Photo Naming & Filing

   Here's how I name and file my digital images:

   I've used a number of different approaches over the years to title the images, and have returned to a simple formula for almost everything I now shoot: [place shot][date][serial number].

   For well-known, singular places, I simply use one name, like "London 08JUL02 3577.jpg." For more obscure places in the US, I'll use city and state: "Huntsville, AL 09JUL23 7475.jpg." For more obscure places in other countries, I'll often use the place, province, and nation, like "Old Fort Bay, New Providence, Bahamas 09JUL15 7216.jpg." It makes for a long filename, but how else to tell the story? 

   The primary exception to this is aerial images, which I name according to the trip, like "Air ATL-BHM 07FEB22 4210.jpg," using the airport codes, of course. If it's actually a city I'm certain about (like the takeoff or landing cities, or a notable city in between, then I'll name it according to the city, like "Air New York 07JUN28 3513.jpg. Google Earth is enormously helpful in figuring out the place names along the way.

   The rationale behind naming this way is because I normally remember shoots according to where and when, like "I know the shot I'm looking for was in London, and I think it was shot on the 2004 trip." That narrows it down to a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand images, and I know exactly where to look for them. Naming them any other way results in having to remember first of all how I named them, and if you're even a little bit off, the computer will never find it. Also, make sure to set your camera to record a 4-digit serial number instead of a 3-digit one. When I process them, I use A Better Finder Rename (Mac) to batch-rename the entire shoot. Don't even consider doing this by hand. If you don't already have a batch renamer, it'll be one of the best software investments you'll ever name.

   Filing them is a different matter. Here's the abbreviated folder structure I use to store them:

By Charrette Studio

By Event (Business, Civic, Cultural, Personal, Sporting, & Weather)

By Issue (5-Minute Walk, Bad TNDs, Curious Signs, Eyesores, Facadomies, Leaf Blowers, Meaningless Place Names, Obesity, Sprawl, Transect Violations, etc.)

By Location (this is the big one, arranged by Continent>Nation>State or Province>City>Neighborhood)

By Object Type (Agricultural Equipment, Art, Billboards, Birdbath, Birdhouses, Campers, Carts, Clothesline, Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, etc.)

By Texture (Asphalt Siding, Brick Paving, Brick Walls, Concrete, Earth, Metal Grid, Metal Mesh, etc.)

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press