Photo Naming Conventions

I’m looking for a new photo naming convention. I moved all my ancestor photos into folders numbered by MRIN. Then Cuz sent hundreds of new photos. Then I dismantled an old DVD project.

What used to be a photo naming system has devolved into total disarray:

Dsc_0099 (2).JPG
Elizabeth in high chair.jpg
0012 grave-0002.jpg
harris williamh-0000-02.tif.FHCD_LargeThumb.JPG


Before I get too far into this, because it could be extremely time-consuming, I’d like some ideas about naming photos. Especially the non-digital ones that don’t have time stamps to auto-sort them.

Because I annotate all photos as much as possible with caption, keywords, location, source, copyright and GPS, I don’t need to put any of that into file-names. It would be nice to have chronological order, though, so the thumbnail view tells a story.

This is what I’m planning so far.

I start with an MRIN: Everything in my ANCESTORS folder starts with an MRIN. Photos can be searched by keywords, but other files can’t so the MRIN covers them all. Also, the addition of the MRIN makes the names specific enough they’re not likely to be duplicated in another folder.


Next comes the year or an approximation of a year or decade:

0096 1923
0096 1920ca
0096 1920s

Since I doubt I’ll ever have more than 99 photos for any MRIN or year within an MRIN folder, but likely more than ten, next comes a two-digit number:

0096 1920s-01

Sometimes there’s more than one version of a photo so I add a one-digit extension:

0096 1920s-01_2

I throw in an ‘s’ for original scans:

0096 1920s-01_2s

I’m debating whether to collapse it to:


How do you name your photos?

3 thoughts on “Photo Naming Conventions

  1. Jennifer Crockett

    I found the following helpful for photo naming:
    You may be able to adapt this system to include the MRIN number somewhere.

    I have hundreds of prints and negatives that are not yet scanned. In sorting them out, where I have negatives (the majority) I incorporate the roll number in the labelling of the photos. So I have roll number followed by the print number on the roll. As I work, I put the negatives into archival sleeves and label them with the year and roll number. A light box and a magnifying glass has been helpful to look at the negatives.

    Also, the same site for folder naming which you may not be interested in.

    1. JL Post author

      It’s looks like my plan is pretty close. I wouldn’t use 8-digit date format on ancestral photos though. No point. I used to use -e for edits and switched around to ‘s’ for original scans. Nothing else that different and it looks like all the renaming will still have to be done manually.

  2. Geoff Coupe

    Date stamp – as accurate as possible. Which means for current digital photos: down to the sub-second. For old family photos: a best guess, at least to start. Then the metadata kicks in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *