A Numbering System to Keep Track of Your Digital Photography Tour Pictures
One of the first things any digital photographer should think about is a digital photo numbering system. Even so, very few give it a second thought. One of the true benefits of digital photography is the ability to keep your pictures organized. However, without a good numbering system that advantage is crippled dramatically.
An example of how things can get off track would be the following scenario I’m confident we can all relate to. Let’s say you’ve been traveling extensively, at the end of the year you decide to have a New Years get together to show friends and family all the great places you’ve been fortunate to visit. If you were traveling with Tanya and me on one of our photography tours you may have visited Kenya, Costa Rica, Yellowstone in Winter, The Canadian Rockies, India or any number of other fabulous destinations. As you prepare for your big holiday presentation you start selecting images from all your different digital photo travel folders. To compile all your best pictures you create a folder on your desktop called Travel Photos. You start adding pictures to that folder, one from Kenya, one from India, several more from Costa Rica and more from Yellowstone in Winter. As you drag one image after another into the Travel Photo folder all of a sudden a message starts popping up warning “The file your are trying to add already exists. Do you want to overwrite this file?” or something similar. If you say yes you will replace one photo file with something completely different. Why is this happening? It’s because you have chosen not to implement a numbering system for your digital photo files that makes certain each image has it’s own unique number.
In most situations the reason this problem arises is due to the camera or cameras assigning a number to each individual file. Most digital cameras will create an ongoing, running number that increases by one for each file captured. Typically the highest number most cameras create is 10,000. Once the camera reaches 10,000 frames it resets itself and begins another series of 10,000 frames. If you have two cameras each one is creating it’s own 1-10,000 photo file numbers and unless you enter a designator identifying each separate camera you will have 10,000 opportunities to have images that want to overwrite each other. If you use some sort of camera ID you will give yourself some additional time before your files start tripping over themselves. Either way if you shoot a fair number of pictures, which most digital shooters do, it won’t be long before you start seeing the warning about overwriting one image over another.
What’s the answer? There are a couple that I like. For me I chose to implement an ongoing running number. In other words my digital files started at number 1 back in 2003 and has just keep going. Currently my running number system has just passed 300,000 which signifies all photos I’ve taken digitally since that time. This option gives each digital file it’s own specific number and does so with the smallest number of digits possible.
The second numbering option is to name each digital file with the numbers generated based on the date and time the image was captured. The only situation I can imagine that this option wouldn’t work is if the photographer was shooting one or more cameras remotely at high speeds. You could then have the possibility of taking photos at the exact same time. But for most shooters this is a good option since no one I’m aware of shoots two cameras at exactly the same time. Many of us shoot two cameras but not exactly at the same time. The one downside to this system is the files numbers can get quite long and cumbersome.
Both of these options are available via the ingesting/uploading process of most quality software packages. Software that I’ve used to accomplish either numbering/renaming option I mentioned above include Nikon View NX2, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture and my favorite specifically for numbering, Photo Mechanic. Photo Mechanic and Apple’s Aperture have the most options. Adobe’s Lightroom is a close second but lacks the ability to allow you to choose to put images in folders by the date they are loaded as opposed to the date they were shot. What seems like a minor issue turns into a big deal when the numbering system is an ongoing running type. If you have images on a camera that might not have been used for awhile the images will be loaded off in some earlier folder throwing your ongoing numbering system out of order. This is one of the reasons I like the number by date system but I started with a running number and so far I plan to stick with it. All of the programs mentioned offer many different possibilities. Finding the one you like will be a personal choice.
I hope the above information helps with giving you ideas of how you might want to execute a quality numbering system for yourself. I’ll be writing an additional installment or two with more details about how I use the system I have in another Blog Update. You might be thinking how can there be anymore? Well stay tuned and I think you’ll be surprised.