Mac Photos App: Imported Videos Have Incorrect Date

Apple’s Photo app for Mac has a problem with importing/exporting video files. More specifically, imported videos may have an incorrect date (timestamp) if those videos were previously exported from another Photos library. Instead of showing the date and time the video was recorded, Photos shows the import date/time. As a result, the imported videos are placed incorrectly on your timeline.

The good news is that there are three workarounds:

  • Use AirDrop to copy videos between Photos libraries (recommended)
  • Share the videos using an iCloud Link (iOS 12+)
  • Copy the raw video files directly from the Photos library, instead of using the export function
Update: I just realized that macOS High Sierra 10.13.3 Beta (17D25b) does not have the issue anymore I have described below. I don’t know for sure when Apple fixed the problem, but it doesn’t occur in the latest beta of macOS. However, I should also add that Apple has switched to a more efficient video codec (HEVC) and the timestamp issue doesn’t occur with all video formats. As a result, it is entirely possible that Photos still has that bug in macOS High Sierra and Mojave when importing videos in other formats.

My photo and video workflow

Both my wife and I take a lot of photos and videos with our iPhones. Every so often, we create photo books or albums of the best photos taken. Additionally, I make a quarterly video of the kids to share with overseas family members. For that reason, I have to transfer photos and videos periodically from my wife’s into my Photos libraries.

Video imported into Photos app
Creation Date incorrectly used by Photos app

On a weekly basis, I export photos and videos from my wife’s Photos library to a LaCie Raid (Amazon) connected via Thunderbolt to my iMac. From there, I import the exported files into my Photos library. As you can see in the above screenshot, each exported file has a Creation Date that reflects the export have. Of course, each file had added metadata tags that show the real date/time of when I took the video. Programs like Photos can read those metadata tags and use them to sort your photos and videos on a timeline properly.

Unfortunately, Photos seems to rely on the Creation Date for video files, as shown in Finder, rather than the actual recording date of the video during import.

Importing videos into Photos

It seems that the Photos app doesn’t honor the metadata field that reflects the date and time the video was recorded. Instead, it incorrectly uses the video file’s Creation Date, which often coincides with the export date.

Example

  • Export a video that you took in the past from a Photos library and save it to your local hard drive.
  • Let’s say you took the video on 1/15/2015.
  • Let’s also say that the export occurred on 7/13/2016.
  • Now import the video into another Photos library.
  • Photos will show the video was taken on 7/13/2016, which is obviously incorrect.

In the past, I would manually change the date/time of each video after the import. That’s obviously a pain in the butt, and as a result, I decided to switch to Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) for video editing. FCPX does recognize the correct creation date of each video imported, no matter of the import source. Interestingly enough, it also recognizes the correct creation date of video files imported from Photos via the Media Browser, even if those videos show an incorrect creation date in Photos.

Solution #1: AirDrop

The other day I noticed that the above-mentioned problem would only occur when importing video files into the Photos app from disk. The problem does not occur when transferring video files using AirDrop. So every week, my wife AirDrop’s all photos and videos she had taken in the past week from her iPhone to mine. That’s usually up to 50 photos and videos.

Videos imported into Photos app have the wrong date
AirDrop to transfer videos between Photos libraries

Solution #2: Create iCloud Link

If you run iOS 12 or later, you can share selected images and videos from within the Photos app by creating an iCloud Link. In other words, you can create a shareable link on device A and then access that link on device B. When opening such a sharing link, you can choose to add the shared photos and videos to the iCloud Photo Library associated with device B.

Create iCloud Link
How to create an iCloud Link

Solution #3: Copy raw video files

Instead of exporting the videos from my wife’s Photos Library and then re-importing them into mine, I had a better idea. A Photos Library isn’t a single file or database; it’s a bundle containing metadata but also all original images and video files. So I created a Smart Folder in Finder that would list all movie files stored inside my wife’s Photos Library. A quick check indicated that Finder would show the correct Creation Date for each file. Then I simply marked all files inside the Smart Folder (Command + A) and dragged them into my Photos Library. Photos would allow me to skip the duplicates I had already in there and import the rest. That took a few minutes, and I was done.

