Lightroom: Date Formats

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

How boring can it get? Dates? What’s wrong with dates. A date is a date is a date. Actually not, there are 30+ ways of representing date and time. What’s 07/08/09? Is it July 8th, 2009? or August 7th, 2009? or August 9th, 2007? Date formats are so complicated and there are so many of them, that “they” created a body to regulate and standardize the date formats!

What’s that got to do with photography? It’s actually very important in the digital world. All digital photos have a date and time in the EXIF and most importantly, I always include the date in the name of the photos.

In 2004, “they” came with the latest standard (and yes there were many previous standards). The current standard is: ISO 8601, Data elements and interchange formats (Information interchange representation) of dates and times, and it supersedes ISO 2014, ISO 2015, ISO 2711, ISO 3307 and ISO 4301.

So what’s the right format for a date? That depends on its use. I use dates in only 2 contexts:

  1. To communicate with people as emails, invoices, documents, spreadsheets… Then my dates are always in the format: DD-MMM-YYYY so July 8th, 2009 is 8-Jul-2009, August 7th, 2009 is 7-Aug-2009. There is no doubt, everybody understands that format (and no, it’s not a format approved by ISO 8601). Excel understands it, most databases understand it, and most importantly all of my customers understand it.
  2. To name digital files. All my filenames follow this format:

    • The project name or the customer name or the most important characteristic of the photo.
    • The date from the EXIF in the format YYYYMMDD. This allows me to list the photos in date sequence.
    • A sequence number from 0001 to 9999 (so far, I have never photographed 10,000 pictures on the same day with the same project/customer)

You can go to: Lightroom: How to Set Filenames to see how I use Lightroom to set the name of the photos during the import and how I include the date in the filename.

The names will be like:

  • So I can see at a glance without having to check the EXIF or a database or … and know what the photo is about: Walter, the dog of a customer. The first three where taken on 6-Dec-2014 in that order, the next four on 7-Dec-2014. They are sorted by date and by sequence of photo taken.
  • With this system, anybody (not just me) can view these filenames and understand what they are about, when the photo was taken, the sequence and the photo type of raw, jpeg or tiff.