Case study: File naming done well

This is an example from a research project conducted by a group led by Professors Douglas McCauley and Fiorenza Micheli. It illustrates the organized and thorough method they used to name the thousands of image files that they collected for this project.

See best practices for file naming for more information on what to consider when naming files, or check out our other file naming case study for real-life examples of problems you could encounter if you don't make good file naming choices.

Download our File Naming Best Practices + Examplar handout (pdf)!

Images of one study tile in place at the Palmyra Atoll (left) and in the lab after collection.

The research

The project involved installing approximately 180 tiles in an area near the Palmyra Atoll in the South Pacific and leaving them in place for a specified amount of time. At the end of that time, the plates were retrieved for analysis. The researchers photographed the plates in place during the research, and then again after they were retrieved. The images above show one particular plate in place during the study (left) and then again after retrieval (right).

The researchers wanted to track several things about the plates:

  • at which of the study sites the plate was installed
  • depth of the water at the site
  • date
  • number of the tile
  • whether the tile had been caged or uncaged
  • number assigned to photo by the camera
  • whether the post-removal photo was of the entire tile or only a certain section of the tile

The naming convention

Here is the general naming convention decided upon for the photographs:

  • Sites are named FR3, FR7, and FR9. Those designations are used in the file names.
  • File name is followed immediately by a letter to indicate depth. S=shallow, M=middle, D=deep. This is followed by a period.
  • Dates are formated as YYMMDD, for example 140623 is June 23, 2014. Dates are followed by a period.
  • Tile number (these are on the tiles)
  • Tile number is followed immediately by a letter to indicate treatment. C=caged and U=uncaged. This is followed by a period.
  • Photo number assigned by camera, followed by a period.
  • Single letter designation for photo coverage. W=whole plate, A=upper right, B=lower right, C=lower left, D=upper left (tiles are photographed in a uniform orientation when possible).


The example photo shown on the right above was named using this convention as


How does this translate?

  • FR3 = study site FR3
  • S = shallow
  • 140623 = June 23, 2014
  • 129 = tile number 129
  • C = covered treatment
  • 2653 = photo number assigned by camera
  • W = whole tile

Image how easy it will be for these researchers to track these files and to search or scan through their thousands of images to find all the whole tile images, all the images from deep water, or all the images of tiles that had been uncaged.

The use of a well-documented and consistent naming scheme containing relevant and descriptive information about your files will make your research faster and easier to manage as well.

And don't forget to include your naming scheme documentation in a readme.txt file in your data folder!