To create the Smart Folder follow these steps:

  • Open Finder and navigate to the Photos library you would like to export videos from
  • Right-click on the library bundle and choose “Show package contents.”
  • Navigate to the “Masters” directory, which contains all your raw image and video files
  • In Finder, click on File –> New Smart Folder
  • A new Finder window opens up
  • Make sure to select “Masters” instead of “This Mac” in the upper left part of the Finder window
  •  Enter your search parameters, including Kind = Movie and any date range, if applicable

The two steps in bold are crucial. Otherwise, Finder won’t look inside your Photos library and instead only search the rest of your Mac’s hard drive.

Conclusion

The Photos app has been incorrectly recognizing the Creation Date of imported video files since the application was first released. I’m a bit annoyed that Apple still hasn’t fixed the issue, but I finally submitted a bug report via the Feedback Assistant that’s part of Apple’s Beta Program.

But at least I have found a workaround that allows me to import videos from my wife’s into my Photos Library without having to adjust the date of each video manually. That being said, if Apple would finally release shared Photos Libraries, I wouldn’t have to deal with this issue at all. Sigh…

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31 thoughts on “Mac Photos App: Imported Videos Have Incorrect Date”

  1. Observation 1) The described bug seems that during import Photos seems to determine the timestamp from the filesystem’s creation-timestamp of the exported file rather than the untampered metadata in the file portion of it (EXIF or metadata header/footer/frame of whatever other multimedia container format).

    Observation 2) Setting the creation-time of an exported file to the export time rather than to its original value could be interpreted as the true evil bug, b/c this is rather untypical for macOS and its native apps, which usually preserve metadata quite well compared to Windows/Linux which are rather dumb/stubborn in that regard, i.e. email attachments in Mail.app preserve creation/modification date of the sender, rather than when the recipient saved/exported them from the email to the filesystem. To even keep track of when it was saved to the computer the Mac could simply facilitates its third timestamp type “Added on”. Usually timestamps preservation and treatment is great on macOS. Seems they screwed up once.

    Simple workaround to bypass both bugs 1 + 2:
    1) Export video files to folder.
    2) Batch process them with a tool which can copy the timestamp from the metadata portion of the file (i.e. EXIF) into the appropriate timestamp (creation or last-modified) of the file within the filesystem (HFS+ or APFS). I.e. “A Better Finder Attributes” allows this.
    3) Photos during import can than take whatever it wants (EXIF, creation timestamp, modification timestamp) they all will lead to the same result, your original timestamp!

    Reply
  2. Thanks for providing this info! I plan to merge two Photos libraries.

    I read Apple’s official How To article “Combine libraries in Photos”
    and at the section “How to import photos and videos into the destination library” (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209528#import) it indeed states: “The videos are sorted based on the date you exported them from the source library.”

    This scared me, b/c ruining the timestamps of all videos, ruins the whole temporality of the picture/video experience. Thus I searched DuckDuckGo and came to your post. Thanks again!

    What I plan to do: Create 3 batches of export.
    1) Smart filter: Is not video AND Is not edited -> Export originals into folder “pix-original”.
    2) Smart filter: Is not video AND Is edited -> Export edits into folder “pix-edited”.
    3) Use your method in Finder to select all videos from within the Photos bundle.

    Then import in 3 batches. Give “pix edited” a label “Edited version without original” so that I have it distinguished. Not that it would matter, b/c I anyhow have to give up the originals. Btw, thanks Apple for giving non iCloud Photos users a worse treatment than iCloud users, where merging keeps up all metadata and all original/edit pairs. But at least I could identify those, should it matter for any scenario in the future.

    Is this a good approach?

    Reply
  3. I had this same issue, and after some searching, found a tool that I can use to fix it.

    I had the issue using MP4 files, which have been known to be difficult to change the date/time data on.

    A tool I used for the Mac is called SetEXIFData by Marc Vos. He created it specifically for photos at first, but has introduced video support.

    I had some trouble with my .m4v files I accidentally exported from Photos, and imported into another Photos library. When I exported it, not using the “Unchanged Original” setting, it reverted the date/time to the time I exported the file.

    When I imported the file into my new Photos library, the date and time were incorrect. It was the time that I had exported the file.

    To fix this, I downloaded the SetEXIFData tool and used the “ContentCreateDate” as the first field to search in “Preferences”.

