Tutorial: Using A Better Finder Rename to import image files from your camera

Photographers, both professionals and ambitious amateurs make up a large fraction of A Better Finder Rename users.

All-in-one photo management and manipulation software like iPhoto assumes that file names are of little consequence and you’ll want to organize your images according to a project structure or meta data. This is fine as long as you never leave the photo management software, but of course you do so for all kinds of reasons: export the files to send to a third party, manipulate your files in a third party application, publish them to a non .Mac gallery, etc., etc.

In all these situations, you’d rather give your image files more meaningful names than IMG_66387.jpg. But how can you do this when all the files are managed by iPhoto software?

There are essentially two solutions: You can give your files meaningful names before importing them into your photo management software or after exporting them out of your photo management software.

Don’t ever try to rename files within the photo management software’s folder hierarchy! Applications, such as iPhoto, keep a lot of information outside of the actual image files and if you rename these files without the program knowing anything about it, you will lose valuable meta-data such as your albums, galleries, etc..

Using A Better Finder Rename to rename your image files after exporting them is trivial: simply drag & drop the files into A Better Finder Rename and let it do its magic.

Renaming the files before you import them is a little trickier.

Many Mac users do not know that you don’t need import your pictures directly into iPhoto. For the true professionals, Mac OS X offers a specialized application that does nothing but import images from your camera (and other image devices): Image Capture.

Image Capture lives in your “Applications” folder. Simply double click to launch it:


Now it’s time to connect your camera and switch it on. iPhoto will probably launch and ask you whether you want to import your pictures. Politely tell it that you don’t need it and quit it for now.

The Image Capture window will now show your camera:


You can do pretty much everything in Image Capture that you could do in iPhoto as far as importing your images is concerned. “Download All” will simply get all the pictures off your camera, while “Download Some…” will let you choose from the thumbnails which ones you want to import. Note that you can also choose which folder you want to import your pictures to. The “Options…” dialog also contains some useful features.

Once the photos are imported to the folder of your choice, you can use A Better Finder Rename to rename them and then import them using iPhoto’s import feature:



But that’s still 3 steps and a little too complicated for you?

Careful examination of the Image Capture window reveals the solution: the “Automatic Task” popup menu. This specifies which program should be run just after file have finished importing.

For now let’s simply choose the “A Better Finder Rename” application as the automatic task by:

  • selecting the “Other…” item in the “Automatic Task” popup menu
  • navigating to the “A Better Finder Rename” application in the “Applications” folder

Pressing the “Download All…” button will now first download all the images from your camera and then start up A Better Finder Rename:


You can now use the full power of the tool to give your pictures more meaningful file names.

You can, however, still go one step further.

It is for instance often convenient to encode the shooting time and date in the file name; that way you always know at a glance when the original picture was taken. If you use this type of naming convention you can take advantage of A Better Finder Rename’s droplet feature.

Droplets are small, independent, applications that automate common tasks. You save a rename action and the correct parameters into such a droplet application and every time you drag some files on the droplet the files are automatically renamed according to these settings.

Instead of defining A Better Finder Rename as the “automatic task”, we can use a droplet that we have prepared earlier. In this case, I have encoded our naming convention into a droplet called “Image Capture Automation” and defined it as the automatic task in Image Capture:


Now as soon as I push the “Download All” button, the pictures are imported to the hard disk and once this is finished they are automatically renamed with our naming convention.

6 thoughts on “Tutorial: Using A Better Finder Rename to import image files from your camera

  1. Amazing …

    Image Capture ‘&’ Automation!

    iPhoto has always bugged me, as it takes too much control.

    It will not, anymore – for me…


  2. Frank, I have a suggestion. When producing a numbered sequence list, which is how I rename my photo files, I always have to go in and look up the last number from the previous rename, and enter it into the “start with” box. I noticed in CS3’s photo downloader, the rename option (which really sucks) has nevertheless two good features. 1) it remembers the last number, adds 1 and saves it for the next rename, and 2) it adds copyright info to the metadata. Now, I don’t suppose metadata is touchable by ABFR, but remembering the last number would be great! And the ability to update a droplet with that number would be even more terrific! Thanks for a great product!

  3. Just found out about your software. Looks interesting. I use Aperture for my photo workflow. One of the problems with Aperture is that when exporting images; the keywords do not go with it. Also spotlight cannot find images which are archived in Aperture. I work with referenced images in my self-managed archive. I have to enter keywords using finder and as there is no batch processing in finder it must be done one file at a time.
    Will your software enter keywords using a form of batch processing?

  4. Hi Bob,

    Sorry about the delay in answering.. due to the comment spam that haunts this site I’ve installed a spam filter and naively thought that it might only let articles through until after I had moderated them.. well it doesn’t, so I’ve only just seen your comment. Sorry about that.

    My program won’t do anything about the Aperture comments.. it only renames files. Sorry.

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