Staying organized is critical when you have thousands of photos, and because digital cameras generate the same set of names over and over, it’s really important that you rename your photos with a unique name right during import. A popular strategy is to include the date of the shoot as part of the new name. Unfortunately, only one of Lightroom’s import naming presets includes the date, and it makes you keep the camera’s original filename along with it. Luckily, you can create your own custom file naming template just the way you want it. Here’s how:
Start in the Library module, and click on the Import button on the bottom-left side of the window (or use the keyboard shortcut Command-Shift-I [PC: Ctrl-Shift-I]). When the Import window appears, click on Copy as DNG or Copy at the top center, and the File Renaming panel will appear on the right side. In that panel, turn on the Rename Files checkbox, then click on the Template pop-up menu and chose Edit (as shown here) to bring up the Filename Template Editor (shown below in Step Two).
Figure 1 SCOTT KELBY
At the top of the dialog, there is a pop-up menu where you can choose any of the built-in naming presets as a starting place. For example, if you choose Custom Name – Sequence, the field below shows two blue tokens (that’s what Adobe calls them; on a PC, the info appears within braces) that make up that preset: the first represents the text, the second represents the auto numbering. To remove either token, click on it, then press the Delete (PC: Backspace) key on your keyboard. If you want to just start from scratch (as I’m going to do), delete both tokens, choose the options you want from the pop-up menus below, then click the Insert buttons to add them to the field.
I’m going to show you the setup for a popular file naming system for photographers, but this is only an example—you can create a custom template later that fits your studio’s needs. We’ll start by adding the year first (this helps keep your filenames together when sorted by name). To keep your filenames from getting too long, I recommend using just the last two digits of the year. So go to the Additional section of the dialog, click on the pop-up menu, and choose Date (YY), as shown here (the Y lets you know this is a year entry, the YY lets you know it’s only going to display two digits). The Date (YY) token will appear in the naming field and if you look above the top-left side of it, you’ll see a live example of the name template you’re creating. At this point, my new filename is 12.jpg, as seen here.
After the two-digit year, we add the two-digit month the photo was taken by going to the same pop-up menu, but this time choosing Date (MM), as shown here. (Both of these dates are drawn automatically from the metadata embedded into your photo by your digital camera at the moment the shot was taken.) By the way, if you had chosen Date (Month), it would display the entire month name, so your filename would have looked like this: 12February, rather than what we want, which is 1202.
Before we go any further, you should know there’s a rule for file naming, and that’s no spaces between words. However, if everything just runs together, it’s really hard to read. So, after the date, you’re going to add a visual separator—a thin flat line called an underscore. To add one, just click your cursor right after the Date (MM) token, then press the Shift key and the Hyphen key to add an underscore (seen here). Now, here’s where I differ from some of the other naming conventions: after the date, I include a custom name that describes what’s in each shoot. This differs because some people choose to have the original camera-assigned filename appear there instead (personally, I like to have a name in there that makes sense to me without having to open the photo). So to do that, go to the Custom section of the dialog and to the right of Custom Text, click the Insert button (as shown here) to add a Custom Text token after your underscore (this lets you type in a one-word text description later), then add another underscore (so it looks like _Custom Text_. In your example up top, though, it will say “untitled” until you add your custom text).
Now you’re going to have Lightroom automatically number these photos sequentially. To do that, go to the Numbering section and choose your numbering sequence from the third pop-up menu down. Here I chose the Sequence # (001) token, which adds three-digit auto-numbering to the end of your filename (you can see the example above the naming field).
Once the little naming example looks right to you, go under the Preset pop-up menu, and choose Save Current Settings as New Preset. A dialog will appear where you can name your preset. Type in a descriptive name (so you’ll know what it will do the next time you want to apply it—I chose “Year, Month, Type in Name, Auto Nbr”), click Create, and then click Done in the Filename Template Editor. Now, when you go to the Import window and click on the File Renaming panel’s Template pop-up menu, you’ll see your custom template as one of the preset choices (as shown here).
After you choose this new naming template from the Template pop-up menu, click below it in the Custom Text field (this is where that Custom Text token we added earlier comes into play) and type in the descriptive part of the name (in this case, I typed in “MensGymnastics,” all one word—no spaces between words). That custom text will appear between two underscores, giving you a visual separator so everything doesn’t all run together (see, it all makes sense now). Once you type it in, if you look at the Sample at the bottom of the File Renaming panel, you’ll see a preview of how the photos will be renamed. Once you’ve chosen all your Apply During Import and Destination panel settings, you can click the Import button.