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Auto Focus: Photo Renaming, and the 3 Flavors of Lightroom Now


By Chris Malinao


That’s right, we have two topics today: 1) photo renaming and 2) the three flavors of Lightroom available today, and by that I do not mean Lightroom version numbers, I mean Lightroom through all your devices. There’s Lightroom for the desktop and that’s the usual way we use it, then there’s Lightroom Mobile for smartphone and tablets, and finally Lightroom Web for our connected life; these three flavors of Lightroom are beginning to make sense now, with their maturity and robustness, and given our connected world.

Let’s get to photo renaming first. Why do that? In a word, DAM – digital asset management. Camera generated names normally cycle through 10,000 unique file names (e.g., IMG-1234). They repeat after passing 9999. You are a digital photographer and you very well know you have more than—a lot more than—10,000 pictures. They will conflict and perhaps delete each other if they meet in one folder.

Camera-generated file names are not sacred and they do not make sense at all in the context of file browsers, like seeing them in File Explorer or in Mac’s Finder. Perhaps adding date and some contextual text will make more sense, like 20170926-MomsBday-123 will immediately tell you that this picture was taken today, on Mom’s birthday and it is the 123rd image in the series.

Giving clients sequentially numbered photos will make them happy. They won’t notice and get curious that you deleted some photos, which will be apparent if you retained camera-generated names, and the gaps will show you deleted a few photos. Also, if the last number in the sequence is 123, you’re supposed to have 123 files there and you will be alerted if File Explorer is reporting 122 or 118.

So, how do we rename files in Lightroom? Easy. And there are several places you can do that:

  1. Import dialog box, as you import your photos into Lightroom. There’s a File Renaming option on the right panel where you can rename with a template or a custom name and add sequence numbers. You will see a preview of how your file names will look like.
  2. Metadata panel in the Library module. You can rename individual files here, one by one, or by batch if you select the photos. Alternatively, you can go to Library > Rename Photos and that’s the same thing.
  3. Export dialog box, under File Naming. This is when you export to create unique files for whatever purpose. There’s a dropdown arrow next to the word Custom Settings and you choose how to rename files there. For example, I simply choose Custom Name—Sequence and enter your options. You will see a preview of your file naming. It is important to note that you are naming your exported files here, and these are unique additional files created. You are not renaming your original files here. To rename original files, do that in No. 1 or No. 2 above.

The thing to remember about file renaming is that it should make sense for the purpose you intended it to. Typically, it should provide information about the photo, and a unique identifying number.

Now, on to the three flavors of Lightroom. We’ve been dealing with the desktop version of Lightroom since its creation. Over the years, on April 8, 2014 to be exact, in Version 5.4, Lightroom added the mobile version so we can edit our photos on the iPhone, and I was like, “What? You want me to edit photos on my iPhone 5? Have mercy, that will hurt my eyes!” So, I dismissed it.

Then the iPad version came out, that’s a bigger screen and I tried it. No way still, it was underwhelming. Lightroom mobile is not the same as its desktop version. There’s a better app, Snapseed, which does mobile edits better.

But Adobe does not give up, maybe that’s why they are Adobe, King of the Graphics Hill. Last time I looked, I get the impression that they have improved Lightroom mobile a lot. Plus—and this is really a big plus—they have also launched Lightroom Web. To see and get a feel of this, go to the website of Julianne Kost, Adobe evangelist, at

And here’s how all three work out: they are connected. Lightroom Desktop, Lightroom Mobile, and Lightroom Web are all connected. Whatever you do in one gets updated on the others, and with Lightroom Web, Adobe provides a way for you to work in the cloud with your Adobe ID. That is, you can access your photos anywhere there is internet connection.

But there are two important hurdles here I can think of: 1) you need to leave the comfort of your standalone Lightroom (I have LR Version 6.12 now) and go to Adobe’s subscription-based business model. That means you must subscribe to Adobe CC, at least their photography bundle of Photoshop and Lightroom, to avail of the interconnectivity; and 2) availability of good internet connection, how else can you work in the cloud?

Number one concern is, are you willing to go into Adobe’s subscription plan and be committed under its ecosystem? They are clearly expanding their market now to include the selfie crowd, those people who take photos only with their smartphones because they have maxxed out on their photographers quota; they need to tap additional markets. On the other hand, the way Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web have matured, they seem useful now. But that will tie you up with Adobe. I leave this up to the individual photographer to consider. As for myself, I’m beginning to seriously look at Adobe’s subscription plan.

Number two is more problematic for us here in the Philippines. We still do not have the broadband that will enable us to work in the cloud. 2Mbps, even 4Mbps will not hack it for us. I was in the US recently and their internet there zips through at 20Mbps normally. That’s the kind of broadband that will make Lightroom Web useful for us here in the Philippines, and that is what’s holding me back, sadly. For now, we just sit back, relax, and ponder things over. Are you going to subscribe to Adobe?

Chris Malinao teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF (Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation), a nonprofit organization that offers year-round workshops in Basic Photography, Advanced Photography, Wedding Photography, Strobist Lighting, Food Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom.

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