seem to have learned by trial and error.

What I’ve seen is that people either abandon file naming altogether or get too fancy. And sometimes we see a combination of naming conventions within one event that simply do more harm than good.

Good file naming will help you do the following:

a) Sort your files by file name in any software on any computer and see the timeline as it took place in real life.

b) Easily find the files you are looking for. Speed and efficiency are key here, so having unique “tags” can help.

c) Achieve more consistent results in regards to White Balance, Exposure, Contrast and other aspects of your visual editing.

Will this tutorial answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems? Unlikely. My hope is that it gets you thinking. Hopefully you’ll walk away with a couple of tips that set you on the right path to a creating a system that works well for you.

Enjoy this exclusive Tiffinbox video tutorial from your friends at Colorati!

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  • Scott

    Sorry, I don’t really see the need to rename the RAW files. Once they have been edited and processed for the clients, by all means.

    If the cameras are properly in sync, and they should be whatever you’re doing, any program can sort by capture or created time giving you the most accurate

    Plus, as a general rule of DAM, RAW files should be preserved in their original form. The need for overly descriptive file names is also rendered mute by having a properly organized folder structure.

  • colorati

    Hey Scott! Clearly, you’ve thought this through! Sounds like you agree with the fundamentals of what we were getting at.

    More often than not, we see multiple cameras with unique time stamps. Some are 10 hours apart in the same day! So indeed, getting that set up is the first part of the equation that solves most of the problems.

    Then we come to the issue of having “IMG_4034.CR2” as your first image from Camera 1 and Camera 2 starting with “IMG_9980.CR2.” Camera 2 is going to roll over to “IMG_0001” after 20 frames. This out of camera file naming is just messy and doesn’t lend a helping hand in any scenario.

    So in a nutshell the video sets us up to Sync cameras first. Once you have the final files separated for delivering to the client, then use file naming to tidy things up. This ensures that no matter what software, operating system or vendor views your images, there will always be a way to find the proper sequence.

    Lastly, if there is a need for descriptors, make use of Keywording instead of file naming and you are on your way to a clean process that will help you find your images anywhere at any time. :)

  • Scott

    forgot to mention, I have custom name names (_D701234.nef and_ D301234.nef) set up in camera…. the joys of shooting Nikon.

    Since I never shoot 10000 frames on each for any one job, I don’t have to worry about numbers overlapping.

    I agree though, a proper folder structure or a well keyworded library is a much better method of finding images than big long file names.

  • Will Wohler

    Looks like I might need to start renaming my images. Great points made, I never thought about it too much before.

  • Jordan Buzzy

    solid. I just fixed up my folder conventions this year. might as well take the plunge to naming as well.