This problem pertains to archiving of digital pictures taken from multiple cameras.

Answers here covered the general topic of the-mechanics-of-backups:

How do you archive digital photos and videos?

I however face another problem.

Having multiple cameras (canon) and multiple SD cards (mixed and matched at random), I have found that different SD cards have different photos with the same file name, i.e. two different photos each name IMG_3141.JPG.

Additionally, for better or worse, I've backed up the files to multiple places and need to consolidate my backups. I want to eliminate duplicates, but not clobber files.

The only way I can think of is to append the code (md5 or sha1) to the file name, i.e. IMG_3141.JPG becomes IMG_3141_KT229QZ31415926ASDF.JPG, then sorting them out

Any better ways?

(Note "open letter" address the 'duplicate file name' concern): http://photofocus.com/2010/09/13/an-open-letter-to-digital-camera-manufacturers-regarding-camera-file-naming/ )


I have photos with the same filenames, but it does not matter when you have the photos organised in folders, and preferably through a database system.

I use Adobe Lightroom, and I only move, sort and organise photos through it, and not through the operating system. Filenames are never of concern this way.

Once your photos are tagged or any metadata is changed, I think the MD5 hash will change.

You may want to ask what other photographers do, in the Photography Stack Exchange.

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  • +1 for mentioning metadata affected the hash value. – Mike Fitzpatrick Nov 6 '10 at 3:37

I automatically rename all my files by the capture time - YYMMDD_HHMMSS.ext - as I download them from my cards. There are many applications that do this. Lightroom is my current tool of choice.

I have a couple of cameras and using this scheme rarely causes name clashes and they're easy to fix during import.

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    +1 for this, with the caveat that you should use a four digit year and GMT/UTC. – Sparr Nov 6 '10 at 9:28
  • @Sparr: Why use GMT, out of interest? I live in the UK, so most of my photos have GMT time in the metadata, but when I am abroad they are timezone adjusted. – paradroid Nov 6 '10 at 11:18
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    @Jason: If you use local time, traveling east could in theory give you duplicate file names. Take a picture in Paris, then take one in London an hour later. Both will have the same local time. – dbkk101 Nov 6 '10 at 13:40
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    What dbkk101 said. Plus the same concern for photos taken when DST happens. Also so that your timestamps and everyone else's [rational] timestamps can be sorted together. – Sparr Nov 6 '10 at 22:34
  • These are all good points and I am aware of them. Yes, there are edge cases where clashes may occur but I'm happy to accept that because of the 99.5% of cases where it works nicely (YMMV). On the rare occassion where I do get a clash I have plenty of EXIF data to easily sort it out with minimum effort. I also have 4-digit year stored in the EXIF data so I don't feel the need to include YYYY in my filename until such time it is required. I'm happily trading 100% effectiveness for greater simplicity. – Mike Fitzpatrick Nov 6 '10 at 23:40

This may be an unpopular answer, but using a photo management application (such as Picasa or iPhoto) will solve this problem for you.

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