Scanning Tips: How to create a better file name than “0083423.TIFF”

by Sally J.

in * How to SHARE Your Photographs (and the stories behind them), Digital Photographs, Free Articles / Blog

How to create a better file name than “0083423.TIFF”

for your scanned photosbut also better than



Don’t Overlook File Management

Just like you shouldn’t scan without a plan for where to store your new digital files, you shouldn’t scan without a plan for naming those files. It might seem like you can use the file name to describe everything that’s happening in a photo, but that’s asking the file name to do more than it should. Really, all a file name needs to do is be a unique ID for that single file that isn’t duplicated anywhere else.

Hierarchy Matters

No, I’m not trying to get in a political argument about the distribution of wealth in the United States. I’m talking about the hierarchy of nested folders on your computer or hard drive or remote server.

The full name of of any digital file includes the names of all the folders it’s nested under. In word processing programs, it’s called the File Path. If you want someone else to access those files on your computer, your best bet is to give them the whole file path.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

Macintosh HD / Users / sallyj / Smith Scanning Project / Box 1 High School / filename.tiff


Tips for Naming Individual Files: “filename.tiff”

  • To be ultra safe, never ever use spaces or special characters in your file names. [*@~^]
  • Although file names are no longer restricted to a tiny number of characters, it’s still wise to be concise.
  • Don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to explain everything about that photo with only the file name. It makes perfect sense to name a file with a combination of who and when, but think carefully about how many photos you have of that particular person. Also? Watch out for the group shots. They will make you crazy if you choose this path.

Should You Let Your Scanner Assign Numbers?

To be honest, I resisted this idea until I started doing large scanning projects. But now I think of the file name as a Photo ID Number, and I use a combination of prefixes and suffixes and date/time codes. It all depends on the project and how large it is.

I always use “scan” as the prefix for the file names of that first capture. Later, I might need to combine multiple scans or I might generate a PDF with OCR.¬† Those edited files will not have that “scan” prefix at all.

Macintosh HD / Users / sallyj / Smith Scanning Project / Box 1 High School / scan20150108_0058.tiff

2015 January 08 was the date of that scan. This particular file was the 58th scan created that day.

Bottom line: Don’t scan without a plan!

You’ll save yourself lots of headaches, I super duper pinky swear promise.

  • Think about folder names.
  • Think about how you’re going to nest some folders inside other folders.
  • Choose your file naming strategy before you create a single TIFF file.
  • Once you pick a file naming strategy, stick to it or be prepared to change existing file names.
  • Remember to keep it as simple as you can.
  • Use a soft pencil (like the No. 1 and Stabilo All in my Photo Rescue Kit)

You can’t scan yourself into a corner if you have a plan.


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