Response to Comments on My Recent Open Letter on File Naming

After writing an article for Photofocus.com (which you can find here), I started receiving comments about it on some forums, via Twitter and directly via e-mail. The comments were overwhelmingly positive (it seems many people share my wishes for such an option), but a few people doubted that camera manufacturers would make the option that I outlined available to their customers. One of the reasons cited was that my approach required the use of more than 8 characters prior to the 3 letter extension (CR2, JPG, NEF, etc.), which I learned is currently a part of the EXIF specification.

The text below is from the EXIF Ver. 2.3 (updated April 2010)  (The full PDF can be found here):

5.7.1 File Naming Stipulation: The file name and characters used for file names are not specified, other than to stipulate the use of ASCII alphanumerics. (File names in Japanese or other character sets are not to be used.) File names shall be 8 characters or fewer, not including the extension. (Long file names are not to be used.) The file extension is “.WAV” (to match the WAVE Form Audio File extension) regardless of the audio data format type.

For those into this stuff, the Wikipedia entry on this topic is very interesting.

After taking all this info in, I put my thinking cap on, and much like in the TV Game Show Name That Tune, I tried to “Name that File in 8 Characters or Less!”

What I came up with is a specific approach for unique, date-based naming within an 8 character limit. Here’s an overview: I recommend designating numbers from 0-9, and then letters from A-Z for years beginning in 2010; then numbers from 1-9 and letters from A-C for the months; then numbers from 1-9 and letters from A-V for days; then a single unique letter or number at the end of the first 4 characters so that multiple cameras can be given a unique letter or number (in this case, the unique letter is A, and this should be able to be edited by the user):

Below is an overview of the years, months and days with their corresponding characters:

2010 =0
2011 =1
2012 =2
2013 =3
2014 =4
2015 =5
2016 =6
2017 =7
2018 =8
2019 =9
2020 =A

JAN =1
FEB =2
MAR =3
APR =4
MAY =5
JUN =6
JUL =7
AUG =8
SEP =9

1 =1
2 =2
3 =3
4 =4
5 =5
6 =6
7 =7
8 =8
9 =9
10 =A
11 =B
12 =C
13 =D
14 =E
15 =F
16 =G
17 =H
18 =I
19 =J
20 =K
21 =L
22 =M
23 =N
24 =O
25 =P
26 =Q
27 =R
28 =S
29 =T
30 =U
31 =V

Below are three examples of how files might be named if three photos were shot in succession on these three days:
09DA0001.JPG = Name of the first photo after formatting a card, shot on 9/13/2010;
09EA0002.JPG = Next photo, shot on 9/14/2010; and
424A0003.JPG = Third photo, shot on 2/4/2114

Advantages, issues and suggestions to camera manufacturers related to this system:

1. Apart from using 8 characters instead of 13-15, everything else in the original article applies with regard to the advantages of this system.
2. I chose the numbers you see above for the months, years and dates because they are easy to understand (at least until you reach a letter!). 424A0003.JPG is a good example-once you know the system, it’s easy to see that 4=2014, 2=Feb and 4=the 4th day of the month.
3. When we get to 2046, we will be out of letters for the first character used in this system. My guess is that the EXIF standard will allow more than 8 characters by then.

Special thanks to Andrew Sharpe for his comments about my article on Photofocus.com that led to this article.


Hannes - September 15, 2010

My approach would be another one:
Since the date and time when the photo was taken or created is anyway stored in the file (you can see this for example in windows explorer where you can sort the files by date) i would just use the first 4 characters for a customizeable prefix. e.g. CA7D for my Canon 7D camera or NI7K for the new Nikon camera.

The rest 4 characters will be used for unique file naming as normal. But I wont use digits since it is limited to 9999 files. I would rather use characters like
and so on.

So this would be my approach 🙂
…and sorry for my english…

Melinda B. - September 21, 2010

Thank you for posting. This was helpful!

digitla slr - October 3, 2010

Camera manufacturers should name the photo-file so as to the name be
short and meaningful and at the same time easy to understand. Letters
and characters used for naming files should be specified. The consumer
should be able to explore all the related information from the file
name. The file name should also be allowed to edit if need be. The
naming system you described here is really pretty good.

Sany@Chicago damage restoration - October 11, 2010

What a nice site. The issues is very well defined and explained. Moreover it contains lot of detailed information. Thanks for sharing it and looking forward to seeing new posts.keep it up.

Comments are closed