23 Jun 2015 File Naming Conventions of Successful Microstock Contributors

Working inside a microstock agency, as I am with Canva, provides a variety of rich insights into how different microstock contributors work.

One such area of insight is how contributors organise their files.

Oh the Variety!

The most common file naming convention I saw is to use the filename from the camera.

Some prefaced the camera filename with some sort of batch ID, like “batch1-DSC_6034.JPG”, or “shoot1-CR_6034.JPG”

Others used the photo’s title or description, which made me suspect they thought there was some SEO benefit in doing so.  That would be true if putting the files directly online via your own website, but doesn’t help at all when sending them to a microstock agency.

Some took the SEO strategy even further, using comma separated keywords as the filename.  What a mess.

The most unusual I saw, more than once, was to use the abbreviations of agencies to which the file had already been uploaded, as the filename.  A unique reference was included to avoid duplication.  For example:  “ss, is, ft, dt, bs, cs, ca, 6034.jpg”

But the best ones always had one thing in common.  They used the date.

The ultimate format is the date, formatted year, month, day (yyyymmdd) so that file order is also date order.  Obviously some ID or file number is added at the end so the filenames are unique.  For example:  “20141231-045.jpg”

File Structure

Most microstock agencies don’t support file structures on their FTP servers, so most microstock contributors have been trained to not use them.

But our FTP server at Canva does, and quite a few contributors took advantage of this.  And those who submitted by hard drive – which were a lot in the early days – also had their images in folders.

Again there was quite a variety of strategies.  Some were organised by file type (JPGs for photos and EPS + JPG for illustrations).  Others by shoot date or a batch number, and some by model (presumably to convenience of release matching).

And again, the easiest and most functional were organised by date, using the same format:  yyyymmdd

Some append shoot descriptions and/or model names after the date, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea either.

Issues and Opportunities

Duplication isn’t an issue for most microstock agencies.  Once uploaded, files are renamed with a unique ID from the database.  But it leaves out some opportunities for the contributor, primarily having filenames which are not unique.  There’s just no reference to the file that’s completely unique on your system.  If a file is needed somewhere outside the filing system, perhaps for a special request or you need to make an edit, there’s a risk of the file losing its place.

As I saw more and more portfolios come through, I started to notice consistencies among the top-performing portfolios, and similarly consistencies among the lesser-performing ones.  But of course there were exceptions.

Clearly file naming convention is not a ’cause’ of contributors doing well or doing poorly, but in my experience, it’s a reflection of the organisation and commitment of the contributor with a strong correlation to success.

What works for you?

15 Comments
  • Tom
    Posted at 21:35h, 23 June Reply

    My (custom made) IPTC system creating file names such a Cute_Model_29993.jpg (Title_file number in the system) Nice article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Eric B
    Posted at 22:23h, 23 June Reply

    Folder name: YYYYMMDD-Simplename

    Release/reference, JPG, EPS have all the same name of the folder, but with appropriate extensions

    This makes sorting, searching and release management very easy for me

  • Mariusz Jurgielewicz
    Posted at 22:58h, 23 June Reply

    Since I started using Adobe Lightroom my files are named: YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS.jpg and it makes sure that file names are unique. Agencies should put metadata from files on their pages so naming convention does not matter too much.

  • Giovanni
    Posted at 00:49h, 24 June Reply

    I leave the name of the shot.
    I manage photos from Lightroom with smart collections + keyword + color labels for each picture to know which agency has been sent. I wrote a tutorial on how to make.

  • Elnur
    Posted at 02:42h, 24 June Reply

    Mine is simple, but also ensures filenames are unique. It starts with original filename followed by the date (either date of shoot or editing… can’t remember now !) For example – DSC_7622-260809,jpg …. . I would never delete the original filename !!!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:04h, 24 June Reply

      Why wouldn’t you delete the original filename? I serves no purpose and is exactly the same as thousands of other files in your portfolio.

      • Elnur
        Posted at 06:30h, 25 June Reply

        couple of reasons:
        – you can find the images from the same shoot using wild card (e.g. DSC_34**). Of course, you can sort by shoot date, but having another way, doesn’t hurt
        – you can always find respective raw images by their jpg name.
        – with hundreds of thousand files moving between 4-5 computers, it allows me to check if I have already processed this file or not !
        – I often group files for various reason in one folder, so having unique names is a must, and original filename+date seems like the best combination, especially considering lightroom does it automatically.

      • Antonio D'Albore
        Posted at 06:52h, 25 June Reply

        Does not make any sense to use file name generated by camera firmware and shooting date.

        File name > it does not actually carry any useful information and it is automatically restart from 0000 after 9999

        File date > is already present into the RAW metadata so… why repeat it???

        Also using any sort of description into the file name, from an IT perspective, will become a nightmare when your archive is growing!

        • Elnur
          Posted at 07:20h, 25 June Reply

          the purpose is to create consistent and unique filenames. Camera count will restart, but coupled with date, it is a unique combination.

          I don’t know what you call a growing archive, but I have about 190,000 photos in portfolio, and can find any jpeg, its remixes and versions, and associated raw file. under 20-30 seconds. I work remotely with 2 retouchers, 1 keyworder, and 1 photographer, so there are thousands of files moving in all directions every week. I know which files are in which of 15-20 agencies I contribute to. The system is working 🙂
          Again, this is by no means the perfect system. but it does work me.

          • Antonio D'Albore
            Posted at 07:25h, 25 June

            Interesting observation about uniqueness of the file name when associated with date, you are right on that.

            What you don’t have with your system a meaningful coding of the file = from the file name you don’t know what’s inside. But I am sure this is not relevant to your case.

            Cheers!

            Antonio

  • Andres ROdriguez
    Posted at 16:13h, 24 June Reply

    Simple …. andresr000001 andresr000002 etc … 😀 Then I save the photos in monthly batches and name the batch andresr00000-andresr0000200 depending on what photos are inside … easy to search afterwards if needed and no duplication can happen.

  • Antonio D'Albore
    Posted at 06:45h, 25 June Reply

    Example of folder structure:

    01-china1_beijing1-tiananmen\D01_01_01_0001.tif (so I have from 0000 to 9999 images for each folder)
    01-china1_beijing2-great-wall\D01_01_02_0001.tif
    01-china1_beijing2-great-wall\D01_01_02_0002.tif
    02-concepts1-business\D02_01_0001.tif

    The file name begin with:

    nothing > means that file is a scan from slide
    D > Digital photo file
    DP > Digital photo file + Panoramic image
    V > video file
    Panoramic and Stacked images are a .Zip that contain the multiple images

    A parallel file structure, with identical file name is kept for the raw files.

    All files have keywords.

    This system is cross-platform, is working with no issue on Linux, OS-X and PC and is not application-dependent. So it works nicely with any DAM software.

    File names does not contain any special characters, no space and non-latin characters are allowed.

    JPG files sent to agencies are deleted afterwards.

    With this system I have currently archived more than 20.000 images and videos.

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