The Library of Memories chat group on Yahoo is getting a lot of activity these days as new students in the 2009 class start working on the pre-class assignments. The topic came up of renaming your digital photo files.
I personally absolutely need to rename my photo files correctly in order to use them. Sifting through a giant mess of files with numbers for names is a nightmare of epic proportions to me! I don't care that my car is a black hole in space and that I haven't washed dishes in 2 days, but those photo files MUST be in order! I have a degree in museum studies so numbering systems for archiving collections is one of my passions.
So I answered the question myself and here's how it works for me. I went through a lot of trial and error to get this far, and there are still things I thnk could be better but I am trying to not be too obsessive about this.
My file names all start with a 4 digit number. The first 2 digits represent the year the photo was taken. The 2nd two digits
represent the month.
Therefore all my most recent Christmas photos start with: 0812
All my photos taken in Dec start with 0812
Photos I take this January start with 0901
Photos from my college graduation are 9005
And so on.
After the 4 digits is a space and then the file name. Starting with numbers like this means all the photos will automatically sort in chronological order on my computer. I put photos from the same event (or you could do the same month, if that works for you) into a folder, which also starts with the 4 digits of the date, then a space, then the name of the event:
0812 Aunt Barb's Bday Party
0810 My Birthday
and so on.
Occasionally I might use a longer number if I know or need to know the exact day of the month. I mean, Christmas is always the 25th, but for maybe a wedding or something I might have the date
990609 Joe's Wedding
So that is June 9, 1999. But that would only be on the folder. On the photos themselves I only use 4 digits on the file names, to leave more space for the name of the picture. My Mac limits the number of characters I can use in a file name.
Usually my file names themselves are brief descriptions of the photo and/or names of people in the photo. I try to include names of people in the photo every time. Sometimes I put a short indicator of what event the photo is associated with or something else to help it stay somewhat grouped with similar photos. If I have a few similar photos, they all have the same name, with 1, 2, 3, etc at the end.
Here's an example. Say I have 100 photos from my brother's wedding in June 1999. They all start with 9906. But I have numerous pictures of my brother and my Mom-- some portraits, some from the reception, some from the ceremony, etc.
In that case, I will name some photos:
9906 P [name of who is in picture]-- portraits
9906 C [description or names] -- ceremony
9906 R [description or names] -- reception pictures
It works like this elsewhere -- like the 100 photos I took of my trip to San Antonio this fall.
0810 AL -- Alamo pics
--> 0810 AL me Iza1.jpg
--> 0810 AL me Iza2.jpg
--> 0810 AL me door.jpg
--> 0810 AL sign.jpg
0810 GF - would be Germanfest pics:
--> 0810 GF me Mike1.jpg
--> 0810 GF me Mike2.jpg
--> 0810 GF beer.jpg
--> 0810 GF polka band.jpg
--> 0810 GF Iza Mike dance1.jpg
--> 0810 GF Iza Mike dance2.jpg
0810 JG - Japanese Gardens
0810 RV -- Riverwalk
and so on.
So then on my HD I have a file listing that looks like this:
---> 0802 Mardi Gras NOLA
---> 0804 Chicago Botanic Garden
---> 0805 Ani's dance recital
---> 0806 Tutti Inseme Solstice Festival
---> 0807 Wisconsin Dells
---> 0808 Improv Comedy Club
---> 0809 Arcola Broomcorn Festival
---> 0810 Claire's Halloween Party
---> 0810 My Birthday
---> 0810 San Antonio trip
---> 0811 Thanksgiving
---> 0812 Aunt Barb's Bday Party
---> 2008 miscellaneous
---> 2008 scrapbooking
---> 2008 x-stitching
The reason this works for me is, yes most of my photos are by event, but they all have everyone's name in them. So say I want to do a project on my nephew Jake. I can do a search on my HD for every file with "Jake" in the name. Every photo that comes up has the date as part of the name -- so I know if the file starts with 02 then Jake is a baby, and 08 is a more recent photo.
I don't know how it would work on a PC but on a Mac, when I do a search for files, and I get a listing of files with that word in the name, if I click on the file, at the bottom of the window I can see the file listing -- so I can see what folder the picture is in and what event it's associated with, because that's the name of the folder.
Last winter I pulled photos for a birthday party invitation for my mom, ranging from 1958 to 2007, in about 15 minutes this way. I did a search for "Mom" on my computer. Every photo I had with her in it came up. If I had not had the date in every photo I could not have told immediately which ones were from her childhood and which were from more recent times. And then I copied the photos I wanted to use into a new folder, and again, the dates came with them.
It might sound like a lot of work, but when i upload photos, I just copy and paste. Like Christmas pics, I'll start off with:
I'll copy that and paste it onto every file one at a time. Once I've hit "Paste" (using a keyboard shortcut, not the mouse), then I'll hit my back arrow (not delete) to move the cursor to that space I left, and then I'll type in the descriptive file name, and then move on to the next file. It takes a couple minutes.
When I started using iPhoto after reading Stacy's book, I just dragged these folders all into iPhoto and the names all came with them.
It's not a perfect system and a few photos fall through the cracks, but it mostly works really well for me.