You have a load of images you scanned or photographed, now you want them to appear in your Lightroom catalog in the right order – usually in some sort of date sequence. But of course, they all have current dates as that’s when they were created. If you use a dated naming system this really doesn’t help!
So, how do you get the right photo date on an image?
Which date should I use?
First, we need to decide the date we would like to use for the photo(s). Of course, for a photo of Granny from 80 years ago you’re unlikely to know the exact date or time! Most photographers simply use an approximate date and time, then at least the photos will appear in the right order in the catalog. Lightroom can’t use fuzzy dates, so many decide to use midnight on the first day of the month, year or decade. So, if the photo was probably taken in 1960, a date / time of 1960-01-01 12:00 at least gives an indication and it’s easy to spot that it’s an estimated date.
If you scanned or photographed a lot of photos in one session, the first thing it’s worth doing is collecting ones together into individual years, perhaps into year folders or collections, then work on the dates for them in there.
But how do you change the date on a photo?
Change one photo date / time
First, let’s look at changing one photo, then we can discuss multiple photos. The process is quite simple.
In Lightroom Classic:
- Select the photo in the Library module
- Go to Metadata Menu > Edit Date and Time
- This brings up the Edit Capture Time dialog
- Change using Adjust to a Specific Date and Time to your chosen time stamp
- Click Change
In Lightroom Desktop (cloud):
- Select the photo in Photo Grid or Square Grid
- Go to Photo menu > Edit Date & Time or click the pencil icon next to the date field in the Info panel
- In the Shift Date Range dialog, enter the correct date and time
- Click Change
Changing multiple photos at once
In both versions of Lightroom, if you have more than one photo selected, the whole sequence of photos of photos will change. However, because Lightroom is designed for digital photographs, it won’t adjust all of your photos to the chosen time stamp, but will adjust them all incrementally. This is useful if you have the photos sorted in the order you want and aren’t that bothered by the specific dates and times being right, you just want them in the general area.
If specific dates / times are important (so you want them all to read 1960-01-01 12:00) you will have to adjust them individually as Lightroom only has the facility to change to a specific date / time photo by photo. In Lightroom Classic, there is a plug-in that can help.
Changing date / time using a Plug-in (Lightroom Classic only)
Capture Time to Exif is a plug-in from John Beardsworth that allows multiple photos to change to a single date / time. This is really handy in the scenario just mentioned, where you have a whole collection of photos from approximately the same date and you want all of them to read, for example, 1960-01-01 12:00.
To use it:
- Download and install the plug-in (through Plug-in Manager)
- Select the photos in Library Grid view to change
- Go to Library menu > Plug-in Extras > Save capture time to open the plug-in dialog
- Change the date / time (you can change the camera and lots of other things too)
- The Command line preview shows you the line that will be submitted to the Operating System.
- Click OK
- With the same photo(s) selected, go to Metadata menu > Read Metadata from file
- The updated dates will show in the Metadata panel
The trial version will let you adjust up to 10 photos in one go. That’s great to check it does what you’d like, but the full version isn’t expensive (at $11.38 / £8.66 / €10) and is one of those Plug-ins that’s often useful to have. It’s regularly updated by the Author, John Beardsworth.
For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.
Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.
We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!