Batch rename pictures of multiple recording devices to show date and time in filenames

Similar to sorting images into folders named after their date, we’re going to look at automatically renaming pictures – so that their names are based on timestamps they’ve been taken. This enables sorting pictures chronologically in pretty much all software that’s out there (as sorting alphabetically implies chronological sorting then). Note that the same is possible using exiftool only, but using a (from our point of view) slightly more complicated syntax (look e.g. here for renaming files after EXIF data, or here for updating EXIF data from filenames).

The problem

Imagine a group event with multiple people taking pictures using multiple cams. Usually, naming schemes of cameras are different, such as


If people later share images they could either put all into the same folder, or separate them by folders – we’re going to focus on the first case here. If these images get sorted alphabetically, they are not automatically sorted by their timestamps for the reason of using different naming schemes. On the one hand, for file explorers this can often be changed by sorting after image timestamps. On the other hand, this is not applicable for all cases: e.g. image viewers/galleries also need to feature sorting after timestamps for switching to the “next” picture. Panoramas created from multiple images also frequently do not contain timestamps any more, therefore sorting by timestamps causes panoramas to be on top/bottom of the list.

A uniform naming scheme that contain timestamps in names

For those reasons we tend to automatically rename all images to fit a uniform naming scheme such as


  • date and time are first in filenames – this automatically causes chronological sorting when sorting alphabetically (pretty much every program can sort files alphabetically)
  • number is the original sequential number of the image (contained in the new name to not lose any information)
  • person is an identifier of who and/or with which device the picture was taken

Automatically renaming pictures after their EXIF timestamp

At first we need to make sure that the EXIF timestamp DateTimeOriginal is set correctly for all images. In case all of these timestamps are shifted (typically, because the camera date and time were configured wrong) we can shift the corresponding EXIF entry using exiftool (adapt the offset):

exiftool -DateTimeOriginal+="00:00:00 00:00:00" -overwrite_original -ext FILENAMEEXTENSION -r DIRECTORY

As timestamps are correct we can rename images after their date and time taken:

old_fileending="JPG"                                   # original postfix of your files (file name extension)
old_praefix="IMG_"                                     # original prefix of your files
newname_postfix="_FsCam"                               # your new, personal name postfix
oldname_regex="s/$old_praefix//;s/.$old_fileending//"  # regex of how to modify the old filename before adding it to the new filename (e.g. replacing old pre- and postfix)
match_wildcards="$old_praefix*.$old_fileending"       # wildcards of which files process

for filepath_old in `find . -iname "$match_wildcards"`
    filename_old=`basename $filepath_old`
    filename_new=$(exiftool -S -DateTimeOriginal $filepath_old | awk 'BEGIN {FS=" "};{print $2" "$3}' | sed "s/:/_/g;s/ /-/g")_$(echo $filename_old | sed $oldname_regex)$newname_postfix.jpg
    rename -n -v "s/`echo $filename_old`/`echo $filename_new/`" $filepath_old
  • match_whitecards: defines which files you want to match
  • oldname_regex: defines how old filenames should be modified and preserved in new filenames
  • newname_postfix: identifier added to filenames (to identify person and device)

Finally, some words before starting to take pictures:

  • Ensure clock synchronization over all devices taking pictures (cameras, mobile phones, …) before starting – it just makes things easier. Otherwise you may experience “lag” effects (when looking through the pictures it seems like some person was a bit ahead or behind always). In case you already took pictures with multiple devices which experience lags: shift the EXIF image timestamps for specific devices as shown above.
  • If you want to sort videos too: take care of used time zones. Cameras usually encode the current device timestamps to the picture (the time shown on the device) – independent of the set time zone. In contrast, many mp4-recorders (like mobile phones) encode UTC timestamps instead of the time shown on the device. If you would use both types of timestamps without intermediate correction, “lags” might occur again.

