What’s in a name? (part deux)

There are many ideas about naming image files. It’s interesting that lots of photographers cram as much info into the name as they can in an expanded Twitter like 255 characters on the Mac and a max of 260 for an entire path including the file name in Windows. Ok. I am exaggerating a bit. In my mind anything more than the serial number in the folder name is a waste. (See my post on naming folders and the case for serial numbers.) Any data added to the name is redundant. An image name that includes the date, copyright, location and description is repeating metadata already contained in the file or the folder name.

Folder name

A folder name starts with a serial number prefix and a description of the photographs in it. Since the description is there, it does’t need to be in the file name. Below, the folder is named 2851-Erin Mack Executive Portraits.

File name

Every photo in that folder carries the serial number 2851- followed by a sequential image number starting with one. That’s all that’s really needed. If a photo gets moved out of its folder, the serial number tells where it belongs. Derivative works will have the same serial number and image number so the original can always be found. The system is simple, easy, uncluttered and very effective in keeping things in order.



Any other information is found in the metadata in Lightroom. Metadata is info added to the file after it’s been taken. The first of this is the EXIF data.


The camera adds the date and time the photograph was recorded, the exposure, focal length, lens info, the camera make and serial number of the body not to mention the owner of the camera. Most camera’s setup menus have fields for the owner. All that has to be done is to set it up.

IPTC metadata

Even more information is stored in the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) pane of the Metadata tab. Here info comes from a preset that adds basic notes like the photographer’s name, contact and usage information on import. Individual or groups of photos can have data appended in the Metadata pane.


So what’s in a name? Very little yet everything important too. This simple folder / file naming system has it all.2192-PSW LV lightingKevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.