Avoiding Filename Duplication


Today’s Question: I have two cameras that number the files from 1 to 9,999. I shoot many flying birds. When I download all the photos, the computer stops when an identical filename is encountered. These photos are not identical since they are shot on different days. I have come up with several clunky solutions, such as loading them into separate folders. Do you have a different, simpler solution in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend importing the photos directly into Lightroom Classic and using a file renaming structure that will ensure there is not any duplication of filenames for different photos being copied to the same folder.

More Detail: The first issue here is that the photos are being downloaded into the same folder directly from multiple media cards where there are duplicate filenames among different photos on different cards. As a first step I recommend downloading as part of the process of importing these photos into your Lightroom Classic catalog. This enables you to apply renaming to the photos during download and provides a more streamlined solution for dealing with any duplicate filenames.

You can define (or refine) a template for renaming photos in the File Renaming section on the right panel in the Import dialog. Turn on the Rename Files checkbox, and then choose “Edit” from the Template popup. In the Filename Template Editor that appears, you can choose an option that seems like a good starting point for a file renaming template from the Preset popup. You can then customize the template using a series of tokens representing metadata along with text you can enter.

To begin with, the file renaming template can use a sequence number that is up to five digits, whereas most cameras only include a sequence number of up to four digits. That enables you to have up to 99,999 photos with the same basic filename structure but with a unique overall filename, compared to only 9,999 such filenames from the camera.

Note that you’ll need to set the sequence number value individually for each import. So for the first import for a given folder you might set the value to “1”, but after importing 3,000 photos, for example, you would need to set the sequence number for the next import manually to “3001”.

Since you’re shooting with more than one camera you could also include the camera serial number as one of the components of the filename. You might also want to include the date of capture as part of that structure, such as with a “YYYY-MM-DD” format.

These are just a few examples of details you might include to ensure that when you download photos during the process of importing them into your Lightroom Classic catalog, all files will more than likely have a completely unique filename. You can obviously define your own structure based on the details that would be most helpful in the filenames for your photos, especially in the context of ensuring unique filenames.

However, you’ll also be happy to know that even if there are duplicate filenames because you used the same structure with the same starting sequence number for two imports, Lightroom Classic is smart enough to work around this automatically. When you import a photo into the same folder as another photo with the same filename, Lightroom Classic will automatically add a parenthetical number (such as “(1)”) to the filename for the newer photo.