Updating EXIF timestamps from filenames

In case you need to update timestamps after renaming images to the uniform naming scheme from above, e.g. for images not yet containing EXIF data at all (like panoramas) and/or in case of wrong naming (eventually caused by shifted EXIF timestamps) the following snippet could help.

# part 1: extract timestamp from filename and write it to EXIF
for filepath in `find . -iname "$file_wildcard"`
  # extract timestamp from filename (it's the filename's prefix)
  # might look oldschool, but it's easy to adapt
  bname=$(basename $filepath)
  fdate=$(echo $bname | awk 'BEGIN {FS="-"};{print $1}')
  ftime=$(echo $bname | awk 'BEGIN {FS="-"};{print $2}')
  y=$(echo $fdate | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $1}')
  m=$(echo $fdate | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $2}')
  d=$(echo $fdate | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $3}')
  h=$(echo $ftime | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $1}')
  min=$(echo $ftime | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $2}')
  s=$(echo $ftime | awk 'BEGIN {FS="_"};{print $3}')
  # write extracted timestamp to file as EXIF timestamp. first do a test run, then uncomment last line and run again
  echo "setting DateTimeOriginal" $y:$m:$d $h:$min:$s "for" $filepath
#   exiftool -DateTimeOriginal="$y:$m:$d $h:$min:$s" -overwrite_original $filepath

# part 2: shift EXIF timestamps (adapt offset)
for filepath in `find . -iname "$file_wildcard"`
    exiftool -DateTimeOriginal+="00:00:00 00:00:00" -overwrite_original $filepath

# part 3: replace the old name prefix timestamp with new (and now correct) one extracted from EXIF (first do test run, then remove -n from rename)
for filepath_old in `find . -iname "$file_wildcard"`
    filename_old=`basename $filepath_old`
    # remove the old prefix timestamp, keep other info
    # create new filename from exif data and reainder of old filename
    filename_new=$(exiftool -S -DateTimeOriginal $filepath_old | awk 'BEGIN {FS=" "};{print $2" "$3}' | sed "s/:/_/g;s/ /-/g")$(echo $filename_same)
    rename -nv "s/`echo $filename_old`/`echo $filename_new`/" $filepath_old

Vector graphics: batch manipulation on command line

Once in a while I need to manipulate multiple vector graphics at once (mostly svg, but could be embedded in pdf as well). For this purpose I list those commands I regularly resort to below, either directly as command or embedded into small command line scripts. Most of the examples require the vector graphics editor Inkscape to be installed.

Crop all graphics to area actually containing information

To crop the canvas size of a graphics to the area actually containing information (“drawing area” with Inkscape). Inkscape’s --without-gui option does not work yet because Inkscape headless graphics manipulation does not always change graphics, and therefore saving does not trigger anything.

Script fitImg2Canvas

inkscape --verb=FitCanvasToDrawing --verb=FileSave --verb=FileClose "$@"

Script call

fitImg2Canvas *svg

Update: in the meantime, pdfcrop was added to the Ubuntu repos in the texlive-extra-utils package, which is perfect for the job. pdfcrop automatically recognizes to which area a file can be cropped and further has a margins parameter, which – if given – specifies the margins that should remain in the file:

sudo apt-get install texlive-extra-utils
pdfcrop --margins '10 10 10 10' infile.pdf outfile.pdf

Convert all graphics (svg) to pdf (still containing vector graphics)

Batch converting all svg to pdf files can be useful e.g. with LaTeX (does not support svg graphics per default).

