What to name your photo files, and

How to find them using the search feature

By Yale Schwartz






This article provides a file naming convention for those of us who collect digital photos.  This convention makes it easy to locate photos even years later.  The simple objective of this article is to show you what your filenames should look like. 


In subsequent articles, I’ll provide tips to help you:


- Rename files that you've already scanned or dumped from your digital camera

- Add simple or detailed captions


But all that fancy renaming and caption stuff comes later. 

Right now, let’s start by looking at a sample photo and its filename.



=== EXAMPLE #1: a simple photo





The filename for this photo is:


1948; hazl; home; esther, yale, barry; pine st, back yard.jpg





=== file naming syntax

The filename is composed of the following fields.


date; location; occasion #sequence number; names; caption.extension


date          : in the format yyyy.mmdd.hhmm [month, day and time are optional]

location     : abbreviated city name or street address

occasion  : birthday, wedding, graduation, picnic, visit, home, none

#seq         : sequence number to ensure the name is unique [optional]

names      : names of people, places, or things

caption     : word or phrase to help you distinguish this photo from others

ext             : file format extension, e.g. jpg, bmp, gif, tiff



=== file naming conventions REQUIRED

Always separate syntax fields with a semicolon

Always separate names with commas, moving left to right, and front row to back



=== file naming conventions OPTIONAL

To be most compatible across operating systems:

     - use all lower case letters

     - use an underscore instead of the space character



=== Tips to reduce the size of the file name

Abbreviate location, e.g. hazl stands for Hazleton





=== EXAMPLE #2: different ways to handle many names in a photo




My filename for this photo is:

2005.0104; tama; funeral #025; yale, bill, maureen+, lucyo; leiby's after lucyr funeral.jpg




=== A few things to note about the filename

Date = 2005.0104 shows the year, month and day which stands for January 4, 2005.

Location = tama is an abbreviation I’ll use consistently for Tamaqua


Occasion #seq = The occasion was a funeral and the digital caption applied when the photos were dumped from the camera would have been “2005.0104; tama; funeral” to which the camera applied the sequence number #025 as a suffix.



=== Same names

There are two people named Lucy in my circle of friends; so they’re distinguished as lucyr and lucyo.



=== Dealing with a large list of names

There are a few things to consider when a photo contains many people.


- You may want to name everyone (see below, Use an xref text file)

- You may only want to name one or two people in a crowd (see below, Captions)

- Or you may be satisfied to group by family names (see below, Grouping by family)



=== Grouping by family

Grouping by family names is one way to shorten the names portion of the file.  In this example I know everyone and I don’t feel I have to pinpoint each person name by name, so I’m content to use this group naming technique.  I do this by adding a plus sign to the mother’s name, (maureen+).  I’ll use this technique even if the mother is not in the photo.  And I’ll also use it even if not all of the children are in the picture.


Maureen, however, would probably want to list all the names for her copy of this photo.  To do so, she could use the xref text file technique.



=== Use an xref text file

If you want to name everyone in the photo and there are more than five or six names, you may want to use the xref text file method.  This is a good choice especially if the people in the photo are arranged in an orderly fashion, i.e. left to right, front row to back row. 


To use the xref text file method, you’ll create a text file with the same name as the photo file except, of course, the extension for the text file will be “txt”. 


For Example #2 these two files names would be:

2005.0104; tama; funeral #025; xref; leiby's after lucyr funeral.jpg (for the jpg file)

2005.0104; tama; funeral #025; xref; leiby's after lucyr funeral.txt   (for the text file)



The contents of the xref text file for Example #2 would be as follows:


2005.0104; tama; funeral #025; xref; leiby's after lucyr funeral


=== Going around the table from left to right

Yale Schwartz




MomO, LucyO, Lucy O’Donnell







=== EXAMPLE #3: Captions (simple overview)




My filename for this photo is:

1954; hazl; none; xref; jcc brownie troop-small.jpg




When there are many people in the photo that you want to identify, you’ll find the Caption method useful.  This method applies equally well if you only want to name some of the people in a large group.


This is a simple overview of the steps you’ll have to take.  Make an extra copy of the photo, but to save disk space you can make the copy much smaller.  Then, using your imaging software (even MS-Paint will do nicely), number the people you want to identify.  The simplest way to do this is to add some work space to the photo, type in sequential numbers, then drag the numbers onto the photo (with Draw Opaque turned off) to coordinate with the names you'll document in a separate text file.


A detailed explanation for adding captions is provided in a separate article.




=== how to do a search via Ctrl-F (I’ll provide more detail to this segment later)

search the filename (logic supports an implied AND, e.g. “2003 mich” finds “2003;exton;michael.jpg”

search word or phrase in the file (AND logic does not apply, but it’s useful to use filename includes .txt)






This article is Copyright © YaleSafe, 2008 by Yale Schwartz.