Organizing Film Photos in Lightroom file management, film, lightroom, organization, photography

Organizing Film Photos in Lightroom

Organizing film photos in Lightroom.
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, November 2017
Yashica Electro 35 GSN with Kodak Ektar 100

This post is intended to help me in keeping my negative scans organized within my Lightroom catalog but perhaps it will also be useful to you.

I use a fairly simple and straightforward for organizing my digital images in Lightroom which I learned from Peter Krogh’s excellent book Organizing Your Photos. In a nutshell, image files are stored in folders by project or event and those folders are contained within folders for the month and year inside of the Photo Library. This approach works well for digital photos because the images can be imported from the camera at any time and have no connection to one another apart from the purpose of capturing the image (the project) and the camera used to capture them. Film photos are different because the images are physically joined together on a roll of film and logically should therefore be stored together in the same folder. It is possible that an entire roll (or even multiple rolls) could be used for just one project but my experience is that the images on single roll of film tell the stories of many events and can span a period of months or even years. How can these images then be placed in a folder designated for a particular month?

Organizing Film Photos in Lightroom file management, film, lightroom, organization, photography
Taos, New Mexico, August 2021
Minolta XD11 with Ilford FP4 Plus 125

Folder Organization

I’ve been scanning my film photos since 2017 and have a few dozen virtual rolls of film in my digital photo library, enough that I can no longer identify a photo by memory as belonging to a particular roll of film. I’ve struggled with how to store these scans within my photo library. My first approach was to utilize a separate external hard drive just for film scans but this overly complicates the management of physical hard drives. Next I tried having a separate folder within the Photo Library solely for film scans and not organized by year. This solution seems workable but I prefer to have some temporal organization of the folder structure. I’ve finally settled on adding a Film folder within the folder for each year as a repository for all of the film roll folders for a particular year. The only drawback to this approach is deciding where to put a roll that spans more than one year: does it go with the year of the first photo, or the last? I’ve found that it depends on the roll.

Organizing Film Photos in Lightroom file management, film, lightroom, organization, photography
Goemmer Butte and La Veta, July 2017. Kodak Portra 400
Yashica-Mat with Kodak Portra 400

File and Folder Naming

The images from each roll of film are placed together in a folder within the year. I’ve decided to use a folder name that indicates the camera, type of film, and a numerical sequence for each film type in that camera. As an example, X570_Gold200_01 denotes the first roll of Kodak Gold 200 shot with the Minolta X-570. I also use the folder name for the individual images with the image frame number appended to the end, e.g., X570_Gold200_01.

Organizing Film Photos in Lightroom file management, film, lightroom, organization, photography


  1. This is the best option I’ve come across, thank you! Do you segregate your rolls by year at all? Also, would it be possible to see what the subfolders of your digital photos look like? I can see you’ve classified them by year, I’m curious to see how you go about subcategorizing them (visually, as I know you’ve explained it above). Thank you!!

    1. Hi Mara, thanks for your comment. I don’t understand your first question-all of the film rolls for a given year are grouped together. As for my digital photos, you can see an example in the screenshot above for January 2022. I have a folder for each month, then subfolders within the month for particular sets of images which could be a certain subject or place or event, just whatever makes sense for a group of photos that belong together.

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