I got some old scanned photos and I want to put them in correct order. Unfortunately, I have no possibility to find out the exact order, only relative one like:

"hm, this photo was surely taken after this one"

and organize them step-by-step by manually changing numbering again and again. Is there any program (best free or opensource), where could I interactively put the photo in correct order straightaway (maybe by changing the order by dragging with mouse) and finally apply some file renaming to keep the file order?

thank you in advance

PS: running Windows (XP and 7), but if you know something for linux, let me kno too, please


I usually accomplish this by naming my photos "alphabetically", with variable-length file names.

For instance, I might name the first photo a.jpg, and the second one b.jpg. When I discover that the third photo belongs between a and b, I name it aa.jpg, so that it sorts after a, but before b. If the 4th photo belongs after aa, but before bb, I call it ab.jpg, and then a possible 5th might become aaa.jpg, leaving me with this list:

a.jpg     1st photo
aa.jpg    3rd
aaa.jpg   5th
ab.jpg    4th
b.jpg     2nd

You can accomplish something similar with numbers, and you could even right-pad your numbers with a fixed number of zeroes if you wanted. My above example would then look like this:

10000000.jpg   1st photo
11000000.jpg   3rd
11100000.jpg   5th
12000000.jpg   6th
20000000.jpg   2nd

As an optional second pass, after all of your photos are in order, you could go through and re-number them all to sequential numbers.

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There is a standard naming convention for photos, images and videos that I have used since 1999 which works for me, split into year folders:

yyyy_mmdd_hhmmss - description.jpg
2002_0104_165613 - description.jpg

I originally used a program called pshuttle that renamed the DSCFnnnn.JPG photos to this format based on EXIF information contained in them, but I have also written small programs in perl or php to help. I try to keep names and the file time the same.

File dates can change during copying or file transfers, but names are persistent.

Scanned images don't have EXIF data, so you will have to name these manually, only you know what the approximate date should be.

Name the files as you create them, or use windows explorer with F2 to rename the images in-place and refresh, then they will sort into place automatically.

If the filename contains the date as described, they will retain their logical ordering.

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  • Hm, I have a problem as there are photos from different places (even visited during one day) and we are trying to order them. I must also say, that some of those photos are more than 30 years old. If I had paper labels showing the date/time on the photos it would be different situation. However, I have a bunch of images in folders like "Parents 1976" or "Germany, Berlin, summer 1985" and the order according to the filenames is apparently incorrect. – Juhele Aug 12 '11 at 7:17
  • I suffer the same too. In these cases I just guess the datetime with plausible values based on memories, sun angles, clocks in the photos etc so that they will appear in the desired order. Renaming files manually is tedious regardless of program used and windows explorer is probably the easiest method. Keeping a consistent and fairly universal naming scheme helps a lot. – Andy Lee Robinson Aug 12 '11 at 7:51
  • On Windows, the freeware app cam2pc can download-and-rename files in one swoop, according to a pattern you determine. Cam2pc's unique feature is that it even downloads and renames videos based on the same pattern! I haven't found anything like it for other platforms. (This doesn't apply to the original question, but it might be of interest to you.) – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 12 '11 at 11:57

Flimzy's idea is excellent! The pattern of "a", "aaa" etc. is very efficient as long as you don't care about the actual file names. If you do care about the actual file names, he suggests numbers and right-padding with zeros, and I want to add one idea to his suggestion regarding that:

Instead of using a numerical sequence like 10000000.jpg, you could use approximate date naming, where you follow the date pattern yyyyMMdd-hhmm except that you use 0 whenever that digit isn't known.

When you know the image is sometime in 1986, call the file:
19860000-0000.jpg or even add Flimzy's first trick: 19860000-0000-aaa.jpg.

If you then deduce that a picture is from May 1986, rename to:

You could even do this iteratively and end up with increasingly precise filenames.

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It might be simpler to use a tool like picasa or one of the commercial image organization tools to tag the files rather than renaming them all. You could then rename them afterwards using the tool if you wanted to. If you're feeling adventurous you could give gallery3 from http://gallery.menalto.com/gallery_3_begins a whirl, it's a web based tool that you can run on a local web server or host externally that would let you do a lot of organizing and tagging of your photos.

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