File Naming Basics

Over the years I’ve looked through thousands and thousands of images by many different photographers. Some are organized to every meticulous detail; others, I can’t figure out when or who the photograph was made for. Keeping track of everything can be a challenge, but for those of us who don’t naturally tick toward systemization, this post breaks file naming down to an easy method for better photo archiving.


The method was taught by revered professor Rita Reed when I studied photojournalism at the University of Missouri. She stressed file naming so much that if we didn’t do it correctly, we’d get a lower grade on our assignments. Because of that sort of hard-lined push, I still name my photographs in the same system (thanks, Rita!).

Batch renaming is the first thing I do after importing the photos—I don’t even look at the images until they’re renamed. Luckily, it’s a very simple task that can be done in most any photo handling program (some programs will even let you change the file name on import). My go-to is PhotoMechanic, but Adobe Bridge, Lightroom and CaptureOne can all do it too.

The date should be the first notation in the filename, with the four-digit year first. Today for example, would be 20130903. Putting the year first makes it much easier to separate shoots when you start pulling together images from different years.

Separated with an underscore, the other notations should be the photographer’s name, a reference to the job and the file number. Feel free to choose the order of which comes first. I have my last name, the job reference and the file number as a habit, ex: 20130903_ludeke_nymag_0013.XXX. The way you reference the job is up to you — some people just put the company, others have job numbers that are referenced in the invoice, others reference the job itself — but whatever you choose, try to keep everything consistent. It will save you from future headaches.


Hopefully these tips will make organization and archiving easier. With a consistency for all of your photographs, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Do you have any different tips for file naming? We’d love to hear them!


For more information about any of the Glasshouse photographers or for portfolio requests, please contact:

Kari Nouhan

Photo Agent, Glasshouse Assignment


Charles Ludeke

Photo Assistant, Glasshouse Assignment



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