Script svg2pdf

for filename in "$@"
        b=$(basename "$filename" .svg)
        inkscape --without-gui --export-pdf="$b.pdf" "$filename"

Script call

svg2pdf *svg

Batch sort jpg images to folders named after dates images were taken

Once in a while I need to transfer pictures taken with my mobile phone for private use (jpg format) from my phone to my PC – and to sort them there. I want my pictures sorted in folder named by the date taken (e.g. “2014_05_11_description”) – which is pretty time consuming if done by hand. The script snippet below takes all jpg files in the current folder, creates subfolders named by the dates pictures have been taken and sorts the files in there accordingly. In case you don’t want to add a description to the folders afterwards you might want to remove the last “_” in foldername.

for f in `ls *jpg`
foldername=`exiftool -dateTimeOriginal $f | sed "s/:/_/g" | awk '{print $4}'`_
if ! test -e "$foldername"; then
mkdir -pv "$foldername"
mv -v $f $foldername

Insights to extracting date from jpg files in short:

  • exiftool is used to extract the date and time the image was taken,
  • sed replaces “:” with “_” and
  • awk removes the time information as I only want date.

Credits: according to my notes I originally built my script upon this script.

Animated gif creation with automatic image alignment

Animated gif created with align_image_stack and convert.
Animated gif created with align_image_stack and convert.

In case you took some photos showing a scene in motion, you probably want to create an animated gif out of them. If you did not use a tripod for fixing your camera, the images will not be aligned perfectly, so that the scene is slightly shifted within the images – which is clearly visible in the animated gif, and doesn’t look too good. I’ve stumbled across this problem recently: there exist several GUI based tools for Linux to do the image alignment and gif creation (such as with using this Gimp plugin), but at least the tools I’ve tried require the user to start much of the processing by hand – which simply eats up too much of my time.  Inspired from here I used a combination of align_image_stack and PTblender (part of the Hugin panorama tool suite set I’ve used in automatic panorama creation) and ImageMagick’s convert to automatically align images, equalize brightness and color and create an animated gif from them to save me some time.

Aligning images and equalizing brightness and color

At first we need to align all images with the scene, so that they overlap “perfectly”. In this context, perfectly means adequate for my personal usage in animated gifs, as there are still minor shifts left after aligning. align_image_stack from the Hugin panorama tool suite is designed to do exactly that for aligning HDR images. Therefore, you can use

convert *JPG -resize 1000 +repage resized_%02d.jpg
align_image_stack -i -m -s 1 -C -a aligned_ -C resized*
PTblender -k 0 -t 0 -p blended_ aligned*
convert blended_* -format jpg blendedjpg_%02d.jpg

to automatically

  1. copy and resize all *JPG images in the current directory (accelerates consecutive aligning and gif creation, using only the “-s” parameter in the subsequent command would output bigger aligned images),
  2. align all these downscaled files using align_image_stack. There “-i” corrects image center shifts, “-m” optimized field of view, “-s 1” scales images internally before aligning by a factor of 2¹ (does not scale down aligned output files), “-C” automatically crops images to the area covered by all images, “-a aligned” stands for the command producing .tif files which have this additional prefix, and “-C” stands for the command automatically cropping all images to those areas contained in all images,
  3. equalize color and brightness across images using PTblender. “-k 0” takes the first of the images as reference image, “-t 0” corrects both brightness and color, “-p blended_” again specifies the output file prefix.

Creating the animated gif

Now we can create an animated gif from the aligned images. ImageMagick’s convert provides all features you need in order to create the gif exactly as you’d like to have it. I personally use the following command to additionally rotate and resize the images, reduce the amount of used colors and create a file name representing the originally used images. You might want to adapt these to fit your needs.

convert -format jpg -rotate "-90" -resize 600 +repage -delay 20 -loop 0 -colors 100 blendedjpg* "`ls *JPG | head -1 | sed s/\.JPG//`-`ls *JPG | tail -1 | sed s/\.JPG//`.gif"

If the gif contains erroneous areas (wrong color or completely black etc.) try a slightly changed color palette and image size or leave out the color palette completely.  That’s it, you’ve just created your aligned and animated gif.


If everything worked fine and you are happy with your animated gif: to quickly remove files created as side effect as well as log/debug files of the used tool suites:

rm aligned* blended* resized* Debug.txt zcom_log.txt

Installation on Ubuntu 12.04, 14.04 etc.