    I used that to get the Finder’s “Date Created” to the ContentCreateDate. After that step, I used the tool again to process the file using the Finder’s Date Created to set as the EXIF data in the app.

    It’s a complicated workaround, but it works!

    Here is the link to the tool: https://marc.vos.net/downloads/setexifdata/

    Reply
  4. Hello, any advice for merging photo libraries. I have an aperture library, iphoto library, and now two photos libraries. I used aperture in the past but now that is no longer updated and want to have all of my photos in one location.

    thanks

    Reply
  5. Hello, thanks for the info. I noticed an issue sometimes with my airdrop and photos or videos. I recently airdropped two photos and a video all taken on my iphone on the same day. Once airdropped, the photos kept the meta data but the video changed its creation date to the date of airdrop. Is this a common issue and is there a difference when it comes to videos?

    thanks

    Reply
  6. First off: A Better Finder Attributes (currently version 6) is a great app, to copy EXIF shot-on-date to the Creation Date of the file. Helped me enormously sorting through thousands of photos from my brothers mess of image folders… I copies the date and time the photo was shot to the creation date of the file. Free for 5 at a time, 15 bucks for full version.

    But! Video don’t always have dates for when they were shot. I have some really, really old 3GP files and a bunch of other MOV, AVI and other video files from my brother, his father in law, etc, from a variety of cameras. Some have OriginalDate, some have no date at all – except from when the video file was copied last… For the latter I understand Photos can’t possibly know when the video was taken. But it should be able to read and understand the Original Date.

    For example I have this AVI video file. I can see in “A Better Finder” (and Phil Harvery great but complex ExifTools) that there is an OriginalDate of Sep 9, 2009, at 16.33 (4.33 p.m.) and when importing it to Photos (Version 3.0 on MacOS 10.13.6) it’s listed as August 1, 2018. Today. I changed the CreationDate and later the ChangedDate to the exact same as OriginalDate (Sep 9, 2009). But still Photos think the video was shot on August 1, 2018. I deleted the Created and Changed dates and did it again. Still the same problem.

    According to ExifTools all dates are set to Sep 9, 2009, except for “File Access Date/Time” (atime) and “File Inode Change Date/Time” (ctime) that are today’s date. Which is curious also since I copied the files to my drive yesterday (Aug 31, 2018).

    Without getting lost in the complexity of all this, I was hoping Photos would be able to read this data and acknowledge the OriginalDate of Sep 9, 2009. But it does not. That is very, very strange.

    Reply
  7. Hi Michael and other contributors,
    thanks very much for this excellent page. I have one comment for the smart folder work-around – this cost me some time at least.
    It turns out that the view settings in finder are crucial for the import date being correct in photos. In finder under the controls symbol, click on show view options, and check ‘Date created’, such that the creation date is now shown in finder. You can then drag and drop into the ‘photos’ library within the Photos app. As per the blog entry, the videos are now placed correctly in the timeline. I checked this without having the ‘date created’ view option checked in finder, and the avi was not imported with the correct timestamp.
    One more thing, note that if you have previously imported these videos in the standard way where the timestamp is incorrect and then deleted them (and even repaired the library such that the file cannot be found when searching within photos) it still asks if you want to import a duplicate photo. The existing photo is then greyed out – it has no content. I agreed to this and find no (new) duplicates in my library.

    Reply
  8. For what it’s worth I deal with the same issue on the PC side. I have 2 cameras and 1 4k camcorder. All my photos I import using the standard Windows 10 Photos app show the correct time and date. All my AVCHD videos also show up correctly in my timeline. All my other MP4 files which are my 4k video files on both cameras import incorrectly. I have figured it out that it shows exactly 8hrs delayed in time. It is such a hassle as I browse photo collections and certain video files are not clumped in with the same photos. I have noticed that if I open the file directly from the memory card then the time shows correctly. If I import or copy/paste the files into my library then the program displays them as 8hrs behind. All my cameras have the correct time zone and time set. Very frustrating. Maybe my AVCHD files have the metadata embedded which is why they show up correctly in my timeline. I have tried posting in the past but I have ended up in the same place, confused. Wait isn’t this technology supposed to make life easier… ?

