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

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 to 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 may have to click the Devices triangle to see 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. “Import All” will simply get all the pictures off your camera, while “Import” 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, but be sure to sure to stretch your Image Capture window so you can see the “Import To:” drop down list.:

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?

The next step requires A Better Finder Rename version 8.31 or better, released October 1, 2009. Remember the “Import To:” drop down list? Not only does it allow you to select the folder Image Capture should import images to, but it also allow you to select a program that should be run just after files 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 “Import To:” drop down list
  • navigating to the “A Better Finder Rename” application in the “Applications” folder.

Pressing the “Import All” button will now first download all the images from your camera into your Pictures folder 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 “Import All” button, the pictures are imported to the hard disk and once this is finished they are automatically renamed with our naming convention.

One final note. You may have noticed that Image Capture in Snow Leopard does not allow you to specify what folder you would like your images downloaded to when you select a program to run afterwards. Instead, images are always downloaded to your Pictures folder before a program, such as A Better Finder Rename is run. If you’d like to be able to specify what folder your images are sent to before running A Better Finder Rename, take a look at this post. We’ve prepared an Automator action for Image Capture that does this.