As align_image_stack and PTblender come with Hugin, and convert with ImageMagick, you just need to install those two tool suits from the Ubuntu repositories:

sudo apt-get install hugin imagemagick

convertconditional: convert an image if it fulfills certain conditions

Recently I needed a script to batch convert only those images amongst a large amount of images which fulfil certain criteria, namely of being exactly of a stated size. The script is based on ImageMagick’s convert and basically takes an arbitrary amount of convert parameters. I personally use this script to automatically reduce size and quality of photos taken with a specific camera in order to reduce their hard disk space coverage.

The script

#! /usr/bin/python
# convertconditional: Convert an image if it fulfills certain conditions, e.g. is of a certain size. Requires ImageMagick's convert.
# Rainhard Findling 2013/08
# example to convert all *JPG within the current directory with are of certain size to a reduced size and quality:
# find . -iname "*JPG" -exec ./convertconditional {} -filtersize 3888x2592 -convertparams "-resize 3500x3000 +repage -quality 80" \;
import argparse # check for help
import subprocess
import sys
# specify arguments
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument('inputfile', help='path to the file that will be converted.')
parser.add_argument('-convertparams', required=True, help='parameters handed to the convert command used internally, e.g. resize, repage, reduce quality etc. Example: "-resize 300x200 +replage -quality 92"')
parser.add_argument('-filtersize', help='only convert if original image is of this size, stated as WIDTHxHEIGHT, e.g. 3500x3200.')
parser.add_argument('-o', '--outputfile', help='path to where the converted image will be stored. if not specified, the original file will be overwritten.')
parser.add_argument('-v','--verbose',help='print verbose output.',action='store_true')
args = parser.parse_args()
# make sure we can process names with spaces
args.inputfile = '"' + args.inputfile + '"'
# check for correct arguments
if not args.outputfile:
args.outputfile = args.inputfile
if args.filtersize:
filter_x = int(args.filtersize.split('x')[0])
filter_y = int(args.filtersize.split('x')[1])
if args.verbose:
print 'inputfile=' + args.inputfile
print 'outputfile=' + args.outputfile
if args.filtersize:
print 'resizing only', str(filter_x) + 'x' + str(filter_y), 'images.'
print 'convertparams=' + args.convertparams
# get size of image
imagesize = subprocess.check_output(["identify -format '%wx%h' '" + args.inputfile + "'"],
imagesize_x = int(imagesize.split('x')[0])
imagesize_y = int(imagesize.split('x')[1])
# condition: filter for images of certain size
if args.filtersize:
if args.verbose:
print 'size of', args.inputfile, 'is', str(imagesize_x) + "x" + str(imagesize_y)
# check filter criteria
if not imagesize_x == filter_x or not imagesize_y == filter_y:
print 'leaving out ' + args.inputfile + ' as it is of size ' +  str(imagesize_x) + "x" + str(imagesize_y) + " (required: " + args.filtersize + ")"
# passed all conditions: convert image
print 'converting ' + args.inputfile + ' (size: ' +  str(imagesize_x) + "x" + str(imagesize_y) + ')'
# convert image
command="convert '" + args.inputfile + "' " + args.convertparams + " '" + args.outputfile + "'"
if args.verbose:
print 'command:', command
imagesize = subprocess.check_output([command],

The script is written in Python, so all you need to do is save it (e.g. in a file called “convertconditional”) and make it executable:

chmod +x convertconditional

Then you can either call it with stating it’s path (e.g. “./convertconditional [parameters]”), or add it to your systems PATH to call it from everyhwere.