    Reply
  9. I notice that apparently this article was apparently written in 2017, not the 2018 date that the article currently displayed as 2018. So if it has been updated in 2018, I’d be interested in how we correct the already imported videos for those of us who are not Mac experts and are running High Sierra, and whose video imports in March 2018 had the creation date ignored and instead are sorted by their import date. I imported videos that had various creation dates that ranged over a decade, and they were all imported as if the videos were taken in March 2018. Ironically, the photos imported correctly. It was the videos that didn’t import correctly. I guess I should revert back to Picasa for Windows since Windows Explorer let’s you correct creation date And Windows lets you rotate videos. I didn’t realize when switching to Mac that basic functionality was no longer built in.

    P.S. please update this webpage so that it doesn’t freeze for 10 seconds at a time when typing in this comment form on a iPhone 7.

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,

      The article was written in 2017 and update in 2018, as stated. If you still experience the issue, then Apple has either re-introduced the bug, or it was never completely fixed. Based on reports from users, the problem seems to be related to certain video formats, so it is entirely possible that the bug was only partly fixed.

      Since I have stopped importing videos the traditional way a long time ago (due to the bug), I haven’t run into the problem for a while.

      Reply
      • Update: I got on the phone with Apple, and an expert in Photos linked into my Mac to investigate. We discovered that Photos does not look at the file attributes “date created” nor “date modified”. It only examines the file metadata for date taken. If no metadata exists, it will not default to file creation date. Rather, it will default to import date. His wa my problem. Most of my .avi files and .m2ts files did not have the metadata embedded in the file. At least, not in a form that the Mac High Sierra OS could recognize. I will either have to manually update the date taken for these videos using Photos, or go back to Picasa and see if it can do it.

        Reply
  10. I have run into this whilst transporting a full Google Photos library to Photos. So many pics and videos are showing import date as capture date AND many have wrong locations! So frustrating. Will try your solution for now until Apple updates. Can confirm that this is still a problem as of May 14, 2018.

    Reply
  11. This problem STILL EXISTS for me running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. I am building a new Photos Library from CD-ROM archives of digital photos and videos, and the Apple Photos is ignoring Creation Dates of the videos (say, circa 2009) and instead applying the date & time of import for all them. I have both dragging and import functions and result is the same.

    Reply
    • Under further inspection, it appears that Apple Photos 3.0 under macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 is still applying the wrong dates (i.e., using the current time of import, not the actual Creation Date) only when importing AVI videos. All other videos (e.g., MP4) appear to be imported with the correct dates.

      Reply
    • Tested this issue under iPhoto 9.6.1 on Mac OS X El Capitan, and iPhoto imported the AVI videos just fine using the correct (Creation Date) dates. This is definitely an Apples Photos 3.0 BUG.

      Reply
  12. Greetings. I noticed fairly recently that the date and time of each video I import from my Sony camcorder onto my MacBook Pro, using Photos 3.0, have wrongly been assigned the date and time of when I imported the video, instead of being properly assigned the date and time of when I actually took the video.

    Each video I import from my iPhone to my MacBook Pro has always been, and still is, properly assigned the date and time of the video capture on my iPhone. And, up until my upgrade to macOS High Sierra, each video I imported from my Sony camcorder (FDR-AX33) onto my MacBook Pro would properly be assigned the date and time of the video capture on my camcorder. However, after my upgrade to High Sierra, each video imported from my camcorder would improperly be assigned the date and time of the import. This is quite annoying to me because I have neither the desire nor the time to manually correct each video I import, especially when I import numerous videos at one time.

    This is obviously a recent glitch in Mac Photos 3.0; after all, Mac Photos worked just fine in this regard prior to my upgrade to High Sierra.

    In working on this issue with an Apple senior technician several weeks ago, we recognized that Photos 3.0 mislabels the date and time when the video I am importing from my camcorder is in AVCHD format. When I change the format of the video to the larger XAVC S 4K, each video I am importing is correctly assigned the date and time of the video capture on my camcorder. The technician recommended that, for now, I should shoot and import video in the larger XAVC S 4K format until Apple resolves this issue.

