DON'S FREEWARE CORNER - OCT 2016
NAMING PHOTO FILES WITH FREEWARE PROGRAMS

2016 Donald R. Snow -- This page was last updated 2016-11-13.
These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter.  They are also posted on my Freeware Corner Notes page on  http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html  where the links are active and there may be corrections, updates, and additional information about the topic in other class notes.

DIGITAL CAMERA SETTINGS

Digital cameras have a clock built in that records the date and exact time the photo was taken in the metadata of each photo. The metadata in a photo includes, in addition to the date and time, the camera, lens settings, and more, and sometimes even the GPS coordinates where the photo was taken. This metadata stays with each photo file and can be viewed with FILE EXPLORER (see below) or other programs.  For the date and time to be useful you need to be sure your camera's date and clock are set correctly.  For scanned photos and slides the metadata just includes the date it was scanned, since the scanner only knows the date you scanned it.  If several people with digital cameras are at the same event, e.g. a family reunion, if each camera's date and time are set correctly, the same event will have the same date and time for each photo of it.  Then, using free programs that will copy the date and time and put them in the name of the file, all the photos of the same event will sort together, regardless of the camera they came from.  This can be very helpful and the steps in this article will include how to do this.

DOWNLOADING DIGITAL PHOTOS

For downloading photos from my digital camera, I use a file management program like Q-DIR (see past Freeware Corner notes), rather than the programs that come with the camera.  Those tend to put the photos where they want and do things that I don't want done.  I save the photos in two folders, each labeled with the year taken.  The photos in one folder are for working on and renaming and those in the other folder are kept as backups, on a different hard drive even.

RENAMING TO PUT DATE AND TIME IN FRONT

Let me emphasize that this photo naming system is what I have developed over several years and it works for me, but you may have your own system that works for you.  I don't recommend that you change, unless you see things here that will help.  The most important thing is being consistent in what you do and staying with what works for you.  Once your files are named uniformly in whatever system works for you, you can easily modify the system later, if you want.  And new software is being developed all the time, so I will undoubtedly change some of my procedures in the future.  What I describe here works for me now.  For the photos in my working Photos-Saved-By-Date folder I first run the program NAMExif on them.  This is a free and easy to use program available from  http://namexif.windows10compatible.com/download . After installing the program, you run it and open the photo files in it.  It has options for copying the EXIF data from each photo's metadata and putting it into the title of the file.  EXIF (EXchangeable Image Format) is the metadata that is saved in the photo file that tells when the photo was taken, the camera used, the settings, etc.  If the camera has a GPS built in, the metadata will include the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken.  I set NAMExif so the date and time go in front of the name the camera put on it and it have it write the date in International Data Format (YYYY-MM-DD) followed by the time in this format, (HHh-MMm-SSs).  This makes my photo files have names like

     2016-10-04-13h-10m-20s--Pxxxxxxx.jpg ,

and they all sort in chronological order down to the second that the photo was taken.  I keep the name that the camera put on the file, e.g. Pxxxxxxx, so I can go back to the original in my backup photo folder, if I ever need to.  There are other programs that will extract the EXIF data, but NAMExif is a simple and free one. To see all the EXIF data in a photo file, go to FILE EXPLORER (Windows 10) or WINDOWS EXPLORER (Windows 7), right click on the file, and click on Details (tab at top).  You will see all the EXIF data including the date and time, the camera used, the lens settings, resolution, etc.  If the date and time were not set correctly on your camera, NAMExif has a way to add or subtract days or time before it copies them in front, but it's lots easier to have it set correctly on your digital camera first.  For scanned photos and slides you will have to guess at the date to put it in front, so they sort chronologically.  I sometimes just guess at the year for scanned photos and slides write it as YYYY-00-00, so it at least sorts in the year it belongs and I can tell at a glance that it is not exact.

BULK RENAME UTILITY

I next run the program BULK RENAME UTILITY, available for free from  http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php  and discussed in an earlier Freeware Corner article.  I use this to put PHT- at start of all photo names.  Now the names look like

    PHT-2016-10-04-13h-10m-20s--Pxxxxxxx.jpg .

They still sort chronologically, but now by using PHT- as a search term in EVERYTHING, all photos on my entire computer are listed.  This includes jpg's, tif's, png's, pdf's, or any other photo format.  For files other than photos I use other codes at the start, e.g. LTR- for letters, ORDER- for online orders, etc.  Including such codes allows EVERYTHING to show me all files of that type and sorted chronologically.  EVERYTHING is another free program and is discussed below and in other Freeware Corner articles.   For slides I have considered using the code SLI- or SLD- in front, but haven't decided whether to do it.  I have 15,000 slides that I hired a granddaughter to scan for me and she has finished the entire collection, but I haven't renamed the files yet.

ADDING KEYWORDS TO NAMES SO THE FILES ARE SEARCHABLE

The above renaming process only takes a few minutes.  The time-consuming part is what follows and I don't always get this part done.  I use FILE EXPLORER (in Windows 10) and turn on the Preview Pane (button near top center and discussed in an earlier Freeware Corner note).  This allows me to see what the photo is and rename it without having to open it.  After the date and time and before the camera name in the file title, I put keywords about the event, location, people in the photo, etc.  Now the photo name looks like

    PHT-2010-10-04-13h-10m-20s-DianeManwaring(Snow)(1934-2012)InBarbadosArchives--Pxxxxxxx.jpg .

You have 255 characters available, including the characters in the path, so you can add lots in the title, but not always everything you would like.  I usually include the event, location, and names of the people, if there i space.  With the keywords EVERYTHING can find all photos that pertain to those keywords and they sort in chronological order.  Renaming all photos with key words is a mammoth task and I have only done it on a small fraction of all my photos.  I do the procedure on photos when I need them for a project or when I really get ambitious about cleaning up my photo files.  But, even without keywords in the title, I can still find the photos I'm looking for, as described below.  Keywords could be entered in the EXIF metadata, but they are harder to search for there.

SEARCHING USING EVERYTHING

EVERYTHING is the program that makes searching for files easy.  It is free, very fast, extremely helpful, and available from   https://www.voidtools.com/ .  With my naming system and using it to search for PHT-, it finds all photos on my computer, regardless of file type (jpg, tif, png, pdf, etc), or folder, or even hard drive, and it shows them in chronological order.  It is easy to search for all photos of a certain date or time period.  If I have added keywords in the file titles, I can include those as search terms in EVERYTHING and see just those in chronological order.  But even without keywords in the titles, my Appointment Books show me the date I was at a certain location and I can easily find all files of that time period.  Adding keywords to the titles makes it much better and easier, but takes lots of work.

CONCLUSIONS

Naming files so you can find them on your computer takes time now, but saves time when you need them later.  It is an enormous task and few of us ever do it completely.  If you have your own system that works for you, continue to use it, and just add in things that you find here that might help.  If you don't have a system, you could start with just the first part of my system by finding all your photos with EVERYTHING (search for jpg, tif, png, etc.) and put them in a folder.  Then extract the EXIF date and time so they sort chronologically.  Of course, if the date and time on your digital camera weren't set correctly, you will have to work around getting the correct date and time in front of the title.  This whole procedure will help you to find all your photos so you can form collections to post or to burn onto CDs to preserve and give to your family members.  In any event, I hope you got some ideas you can use to help with your digital photo collection.  Good luck.
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