Categories Cameras and Photography

Why Are Photos Stored in a DCIM Folder?

why do all cameras store images in dcim folder

Ever wonder why does every Camera put photos in a DCIM Folder?

You may have noticed that the photos were taken from dedicated digital cameras, or the camera app on your Android devices or iPhone are stored in a folder named DCIM (Digital Camera Images). Every camera, be it the pocket kind or the professional DSLR variety, uses that same folder.

So what’s so special about this ubiquitous acronym that every company seems to agree is so important that they must all use it for images?

Let us know…

Why DCIM and Not ‘Photos’ or ‘Images’?

DCIM or Digital Camera Images, which probably makes a little more complications for users when considering something like Photos or Images that would be much more clear and easy to spot. Isn’t it?

There is a reason for the DCIM choice.

Let’s meet DCF or ‘Design Rule of Camera File System’

  1. The first version of DCF was issued in 2003, and it was last updated in 2010.
  2. It is a specification created by JEITA, the Japan Electronics, and Information Technology Industries Association.
  3. There a number other folders inside the DCIM folder and they are the results of DCF specification which includes them into the main DCIM folder for proper maintenance of our images.
  4. The consistent naming of the photo storage location for digital cameras as DCIM is defined a part of the DCF (Design Rule for Camera File System) specifications, which has been adopted by so many camera makers that it’s practically an industry standard.

The DCF spec is so commonplace, developers of the photo management software you have on your computer and photo editing and sharing apps you downloaded to your phone, are all comfortable programming their tools to focus photo-searching efforts on the DCIM folder.

This consistency encourages other camera and smartphone makers, and in turn, even more, software and app developers, to stick to this DCIM-only storage habit.

The DCF specification does more than just dictate the folder that photos are written to. It also says that the SD cards, MicroSD, CF Cards, SDXC, SDHC and many more must use a specific file system when formatted (one of the many FAT file system versions) and that subdirectories and file names used for the saved photos follow a specific pattern.

The DCIM Directory and Its Subfolders

The DCIM directory can — and usually – has more than one subdirectories.

  1. The subdirectories each consist of a unique three-digit number — from 100 to 999 — and five alphanumeric characters.
  2. The alphanumeric characters aren’t important, and each camera maker is free to choose their own. For example, Apple devices will be having a five-digit name, so their code is APPLE. On an iPhones, the DCIM directory contains folders like “100APPLE,” “101APPLE,” and so on.
  3. Inside each subdirectory of DCIM are the image files oneself, which represent the pictures you capture.
  4. Each image file’s name starts with a four-digit alphanumeric code, which can be anything the camera developer wants — followed by a four-digit number. For example, you’ll often see files named as DSC_0001.jpg, DSC_0002.jpg, or IMG_01, IMG_02 and so on. The code of the image files doesn’t really matter, but it will be consistent to ensure the photos you capture are displayed in the order you take them.

For instance, the layout will look something like this:


  1. 100ANDRO
    – DCF_0001.JPG
    – DCF_0002.JPG
    – DCF_0003.WAV
  2.  101ANDRO
  3. 102ANDRO
  4. 103ANDRO


So, Why Does Everyone Follow This Specification?

DCF is a “de facto” standard, which means that almost all camera makes (digital camera/smartphone) have adopted this specification and it became a consistent standard in the real world. The standardized DCIM format means digital camera picture-transfer software can automatically identify photos captured or stored in any sort of cameras and even on SD cards.

The DCIM folders on smartphones serve the same purpose. When you connect an Android phone or iPhone to your laptop, the computer or photo-library software can notice the DCIM folder, notices and identifies there are images that can be used or can be transferred.

DCIM may not be the most obvious name the first time you see it — but it’s more important that it’s a standard. If every smartphone operating system or digital camera manufacturer had its own unique pictures folder, software programs wouldn’t always be able to automatically find images on a connected device. You wouldn’t be able to take an SD card from one camera and plug it directly into another digital camera, cracking the pictures without reformatting the device or rearranging the file system.

/storage/sdcard0/DCIM – if the photos are on the memory card

Ultimately, having a standard file format is important — whatever the standard is. That’s why the DCIM folder has followed us from point-and-shoot cameras to smartphones and even tablet camera apps if you explore. The PTP or Picture Transfer Protocol isn’t the same as the DCF standard, but it serves a similar purpose. It’s been superseded by MTP and other standards, but PTP is supported by Android devices and iPhones for communicating with photo-management applications that support this standard.

If you are thinking if the photos are safe in the DCIM folder, then you are absolutely wrong. There are a number of reasons due to which you may end up losing your memorable photos from this folder if you do not have a backup.

So guess with this piece of information we have solved the mystery behind why are photos stored in a DCIM folder. We’re sure you’ll be happily immersed in your digital photos for a while.

Enjoy and keep visiting us!

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