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 two workarounds:
- Use AirDrop to copy videos between Photos libraries (recommended)
- Copy the raw video files directly from the Photos library, instead of using the export function
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.
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.
- 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.
Solution #2: 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.
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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