Renaming Photos in the Camera


Today’s Question: In response to your answer about avoiding duplicate filenames when importing photos into Lightroom Classic, is it possible to rename photos in the camera to help ensure unique filenames when shooting with more than one camera?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, with some cameras you can change the default naming structure. Most will still only allow you to use four digits for the sequence number for photos, but using a unique prefix with each camera can help avoid most common issues related to duplicate filenames.

More Detail: Most cameras only allow you to use four digits for the numeric sequence number, because this is part of the “Design rule for Camera File system” (DCF) specification. Some cameras allow for a five-digit sequence number, but this is not within the DCF standards used by most cameras.

With only four numbers available for the sequence number portion of the filename, you’ll only be able to capture 9,999 photos before the camera rests to image number 1 again. Therefore, many photographers prefer to rename photos as part of their organizational workflow to have greater flexibility with the filename structure.

However, when it comes to capturing photos with two different cameras, there is obviously the risk that each of the two cameras used on a single photo outing may result in filename duplication. For example, both cameras may capture an image with a filename such as “IMG_1234.cr2”.

In a previous answer I explained how it was possible to use a renaming template in Lightroom Classic to rename photos, including the option to make filenames unique based on the camera used. On option, for example, would be to use the camera serial number as part of the file renaming structure.

However, with many cameras it is also possible to change the structure for the file naming in the camera, so that each of your camera bodies could have a unique filename structure. For example, if you had two Nikon cameras you might change the structure to something like “NC1_1234.nef” for the first camera and “NC2_1234.nef” for the second camera. This would ensure unique filenames across two (or more) cameras, although obviously you could still end up with duplicate filenames from the same camera when you roll over from 9,999 to 0001 for the sequence number.