Image File Naming: Not Fred or Esmerelda

Don't name me Fred - name me robin! discussion on filename conventions on
How do you name your image files? I don’t recommend the names Fred.jpg or Esmeralda.png, unless your company happens to be named Fred Esmeralda, Inc. Typically, what I see more often, is folks just leave the image file with how it was named on the camera, as in img000203.jpg or something like that.

What are some rules to follow in naming your images? Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  1. Keywords – what is your blog post about? What are you discussing? In this case, we are talking about file name conventions. Someone might type filename or file name into Google. Both are possibilities for naming the images on the post. Make a list of various keywords, and use one that works as part of your image file naming.
  2. Characters to Avoid – there are characters that you can’t use in a file name, such as these: / ? : * ” > < |. Then there are ones you want to avoid. A big no-no is DON’T USE A SPACE. You might end up with a file name like this:
    The browser might temporarily accept it; later, to your surprise, if you switch servers or platforms or themes, your little space might cause problems! Learn early – don’t use spaces in your image file names.
  3. Periods Belong with the File Extension – you know that little .jpg or .png or .gif at the end of your image file name? (that’s the file extension) You see there is a period there? Yes, that’s where you should use a period. Don’t use it elsewhere in your image file name.
  4. Use hyphen preferably instead of underscore – this is more of a suggestion, not a rule. You can use underscore without any penalty; however, … sometimes people don’t see the underscore and think there is a space. Therefore, my recommendation is if you have a choice between hyphen and underscore – go with hyphen. In general, if you want to put a space between your keywords in your file name, use a hyphen to do so.
  5. Name Wisely – if you might use the image again, include words you might search for in the future. Example: fall leaf or autumn for a fall foliage image. This is sort of related to keywords, but it’s more for your own use rather than the search engine’s needs. If you use WordPress, think of your Media Library. Every try to search when you have 1000’s of images? It helps when you named the image with a memorable tag.
  6. File Sizes at the End – Add the size of the photo at the end – comes in handy if you use different sizes on one post. For example, I might save one at 200px, one at 600px and one at thumbnail size (in this case, robin-100px might be my file name). You can also rely on various WordPress tools to resize your images, but I personally like to do the file sizes in advance of uploading.

Do you have any methods for naming your file images? How do you go about image file naming?

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For those who want to learn more about images and blogs, here are the slides from my summer lecture:

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52 thoughts on “Image File Naming: Not Fred or Esmerelda

  1. Leora- I love the suggestion of not using spaces when naming a file. The biggest problem I have is naming the file when the image is a common use like fall sale. I always crop the image to size before putting it in WordPress. I guess it is force of habit

    1. Arleen, even if you name your image “fall-sale.jpg” – it might be in combination with what’s in your alt tag, such as Fall Sale on Promotional Items, for example. Then you have an even longer set of keywords in your post. You don’t have to throw every keyword into your image file name.

  2. Good suggestions, Leora. But doesn’t how you name them depend on what you use them for? If you are sending them somewhere you need to include your name such as
    Catarina-Alexon-bird.jpg. Using keywords you might use when searching in the future is the best idea when it comes to filing.
    Catarina recently posted…Are grades being inflated?My Profile

    1. Catarina, there is yet another way to name the file, as you suggested (using your own name, especially if the file is going elsewhere).

      FYI, I would also suggest not using capitals in your file name. UNIX servers might complain. Like using spaces, it might work for a while, but at some point your capitalization might cause trouble.

  3. I had to laugh because I so get this. In the very beginning of my blogging. I did’t name my images properly, nor did I watermark them. When I went in search for them again, I couldn’t find them… go figure. Now I actually do it properly with the key words or phrase along with my website address and I never forget to watermark them. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Homemade Limoncello: #RecipeMy Profile

  4. Like some of the others I had no idea about spaces in naming of images. I guess I will have to go back through all of them and rename; yikes! As for watermarking, I didn’t know about that either. How is this done?

    1. Tim, watermarking is a topic for a post of its own! I will put something together. Basically, it’s the idea of adding something to a photo that shows who took the photo or who created the image.

  5. Hi Leora – I didn’t know about: not leaving spaces; not using capitals; never heard of using watermarks. Can definitely start doing the first two but, like Tim, will have to learn how to do watermarks.