Script execution

In order to convert input.jpg to output.jpg, you can try

convertconditional input.jpg -filtersize 3888x2592 -convertparams "-resize 3500x3000 +repage -quality 85" -o output.jpg
  • -filtersize optional filtering: only convert the image  in case it is exactly of the stated size
  • -convertparams states parameters which should be handed to ImageMagick’s convert
  • -o states where to store the converted image (original image gets overwritten if omitted)

In case you want to conditionally convert multiple files (as with my usecase) you can combine convertconditional with find and overwrite the original files:

find . -iname "*JPG" -exec convertconditional {} -filtersize 3888x2592 -convertparams "-resize 3800x +repage -quality 85" \;

Batch panorama stitching with review using Hugin

Panorama of Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia.
Panorama of Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia.

Stitching images to a panorama may take it’s time — which might be frustrating in case you need to create a whole lot of panoramas. Hugin can save you a lot of time here. Basics of Hugin in a nutshell: it’s is a panorama tool providing a command line interface+UI and a two phased processing. Initially, you create a Hugin project which holds links to several images (.pto-file). Then you first sent your photos to the “assistant queue” which performs a preliminary stitching, which you can review and correct if necessary. Second, you send your images + rough stitching info to the “stitching queue”, which does the actual high quality stitching for you. Hugin further provides a batch processor which basically holds a list of Hugin projects — this is what we’re going to make use of.


To semi-automatically stitch all your panoramas at once, including a review of preliminary stitched panoramas, you can do the following:

  1. Move all photos that should be part of the same panorama to a separate folder — for each panorama you should have a separate folder then. This is the only step you actually have to do by hand completely. We assume you create the folders with leading zeros:
    for i in {001..100}; do mkdir $i; done
  2. Assuming that all these folders are located inside the same parent folder and you are in this parent folder, use Hugin’s “pto_gen” command to automatically generate the Hugin projects (.pto-files, make sure to adjust the image extension so that it fits your needs):
    for d in `ls`; do pto_gen $d/*.jpg; done

    If you happen to have multiple such folders, each containing multiple panorama folders, you can generate all panorama files at once using the following command instead (assuming all these folders have been named “pano”):

    for d in `find . -name "pano"`
        for p in `ls $d`
            do pto_gen $d/$p/*jpg
  3. Add all these projects to the Hugin Batch Processor assistant queue:
    find . -name "*pto" -exec PTBatcherGUI -a {} \;
  4. Let the assistant queue create your preliminary panoramas
  5. Optionally review and correct each panorama using Hugin itself:
    find . -name "*pto" -exec hugin {} \;

    Sometimes it can be helpful to just review a bunch of panoramas at once instead:

    for d in `ls -d * | egrep "00[0-9]{1}"` # for panorama 000-009, adapt for your use
        hugin $d/*.pto
  6. Add the projects to the Hugin Batch Processor stitching queue:
    find . -name "*pto" -exec PTBatcherGUI {} \;
  7.  Let the stitching queue create all panoramas.

The following snippet converts panoramas generated as tifs into jpgs and moves them back to their original location (amongst other pictures) using convert from ImageMagick:

find . -name "*tif" -exec rename "s/ //g" {} \; # remove tif filename whitespaces added by Hugin

for t in `find . -name "*tif"`
    tif_path=`dirname $t`
    new_name=`basename $t | sed "s/tif/jpg/"`
    new_path=$tif_path/../../$new_name # we want to have panoramas amongst other pictures
    convert $t $new_path

Finally, if you’re pleased with your panoramas you can delete all tifs generated on the way:

find . -name "*tif" -delete

If you’d like to keep the original pictures used to create panoramas, but would like to share all other pictures anyway, here’s the command to copy all files but omit all “pano” folders inside:

for f in `find . -type f`
    if [ ! `echo $f | grep "/pano/"` ]
        # is not a pano folder and not a file inside a pano folder
        cp --verbose --parents "$f" "$DEST"

Installating Hugin on Ubuntu 12.04

When installing Hugin from the Ubuntu repositories in Ubuntu 12.04, unfortunately pto_gen is missing (seems to be fixed for 14.04 and newer). Therefore install Hugin from the Hugin repository as stated in their Ubuntu howto:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hugin/hugin-builds
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hugin enblend panini