    This recommendation is not a good long-term solution for me. Philosophically, this does not sit well with me because my and my family’s love for Apple products has primarily been based on our recognition that they work intuitively and logically. The fact that a new MacBook Pro running the very latest version of Photos cannot assign the proper date and time to videos imported from a fairly new Sony camcorder in the most popular camcorder format is contrary to our affinity for Apple.

    I have practical concerns with this recommendation as well. XAVC S 4K is twice as large as AVCHD, which will drastically limit my hard drive space. And, because this new MacBook Pro does not have 4K, I am not really enjoying the benefit of having the larger files on my laptop anyway.

    Hopefully, Apple gets this bug fixed shortly. Apple is too great of a company to have such a silly flaw in something used so often by millions of people.

    Reply
  13. I have a similar yet slightly different issue…. My Apple OS (10.13.1) is all up to date.

    The issue that I have is that I’m trying to download my photos and videos from iCloud, because my phone was wiped. The photos and vids downloaded no issue into the phone. Dates show up correctly on the phone, iPad, and the Mac Photos App. But when I copy it or export it to some other non-Mac applications (even to “Folders”) to have a secondary backup on a hard disk, the dates are all out of order. Instead of the dates the photos or videos are taken, I have the dates of when these were downloaded on said device. However, as soon as you put it back into any Apple App like the Photos App, the date goes back into order. This is very perplexing and I’m still struggling to get the dates in order, in a normal-average-joe-folder. It’s incredibly frustrating how difficult this simple goal is to achieve. Why apple??

    Does anybody know a workaround for this? I’d like to essentially have a copy for my photos and videos in a “Folder” drive which has the dates in the order they were taken (not when they were downloaded to the device).

    Thanks!

    Reply
  14. Confirming that I am still having this same issue as of 2-4-18, having installed all the latest Apple OS updates on both my iPhone X and Mac.

    Reply
  15. Michael, I don’t understand why you say “don’t worry about the date shown in Finder”… because we ALL use (and RELY on) the dates that are shown in Finder, or in File Explorer for Windows users… so of course we are going to WORRY about it, and rightly so.

    ie: When we search in File Explorer or Finder for a particular date (photos taken on dad’s birthday, which we know is February 14th) then we are going to search (and SORT by) files with THAT date. If Finder or File Explorer shows ANY other “random” date, then HOW can we “not worry about it” when it does not show up on Feb 14 which is the DATE ACTUALLY TAKEN?

    What am I missing here? Are general users EXPECTED to find/learn/use all these “workarounds” simply to be able to (1) snap a pix or shoot a video (2) move it from the camera to computer WITHOUT losing the original date it was taken? (Even IF the date is “not really lost” and is still embedded somewhere, it is NOT USEFUL TO US if it does not also DISPLAY in Finder and File Explorer.)

    I paid over $1k for my iPhone 7 Plus 256GB model and nearly $2k for my maxed out laptop, yet I am UNABLE to simply GET PIXS AND VIDEOS off of my fancy phone with my fancy computer, unless I am WILLING to LOSE the original DATE and TIME that they were taken. Both Finder and File Explorer DISPLAY the WRONG timestamp, no matter if I copy and paste (straight from Finder or File Explorer) or if I use the “import” functions on a Mac or on a Windows 10 pc.

    It sounds like you have tried many methods (even more than I have) and that you’ve also submitted a Feedback on it, but the date on this article is months ago, and I still see no FIX from Apple or Microsoft. Do you have any other ideas on how users can GET PIXS AND VIDEOS OFF THEIR IPHONES WITHOUT THE WRONG TIMESTAMP DISPLAYING IN FINDER AND/OR FILE EXPLORER?

    I have spent the last 3 days on the phone with Apple and Microsoft, and they have not found the fix/answer YET. My 256 GB phone is about to CRASH because I am unwilling to “move” stuff off of it AND LOSE THE DATE TAKEN forever. (Once I delete the image from my phone, the timestamp displayed in File Explorer and Finder will NOT match what WAS on my phone.) Thank you for your efforts! CJSA

    Note: This problem has NOT always existed. I searched my old Windows 7 pc and ALL of my pixs/videos display the CORRECT timestamps. They were copied/pasted directly from the DCIM folder of my iPhone 2.0 and from my iPhone 4s and they have NO errors. But now I am using a NEWER phone (iPhone 7 Plus) and a NEWER pc (Windows 10 Home 64) and NOW this “timestamp” error occurs.

