Organizing Digital Archives

A few months back I wrote a post call Data Archiving Method where I talked about which media I chose to backup my scanned photo and negative archives. I also mentioned the labeling method I chose to keep track of each photo. I haven’t wrote much about archive since then so I decided to provide more information for those that are archiving.

In this post I will elaborate on the organizing and photo properties that I have chosen for the archives.

Archive File Properties

There is always talk on forums and Web sites on what resolution to scan originals (both photos and negatives) in order to archive them in a digital format. There really doesn’t seem to be one preferred method to choose, so I came up with my own that I will use. It may not be the best method, or the one you prefer, but it works for me.

Photographs (Colour/Black and White)

  • Scanning Resolution: 600 dpi
  • Colour: 48 bit
  • File format: TIFF
  • File name:
    • pcnnnnnn.tif (colour)
    • pbnnnnnn.tif (black and white)

A few notes about the above specifications. The first is the 600 dpi. For the most part 300 dpi is all that is needed to get a good photograph, but I decided to double that value in case I would like to enlarge the photograph in the future. Disk space is not a concern for my so I don’t mind the large image. You will also notice that I scan the photograph in at 48 bits. I do all my scanning at that bit depth because I like the extra overhead for editing.

Film and Slides

  • Scanning Resolution: 3600 dpi
  • Colour: 48 bit
  • File format: TIFF
  • File name:
    • fcnnnnnn.tif (film – colour)
    • fbnnnnnn.tif (film – black & white)
    • scnnnnnn.tif (slide – colour)
    • sbnnnnnn.tif (slide – black & white)

My concern when scanning negatives and slides is the size of the image. At such a high resolution and bit depth the image file was over 100 MB. I chose 3600 dpi since it was a nice compromise between size and quality. This produces a very large image anyway so I’m not really sacrificing anything.

Digital Photos

For photos taken with a digital camera I leave everything as is, even the file name.

File Naming Conventions

As you can see the file name is representative of the type of scan. I came up with a simple, and yet effective method of naming each image file. Each file is exactly 8 characters long with the first two characters providing a description of the original image source. The “nnnnnn” in each file represents a number that I increment by one each time: 000001 to 999999. I can have several images with the same number, just as long as they are stored on different media and categories.

The two letters are defined below.

First Character

  • D – Digital source
  • P – Photo
  • F – Film
  • S – Slide
  • V – Video

Second Character

  • C – Colour
  • B – Black and White
  • I – CD/DVD Image (ISO file)
  • M – Raw movie file (avi)

As you can see from the above naming conventions I also have some specified for videos. I am also archiving family videos, so I created naming conventions for those as well.


To make my task of creating and organizing my archives, I have created both scanning standards and naming conventions for my digital archives. These are by no means standards by which to use when creating your digital archives, but they may help to create your own. If you have created your own standards, I would be interested to hear what they are.

Follow Me