Videos imported into Photos app have the wrong date

Last updated on Jun 3, 2017

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.

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.

AirDrop to transfer videos between Photos libraries

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.

 

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…

Michael Kummer

Atlanta | Austrian | Blogger | Father of a preemie | Paleo fan | Traveler | Amateur photographer | CrossFit
6 Responses to "Videos imported into Photos app have the wrong date"
  1. 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. :))

  2. 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)

    • 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!

      • 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.

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