How I name files for optimal work flow.

And why no one should all...ever.

I got an e-mail recently asking how I name files and organize folders to archive my photos. It's not the first time someone's asked about that, and as an avid reader of other photo blogs I've seen a lot of posts about similar things: Name your files to optimize work flow, what's the best program for photo sorting?, how to archive your photos.  Some are helpful, most are not.

Over the years I've found good ways of doing things, and bad ways. I've improved my own process and habits to make my work flow more efficient. I've tried this and that. I'm a big believer in sharing information so when someone asks a questions, I'm happy to share what I do. If you really want to know how I number files in a project folder I can tell you. And you, in turn, can fall asleep and drool on your keyboard. That's fine, but to be honest, no one should care at all about how I or Joe McNally or Annie Liebovitz (do you like I how I lumped myself in with that group, pretty sweet huh? You get to do that when you have your own blog) name files. Ever. And here's why: it doesn't make the photos any better.

At the core of these questions (and a lot of other questions I get about photography) is the the underlying notion that there is a right and wrong way to do it. There is a way all the professionals do it and that's what makes them professionals. Let me reveal the big secret: there is no wrong way.

There is only what works for you. And what doesn't. Figure out the difference and stick with the first one. This applies to all kinds of things. Don't like carrying around all kinds of lighting equipment, get good at shooting ambient. Don't like processing images in photoshop, set your profiles to your style and shoot straight to JPG. Don't like telephoto lenses, shoot everything wide. Astounding images have been made in every way you can imagine, and probably some that you can't. Your file names are not your limiting factor.

Want to get better at photography? My best advice is to spend more time shooting the things that you love to shoot. Become obsessed. Then when you're famous, let your assistant figure out how to organize the files.