    Reply
    • Hi Cathy!

      It looks like as if Apple has fixed the problem in macOS 10.13 High Sierra – at least in my beta version the problem doesn’t occur anymore.

      But even on older releases of macOS (or OS X), you won’t lose the original creation date, which is stored in EXIF format in the file. The Photos app just wasn’t smart enough to use it for a while, until Apple fixed the problem.

      Reply
      • Hi Michael.

        I have been battling the Date Created/Modified issues in Photos and Finder for a while, now, and it has been frustrating.

        I waited for the release of 10.13.3 to explore further in hopes that your report of a fix being implemented in the Beta.

        Alas, I can attest that the 10.13.3 Release does not change the behaviour of Photos, and how it structures its database.

        Each Image/Video is grouped and listed by proper Creation Date in the App, itself, but does not store/export them the same way . . . drag-n-drop and the Smart Folder creation per your steps, above, produce files that Finder, er, finds to be different than the EXIF embedded, within.

        *sigh*

        I still hold hope that the App database structure soon mirrors how the images/videos and EXIF are represented, verbatim, but it /is/ quite tedious, to say the least.

        Thank you so very much for your research, and documentation; you are the only person I have found who is reporting on this matter.

        This is important.

        Regards, splifingate

        Reply
        • I too have this issue. I am on Version: 10.13.3 (17D102)

          I select the “unmodified” option to export a video to an external drive, then when I import that video into another computer, the export date shows as the date the video was taken.

          Looking at the file in finder, I am still able to see the date that the file was created.

          Reply
  16. Hi Michael, thanks for your advice. I am surprised to find this information only on your personal website instead of (easily) finding it on Apple support and all the forums out there. However, your solutions seem to be unhelpful in my case: I tried to transfer the videos from my iPhone (5s – iOS 10.3.3) to my MacBook (El Capitan 10.11.6) through AirDrop to find them back in my Mac’s Downloads folder and from there the importing seems to stop; I can not import it any further to my Photos App on my Mac. Also a quick check in Finder shows the date and time I ‘Airdropped’ it (in this case one minute ago) instead of the Creation date (about two weeks ago) so I tried your second suggestion. What stopped me there was that I tried to make sure to select “Masters” instead of “This Mac” in the upper left part of the Finder window, but could not because it said “This Mac” and “Photos Library” and not “This Mac” and “Masters” (both selections containing 0 items). Everything I tried from there (e.g. by typing Masters in the search field or repeating the steps inside the new Finder Window – this showed me all folders with dates up to the individual photos on the specific dates, but I could not select them). After hours of trying to find a proper solution I think I will give up and change the video dates manually, but maybe my experiences contribute to your knowledge of this specific problem (bug?). Kind regards, Frank (Netherlands)

    Reply
    • Hi Frank!

      What exactly stopped you from importing the AirDrop’ed videos? Just drag and drop the videos from your Downloads folder into the Photos app or use the File –> Import option in Photos. Don’t worry about the date in Finder, that does not necessarily reflect the date the Photo app will show.

      Regarding the second option: You have to right-click on your Photos library in Finder and choose Show Package Contents. Once “in” you will see the Masters folder and can navigate into it. Then use the search field as explained in my article.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Tnx Michael. What stopped me was that drag and drop to the Photos app did nothing (but the video I tested with was already in Photos with the wrong time stamp, so I will retry after removing it). I will also try importing it using the import option.
        In the second option I did exactly as you explain, to no avail unfortunately.
        I am camping now without my MacBook but will keep you posted.

        Reply
  17. I’ve found the solution after tinkering about. So I wanted to transfer my entire iPhoto library into photos. I exported the photos from iPhoto using export then when I imported the videos to photos the time stamp were today’s date. They were all wrong!
    Solution: Create a smart library in iPhoto called videos then select all the videos in iPhoto and “Drag and drop” the videos from iPhoto to an empty folder on your mac.(Do not use the export function from the menu)
    Next open photos and import the videos and that’s it you will see that the videos have the correct time stamp.

    You’re welcome. :))

    Reply

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