    1. Lenie, glad you learned new things! I will get lots of ideas on watermarks so I can do a post. Probably most of the current posts on watermarks use Photoshop, and I believe few of my readers have it, due to the cost.

      The truth is, watermarks make a difference if you have really good photos or works of art; it’s really more about theft prevention than anything else. So if your photos aren’t that special, I wouldn’t worry too much. But if you want to make sure you are mark them as yours, then yes, learn about watermarks!

  6. For me, it depends on what I am using the image for. If it is a personal photo, I use the name of the person and the date (month year and no spaces). If it is an image for my blog post, I use the title of the post. Once I had a computer crash and a tech was able to recover my images…it took me forever to go through and rename them form recovered_img 0001, etc!!!

    1. Jacqueline,

      It’s good you have a system! Yes, I’ve had files recovered with weird names. But when I did, I really never had a use for those files, so it wasn’t a big deal. My incident was when I tried to use some free back up software and ended up writing over my external hard drive instead. Sometimes free is confusing and not worth it!

  7. Hello. Sometimes when I come across something with % % and its not working I never get the reason.Today for the first time I came to know that this problem is because of space in naming images. Normally I just leave the name of image from camera and If I am taking from google then I do not change it. But I think you have to do another post about Watermarking as I hope many like me will not be aware of that.
    It was nice to check your lecture as well.
    andleeb recently posted…Honor KillingMy Profile

  8. My personal photos are organized into four folders for each year by season. Each sub-folder will then get a name specific to the place. For my blog images, I have watermarked them for some time now. I tend to save the photos according to the title of the blog post, i.e. Riding Lessons 01. I had not thought capitalizing might present issues. I read the other day that it’s better to use hyphens between words in a URL rather than underscores because nobody will search for Jeri_Walker but Jeri Walker and Jeri-Walker would return the same results in a search.
    Jeri recently posted…Newbie Self-Publishing: Highs and LowsMy Profile

  9. Jeri,

    “nobody will search for Jeri_Walker but Jeri Walker and Jeri-Walker would return the same results in a search” – ah, I did not know that! Another good reason to use the hyphen when you have a space.

    1. Umair, underscores aren’t that big of an issue compared with others. For example, I wouldn’t go changing old file names with underscore. But if you have a choice, go with the hyphen.

    1. Beth, I hope you will learn it and then just have it in your head – in the end, you really want to spend time concentrating on your content, not worrying about how to name your files.

    1. Meredith, my understanding is that the search engine will figure out redrobin.jpg does indeed have a robin in it. How high or low it will rank compared to robin – someone would have to do a search engine study to figure that one out.

  10. I use keyword naming most times Leora, I find it easier to then pick up on the image. I am however guilty of having a lot of camera file names on my images and I need a big exercise of naming these. Problem is running out of names, but then there is always suffixing for similar related images.

    1. Lorraine, Windows does not care about spaces, but UNIX does. And websites are usually run on various kinds of UNIX. Sometimes a file name with a space will not be read properly, and you will get a blank instead of your image. You may luck out with your current system, or you may have a future problem, especially if you switch platforms. Future operating systems may not have this issues. But why take a risk?

  11. Useful blog, you would not imagine how many pics I cannot find when I need them because I just saved them without adding a name to the file.

  12. hi leora; wish my clients would do this. so often i get photos in an email and all they have are the numbers their camera gave them. and I got in the habit of using the dash instead of the space when i was still hand coding my site because my ftp client wouldn’t allow spaces in file names of any kind. I didn’t think about people not being able to see the underscore but it makes good sense. and i like the tip about naming pictures so you can find them later. thanks for sharing, max
    maxwell ivey recently posted…Good health makes me a better blogger part 2My Profile

  13. Like some of the others I had no idea about spaces in naming of images. I guess I will have to go back through all of them and rename; yikes! As for watermarking, I didn’t know about that either. How is this done?

    1. Watermarking is basically adding a logo or some other identifying mark to a photography. You can find out how to do so on a photography website. I only do it sometimes, for various reasons. If you don’t do your own photography (or if your photography is simple and just a way to illustrate a post), I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

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