What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 3

by | Last updated May 17, 2017 | Scanning Photos | 51 comments

Photo Collage - menu item to save photo as Mom's Birthday 1??And so we reach part 3, the final installment of this series on how to give your photos a useful filename after you scan them.

In part 1, I introduced you to my 3-part naming system I use for my photos. With the first part, you start out the filename with the date the photo was shot in the order of YEAR-MONTH-DAY. Then in part 2, I showed you how to use useful keywords to build a description of what you see in the photograph.

In part 3, we will now be discussing how to add the last part to the filename – a block of easy to create “code” that will reveal to anyone with your “key” the exact scanner settings you used to scan the photo. Wait wait wait! Before you write me off as completely mad and click away to another page [gasp], please hear me out on this. It's really easy and most importantly helpful. I promise!


Part 3 – Add Your Scanner Settings to the Filename

Graphic - My 3-part formula for correctly naming your scanned photos

Even though I think this will eventually benefit even those with the most basic of goals for their scanned photo collections, I know it might be too much to ask of someone who doesn’t have the time or patience to be this thorough. But I beg you to at least follow me through my process here and see if I can convince you of its benefits. So first off, let's discuss the enormous pink elephant wearing silk boxer shorts standing in the middle of the room.

Why on Earth Would You Ever Want to Know What Scanner Settings You Used?

Let me answer that by telling you about the actual situation I was in awhile back that made it painfully obvious to me I needed to add this new bit of information to all of my filenames. A few months into my scanning, I did some testing with the “Dust Removal” setting in Epson Scan, the software that came with my scanner. Scanning magnifies all of the tiny pieces of dust on your prints and negatives, so I wanted to see if this setting could save me a little bit of this cleanup time afterwards in my image manger. You certainly don't have to do this clean up if it doesn't bother you. With my nagging attention to detail, it's an extra step I want to take. I did a bunch of scans with the setting on high, medium, low and then off. Comparing all of the scans, I came to the conclusion that I could use the medium setting without finding any “visible” loss of detail.

But then one day, months and months later, I noticed in a photo I had just scanned that it had a small clump of detail missing! It was like a digital smudge in someone's hairline. Was it a big deal? Probably not to a lot of people. But to me it was huge. It meant the setting was undependable for my goals because the fancy mathematical algorithm in the software could be too evasive at any time, unbeknownst to me. Without taking the time to study each new scan with the original, practically under a magnifying glass, I could easily run the risk of having many more of these digital “smudges” and never catch them until it's too late. That didn't seem like a road I wanted to go down for the rest of my collection.

For me, it's more important to have a “raw” unaffected scan and have to do a few minutes of dust removal later in my image manager than it is to use this “time-saving” filter at the risk of it subtly ruining each photo.

So not only did I decide to no longer use the Dust Removal filter anymore, but I also wanted to go back and rescan all of the pictures I scanned with it so I was sure I didn't lose out on any detail that I would regret later. But here was the problem – I couldn't for the life of me remember what day or even the photo I first started using the filter on! Ugh!! Why didn't I write that down!? You know, I don't think most people stick with the same exact scanner settings day in and day out with every photo in their collection. I think most of us experiment and adjust here and there to match our mood, or maybe something we read online or based on how another setting worked for us on a previous photo. It occurred to me that day, when I was pulling all of my graying hair out, that how I was scanning my photos – what settings I was using – was also part of my image's DNA and should be recorded in its “descriptive tattoo” – its filename. But I knew however I chose to do it had to be extremely easy to generate and also had to be easily understood by someone else new to reading it.

How to Add Your Scanner Settings to Your Filenames

So this is what I came up. I took the name of the setting and turned it into one or two letters. Then if the setting had it's own “pulldown menu” option, I would turn it into a one character value as well. (It's much simpler than it sounds. I keep promising you that it is, so let me show you so you can see for yourself.) Examples: Below is how it would look in Epson's “Epson Scan” set in one of the easiest modes – the “Home Mode.” This mode just means there are very few settings the user has to choose from. The program is set to scan a color photograph at 300 dpi (ppi) with the descreening filter set to on. (Please note: these examples aren't necessarily based on “settings” recommendations. I made them up just for the sake of explaining how they would be implemented in my naming system)

Scanner setting window for Mac version of Epson Scan in Home Mode

Epson Scan Window – “Home Mode” (Mac version)

So using this example, highlighted in blue is what I would add after parts 1 and 2 of a filename from my last post:

“1925-xx-xx Marvel Ruth House Front Illinois – (ES-300-DS)

Do you see what I did there? I scanned the photo using Epson Scan at 300 dpi with Descreening turned on. Let me show you another example that has a few more options to choose from. This again is using Epson Scan but set in the “Professional Mode”:

Scanner setting window for Mac version of Epson Scan in Professional Mode

Epson Scan – “Professional Mode” (Mac version)

“1978-02-xx Blanket Tent Tunnel Winter Snow Day – (ES-600-48b-UM-DRm)

In this one, the photo was scanned again using Epson Scan but at 600 dpi, 48-bit color, with the Unsharp Mask turned on and the Dust Removal filter set to medium. Cool huh!? And it's really that easy.

Putting All 3 Parts Together

Graphic - My 3-part formula for correctly naming your scanned photos So now you know the way I currently label all of my scanned photos. It's just a matter of combining all three parts into one “longer” filename.

If you want to start using this system, you might find it really helpful if you write down your entire formula on a piece of paper or a handy index card so you can pull it out and reference it whenever you decide to have a scanning session. They may be few and far between so having it at your fingertips is very handy.

YY-MM-DD – Event/Location/People – (Scanner Software – DPI – Color Bit – Filters/Settings)

You also might find it useful to have a legend (cheat sheet) written down somewhere of your scanner setting abbreviations. You may remember what they mean now, but maybe not in a couple weeks, or worse… 5 or 10 years from now.

Scanning Filename Legend
UM Unsharp Mask
DS Descreening
CR Color Restoration
BC Backlight Correction
DR Dust Removal
DI Digital Ice

And for my last tip, it’s important to make sure this information is typed into your filenames right after you complete the scan, or you will quickly forget the settings you used for each one. At the latest, type it in before you import or drag them into your image manager such as Picasa, iPhoto or Lightroom. So in wrapping up this series, imagine with me if you will, 30 or more years from now, a family member who inherited your collection is looking at your hard work. They don't have access to your original negatives or prints because they are gone, but this person does have your folders full of your master (scanned) images you were so careful to back up through the years. Which of the following two folders of photos would you prefer them to access? Which one would be the most helpful to them?

Folder with scanned photos with filenames that aren't very useful

Folder with scanned photos with very useful filenames

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my “Naming Your Scanned Photos” series and are able to implement as much of it as you like into your own photos! Please spread the word if you have the time by retweeting or sharing this article. Thank you so much! Cheers!

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