Lightroom: Workflow for importing film batches

Posted on by Mike Evans

Workflow for Mac users: An easy method of renaming film scans for easier filing and identification

Importing scanned film into Lightroom needs a degree of planning. For starters, film doesn’t have EXIF data so Lightroom has little to latch on to when it comes to filing and organisation. And, if you use a commercial scanning and processing company you are likely to find that the individual filenames are random and meaningless.

Before--the meaningless filenames from the processing house

When importing film, my first consideration is the filename. It needs to record the basic information such as camera, lens and film, as well as a unique serial number. If you simply slot in the CD and import into Lightroom there is a danger of completely forgetting where you are, what you did and what you did it with.

Ideally the files should be renamed before import. I’ve devised a simple workflow to accomplish this using a cheap but effective Mac utility which does one thing and one thing well: It renames a batch of files in an intelligent and controlled manner. There are many other batch renaming utilities but this is the one I bought and I’ve been more than happy with it.

To make this work it helps to have a temporary holding folder into which you can copy the individual files from the scan CD and then do the processing.

On the Mac desktop I have a temporary folder which I call, for want of anything better, Film Import. You can call it whatever suits you obviously. Files from the CD are copied into this folder where they can be renamed.

Simply drag the files to Rename It and type the new batch name into the "new name" box. You have full control over numbering and layout

Rename It does what it says on the tin: Just drag a set of files into the executive window and the utility will do a batch rename within seconds. You have full control over the batch name and the sequence number. As you change the parameters the resulting filename is shown so you know exactly what you are going to get before you press the button. The application costs £2.29 for Mac but it is also available for Windows.

After: Mini metadata embedded in the file names (FujiSup = Fujifilm Superia, 50RCron = 50mm Rigid Summicron). When this is done, import the batch into Lightroom using the desktop "Film Import" file as the target

I usually choose a batch description that gives the basic data for future reference. For instance, “M4-FP4-50Lux” could indicate that the FP4 film was exposed on a Leica M4 with a 50mm Lux mounted. This information is normally taken for granted, part of the metadata present in a digital file. By using Rename It I can introduce the most important metadata right into the individual filename.

My File Import desktop folder now contains a revised set of items for import into Lightroom. The only thing missing, and even Rename It can’t introduce that, is exposure date. My Lightroom files are organised into individual dates and the film batch will be added nto a folder created on the date of import. However, subsequent database searches based on exposure date will not show the film batches since the individual files are undated.

At the very least, then, this system introduces an element of order into what can otherwise become a confusing situation.

Note that while I have based this article on Mac I believe Rename It and many similar utilities are also available for Windows.