BitDepth 562 - February 06

Digital photography enables a lot of picture-taking. Here's how I manage those files...
Pictures, lots of pictures

Managing large numbers of photos often means working with software designed to make the task easy. Graphic Converter, pictured here, displays picture previews, allows easy batch renaming and displays embedded data in the image files.

It's three in the morning, a crazy dog is yapping beside me as I wheeze along on my bike as we both chase the pickup that's cruising toward the pitch black coastline in Cocorite.
I'm almost at the end of a long photoshoot with the Panchaiti camp, and the thing on my sleep-numbed mind isn't the slavering dog that's taken an uncomfortably keen interest in my heel, far more worrying is the small virtual mountain of images that this edition of my photo essay series has amassed.
Every entry of my Sunday Guardian photo essay series, Local Lives, has been the tip of an iceberg of images, but none has hidden quite the mass of metaphorical ice like this one.

It's a problem that more of us will face now that the opportunity cost of photography has essentially been eliminated in the digital age. If you have a digital camera and a computer, the cost of storing a picture is now less than a fraction of a cent, but we end up paying in other ways.
Unlike images captured on film, pictures are virtual, bits instead of atoms, unrealised for us until they are viewed onscreen or printed. Until then, they are just icons with file names in a folder, which seems a whole lot tidier than having negatives jammed into an envelope with some prints, until you actually have to find one.

Digital cameras are notorious for offering useless file names, which by default look like this: _img_3889.jpg. These camera generated names ensure that pictures don't overwrite each other after you copy them off the camera, but they are even less helpful than writing "holiday pix" on one of your old photo lab envelopes.

Two steps to stave off grief later; first, set your camera's numbering system to 'continuous', which ensures that the first ten thousand or so of your pictures will have unique file names to start with, second, decide how you will rename your files.

The first reaction to renaming is to go overboard, trying to include all the information about the pictures in the file name. This is a really bad idea, because it defeats the one thing that folders on the desktop are good for, which is keeping similar images together.
A better procedure is to have a generic identifier, such as Boats or Kaiso, followed by the abbreviated date (try starting with the year to keep images lined up neatly) and then a unique file number.
If this sounds like a lot of effort, then you haven't considered letting the computer do the grunt work for you.

There are several renaming tools that you can use to automatically rename your files, but a unique and common computing problem often delivers a unique and uncommon solution. That solution is Marc Rochkind's Imageingester, an unusually thorough solution to a problem you didn't know you had with your digital camera files.
ImageIngester basically takes over from the moment you connect your camera to the computer, renames files according to schema you set up, transfers the files and backs them up to an external drive if you have one.
The software is available in a quite capable free version and an even more potent pro version that costs US$40.

Even the free version of ImageIngester is powerful enough that I encourage you to consider downloading the PDF manual and reading it before pointing this software at your memory cards.
Adobe's Photoshop Elements also now includes a file browser that makes renaming easier and offers most of the power that most photographers will need to work with their digital files.

Good file names for your photos are just the beginning. Next week we look at ways to place information about your pictures directly into your photos and make more use of them than you ever could with a dusty photo album.

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