Renaming Files on Import: Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure

by Mikkel Aaland

This excerpt is from Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure. Completely up-to-date for Lightroom 2, this beautifully illustrated and eminently practical book offers a complete tour of Adobe's integrated digital photography workflow application. Augmented by photos and case studies from a demanding road test in Tasmania, award-winning photographer Mikkel Aaland explains how Lightroom allows you to import, select, develop and showcase large volumes of digital images.

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OK, now back to the Import Photos dialog box. You can rename files on import, but in order to do so, you must first choose "Copy Photos to a new location and add to catalog" or "Move Photos to a new location and add to catalog" or "Copy Photos as Digital Negative (DNG) and add to catalog" from the File Handling pop-up menu (circled in Figure 2-21). With these choices, the renaming features are enabled (shown circled). If you select "Add photos to catalog without moving" the renaming features are not enabled.

Figure 2-21

As you can see in Figure 2-22, digital cameras generate unique file names, but you'll probably want to customize these file names on import to make them more useful and to lessen the chance of inadvertently overwriting them at a later date. Most digital cameras are capable of generating eight-character file names. If you set your camera to generate sequential numbers and don't reset every time you erase files from card memory, you're off to a good start. However, what happens if you shoot with multiple cameras by the same manufacturer? The chances of creating image files with the same name goes up, and so does the chance that you'll overwrite one file with another.

Figure 2-22

To avoid this potentially disastrous situation, you can create a unique file name the first time you touch your image file and never change it. (Derivatives, of course, get their own unique file name later.) A good time to do this is when you import images into Lightroom.

Creating custom file names

Although several presets are available in the Filename Template Editor pop-up menu shown in Figure 2-23, I prefer to create a custom file-naming nomenclature recommended by my fellow Adventurer and digital asset management expert, Peter Krogh.

Figure 2-23

To do this:

  1. Select Edit… (circled in Figure 2-23) from the Filename pop-up menu.
  2. The Filename Template Editor appears, as shown in Figure 2-24. Empty the field window with the Delete key. Then, in the field window (circled) type in your name, followed by an underscore. Use the Delete key to correct any errors.

    Figure 2-24

  3. Find Date (YYYYMMDD) in the Sequence and Date subsection and click Insert. (You can choose how the year, month, and day are displayed. I prefer the YYYYMMDD format.) The actual date will be derived from camera EXIF data. Type an underscore after the Date field.
  4. Find Filename under the Image Name subsection and click Insert. Again, the actual file name is derived from camera EXIF data.

As you build and customize the file name, an example appears above the field window. When you are finished, select Save Current Settings as New Preset from the Preset pop-up menu, as shown in Figure 2-27. Name the preset and then click Done. Next time you select the pop-up Template menu, the new preset will appear as a renaming option.

Figure 2-27

Proper Punctuation

To create file names that are readable by all systems, you should follow certain universal rules. For example:

  • Avoid all punctuation except underscores, dashes, and a single period prior to the file extension. You can set a Lightroom preference to automatically correct file names with unacceptable punctuation. Do this in the Lightroom Preferences in the File Handling tab, shown in Figure 2-28.
  • Use no more than 31 characters.
  • Every file name should have a 3-letter extension preceded by a period.

Figure 2-28

Applying Other Information on Import

Let's go back again to the Import Photos dialog box, shown in Figure 2-29. Here you can apply a custom develop setting and create and apply a custom metadata preset on import. You can also, if you want, apply a set of keywords on import that can be used later for sorting, editing, and filtering your images (circled).

Figure 2-29

Develop options on import

Lightroom ships with several develop presets, as shown in Figure 2-30. In later chapters, I show you how to create your own custom develop presets, which also show up in the Import window, as mine appear here. Remember, even if you apply these presets to your images, Lightroom doesn't touch the original image file. It just applies the preset to the previews. You can change the settings at any time with no loss in image quality.

Figure 2-30

If you enjoyed this excerpt, buy a copy of Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure.