We generate a lot of images as photographers. Be it as a professional or an enthusiast you will develop an image library or catalog over time. The challenge is being able to find images in your catalog down the road. Thus enters the value of renaming your images.
Images as they come of the camera have a generic name, generally a combination of letters and/or numbers followed by a four digit number sequence. Something like 5R4T_0001 for example. Some of the pro model cameras are set up with number prefixes that will never duplicate in another camera, allowing you to always know which camera body produced the image. There are some nice advantages to this system but that is another article for another time. Other cameras will now let you program the prefix yourself; which is a feature I have really come to like. Finally there are many cameras where the prefix is IMG, short for images.
The four digit number sequence resets every 9999 images if you choose the continuous numbering function. There is another function where your image number resets at the beginning of every shoot. Even under the best of choices this limits the number of original image names you can generate. Further more it does not provide any context to the nature of the images. When my image name is SV71_3782 what does it tell me 3 weeks from now?
When choosing your method for renaming images there are a couple of things you want to accomplish. Your naming system should offer some kind of easy context to the image for you and others who receive the image. It should be something easy for you to recognize. Finally you want it to be something there is little chance of others using.
Giving an image a generic name like bee or flower can cause more headaches than help. First it can cause naming conflicts when you try to combine images with a second folder having images with the same name. Secondly if you have 100 photos of bees and name them bee1 through bee100 it doesn’t really help you to tell one from the next.
The best system I have found is one including the date the image was taken. For my business my naming system is SV01022014_001, the date the image would have been taken being 1-2-14. SV = Six Visuals, 01 the month, 02 the day of the month and 2014 the year. _001 is the image number from that date. In place of SV you want to come up with something unique to you. Maybe your initials for example. Many companies I have worked with use some variation on this setup.
The SV01022014 becomes the shoot identifier and the 001 is the specific image number. This system gives me a lot of useful info just by looking at the name and allows me to more quickly find images. I am also able to quickly narrow down where an image I am looking for may be. Say I am look for a flower I shot last June. I can already narrow down where I am looking to images that start SV06__2014. From there it is a few minutes to find the exact image.
Renaming your images is easy in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom. They both have a batch image renaming function that can be seen in the images below. Take advantage of the convenience of these functions or the renaming function in whatever program you use. It will save a lot of time and frustration later.