File names

For a change, a post on a different subject: intellectual property and copyright – and file names and naming conventions.

I want to share with you a tip that I picked up from Peter Krogh’s excellent book The DAM Book (you can read my review of the book here – I highly recommend reading it).

If you are selling/licensing pictures commercially, have you ever seen your pictures used without your knowledge and agreement? And have you ever heard the explanation “oh, I’m awfully sorry. I thought it was our own archive picture. We won’t do that mistake again” followed by the editor assuming that he will not have to pay any fee for his mistake…

Well, I have.

So here’s the tip:

Name all your image files with a prefix that shows where it comes from. Examples:

  • bkwine-070312-341-4189 (my file)
  • krogh-051226-1223 (Peter Krogh’s file)

One tweak to Peter Krogh’s principle: He suggests that you name all your files in this way. I only do it for files that I send out from the house. In other words, internally I only use e.g. 070312-341-4189.tif but as soon as I send that file to someone else I rename it bkwine-070312-341-4189. (Very easy to do with a batch renamer).

I find it makes less clutter in the file lists.

If you follow this tip (as I do now) I will have a very hard time believing the editor who says “oops, I though it was our own file”! And I will be in a stronger position to negotiate a fee from that illicit usage.

While on file naming, here are a few other principles that I think you should follow:

  • make sure you have unique file names
  • use a date (shoot date, download date,…) as an initial part of the file name
  • use the international standard for date code, for 11 March 2007 you should use 070311. Do NOT use any other format, e.g. 110307 or 11mar07 …
  • use a sequence number to give unique identities
  • do NOT use any descriptive parts in the file name (e.g. do NOT use “jungle” as part of the file name for pictures you’ve shot in a jungle, or “portr” in the file names for portraits etc.). That will only lead to problems.

You can read lots of more things on file naming in Peter Krogh’s book

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