A Simple Four-Part System for Naming Digital Photo Files

A Simple Four-Part System for Naming Digital Photo Files

If you're aiming to get organized, having a file-naming system is key. Check out Denise Levenick's tips for managing your photo collection!


Guest blogger Denise Levenick, who helps you manage your digital photo collection in the new book How To Archive Family Photos, is sharing these file-naming tips this week:

The key to organizing your photo collection is a simple and logical naming system. Start with simple file names that don’t require a key to abbreviations. And make it a habit to import and rename images soon after a photo shoot or scanning session.

Long, complicated file naming schemes are difficult to maintain and cumbersome to use. The end of the name may be cut off in your computer folder view or printout. More words give more opportunity for misspellings or inconsistency.

As you develop your file-naming scheme, create a File-naming Cheat Sheet and post it next to your computer to help you maintain consistency. Here’s a cheat sheet for my four-part file-naming scheme:

The four parts of my digital photo file names are

  1. Name: Surname-firstname
  2. Date: YYYYMMDD
  3. Location: from largest to smallest with two letter abbreviation used for states
  4. Event: obit, birth-cert, etc.

I separate the parts with an underscore, and use a dash to separate words in each part. The names are short and consistent, with all lowercase characters. Here’s an example:


Whatever file-naming scheme you adopt, your files will be easier to organize and access if it’s simple and consistent for all your digital images. Learn more about working with scanned and newly captured digital images in How to Archive Family Photos and at my blog, The Family Curator.

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  1. In addition to using a consistent naming convention, I find it essential to edit the EXIF info of my photos as well (EXIF info is data embedded into every digital image, including date, time and (if your digital camera has built-in GPS capabilities) location, as well as lots of technical information about the photo). You can add any free form tags or comments you find suitable, such as the names of all people in the photo, a brief background behind the photo, copyright and contact info, genealogical information, etc. This information will always be preserved directly in the digital image, even if file names are changed, and aren’t subject to size limitations, such as 64-character file naming limits.

    Any decent photo management software package will allow you to view, edit and search on EXIF information, allowing you much greater freedom than simply what you can embed in a file name.

  2. WHAT ?? Why add more work on to you? With TMG, I have an external exhibit file. Everything goes into it. Last Name, First, Middle, [with 1st letters capped], then Photo, Birth Certificate, Death Certificate, etc-whatever I am adding. There is no need for that cheat sheet as I do every thing the same way all the time. No fuss, no muss, one more thing not to clutter up my desk or mind.An example is Jon Johns Photo.jpg; Jon Jones 1890 SC Census.jpg; jon Jones 1900 SC Death Certificate.jpg. Try it my way for a while-throw that sheet into the trash. J W Nation