The default sorting decisions of various pieces of software can cause us much confusion and frustration. I’m going to describe some examples related to a fairly common workflow that you might employ yourself with your camera’s images. The specific software involved is Lightroom 5, Itunes 11, and the Ipad’s Photos app. While you may be using other programs/hardware, you may be encountering similar issues. My computer’s system is Windows 7.
Step 1: Import images into Lightroom. Lightroom happily takes both raw files and jpegs into its catalogue. It orders them by capture date by default. If you import from several cameras with differing clock/date settings, you may have to drag the images into your own order as a ‘custom’ order in Library mode. So far no serious problem.
Step 2: After editing your images you are ready to export them for viewing in other software, in this case in Photos on the Ipad sent via Itunes. Lightroom has lots of options re. exporting, such as renaming, resizing, further sharpening, etc. The ORDER in which it selects each image (I’m assuming you’ve selected a large group of images for export) for export is unusual, however: It is by MODIFICATION time/date (the point at which you last edited each image. Thus, if you renamed you images and asked that they have a sequential number suffixed to them, you may be surprised to find that the sequence does not correspond to the timeline you carefully organized in your custom sort. The fourth image will be the fourth image you edited, not the fourth image you just sent for export in the set.
There is a workaround. Just before exporting, make a very minor editing change to one of your images, one that all your images could endure; copy the settings (click ‘copy’ button); select all your images (Ctrl-A); ‘paste’ the settings to the whole set (make sure just your change and ‘process version’ are checked). To prevent the exported images from being resorted by capture date later turn off the option to include all metadata with the exported images. Now export.
Remember that the sequencing numbers that Lightroom uses (e.g. filename1) are treated ALPHABETICALLY. That means that any number starting with ‘1’ will occur before the number ‘2’. So the order would be filename1, filename10, filename11, etc. right up to ‘19’, then would come filename2. Again there is a workaround. Start the sequence at 100, thus the first image is filename100. You are good up to 999 images before problems return. For groups that large start with 1000 as the first number.
Step 3: Itunes will happily grab the exported folder of images and store them on your Ipad in the Photos app. Folder names are sorted alphabetically, but when you access your files you might not find them in the proper order (alpha). If you neglected to remove the metadata of the images when you exported from Lightroom you are out of luck for order if you customized the order in Lightroom. Capture date trumps filename it seems. If you did export as described in Step 2 you should be fine. If not you may have to go back to the exported folder that Itunes is using and have Windows copy the files to new ones without metadata, not hard but annoying. Have Itunes place the new collection of files without metadata into Photos. Problem solved, alpha order rules.
Moral: Because having your images in correct sequence is a fundamental need, I feel there should be more controls and consistency between the pieces of software that handle those images. Windows does a fine job with sorting files in various ways. Those same options should be available in the Lightroom export function and in basic apps such as Photos on the Ipad.