How To Sync Time & Date Using Multiple Cameras

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by Rob Hull
Texas School Instructor

Awhile back, I was photographing a few hundred kids as they were Confirmed into the church. This is a major milestone for these kids – one of those life events that can never be repeated. So, capturing great images is very important. With all the kids, the bishop, priests, deacons, etc., the altar area was quite crowded. To ensure that we could capture the best possible images of each child, I worked with a second photographer.

I like to have the date and time correct/matching on the cameras but in this case, we ended up using a backup camera and the time was not set correctly. This can create problems during post processing when I’m trying to find the same child in images shot with both cameras. There is an incredibly easy solution to this and it’s something that you may need to use in the future. Here’s what I did to fix my problem using Adobe Lightroom.

DETERMINE THE CORRECT TIME – Knowing that the metadata time was not correct on one of the cameras, I just needed one image that would show me the correct time. So, I took a photo of my iPhone while it displayed the correct date and time. In this case, I really needed it synced to the second, so I have an app called Digital Clock by Junjie Ruan. (There are a lot of similar apps out there – I just wanted to ensure I can sync to the second and this one works fine.)

FIND ALL IMAGES SHOT WITH ONE CAMERA – Be sure to select a folder that contains all the images you shot at the event and use Lightroom’s Filter Bar to isolate those captured with one specific camera. You can do this by using the Camera Serial Number option. Be sure that the photo of the time reference is included in this group.

CHANGE THE METADATA TIME – Look through the grid view to find the image that you shot of your cell phone that displays the correct time. Once that image is selected at the primary selection, you can now select all of the images with Command + A. Remember, Lightroom can select many images but only one is the primary selection – that’s the photo of the time on the cell phone.

•    Go to Metadata > Edit Capture Time
•    In Type of Adjustment, select Adjust to a Specified Date and Time
•    In the New Time group, enter the time displayed on your cell phone image into the              Corrected Time field.
•    Then click on Change.

When you do this, Lightroom changes the capture time for the image to the time that is displayed on the clock image. It also changes the time on all other selected images by the same relative amount. Even though the option says, “Adjust to a Specified Date and Time,” that is only for the primary image while all others are adjusted relative to that image. By using this method to adjust the time in your images, you can sync images from multiple cameras at an event to within one second. This is great for anyone using multiple cameras at an event or on vacation; or multiple photographers working the same event.

The key here is that we’ve captured an accurate time stamp image with every camera used in an event.

Rob Hull and Tony Corbell will be teaching a class, “Between Light and Shadow,” at Texas School 2021 This class explores the three key elements that comprise light – the most fundamental ingredient in any photograph.  Learn more about their class at: www.TexasSchool.org.