How To Sync Multiple Camera Time Stamps In Lightroom 4 - Digital Photography School
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How To Sync Multiple Camera Time Stamps In Lightroom 4

Syncing the time stamp on multiple cameras is best done ahead of time. Every six months or so I take all of my digital SLR camera bodies and sync the clocks in them. This is important because if you use multiple cameras on a photo shoot like a wedding, you want to be able to sort the photos by the time they were taken so you can give the client a set of photos that are organized from start to finish. If your cameras time stamps are off, this can become very annoying in post because you’ll notice images being out of order. This becomes amplified the more your cameras are out of sync.

Well, none of us are perfect and I certainly don’t claim to be! I recently shot a wedding with my good buddy Cliff Baise and I totally forgot to sync our cameras ahead of time. When I got his images on my computer to start editing everything together I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t seeing ANY of my images in Lightroom. Everything was sorted by time like it always is and I double checked everything. Well, it turns out our cameras were a full hour out of sync with my camera being an hour ahead of Cliff’s. So my images weren’t showing up in the timeline until much later in the wedding. This was pretty nerve racking because I hadn’t run into this problem before. I’ve always synced my own cameras (my wife usually shoots with me and uses my other main camera) so I’ve never had to deal with this before. I thought I was out of luck. So I started rummaging through the menu options in Lightroom and eventually figured out a way to sync the two cameras very quickly and very easily. Here’s how to do it:

Find Images You Know Were Taken At The Same Time

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 9.05.11 AM

At some point during the day of a wedding or any shoot, it’s likely that the two shooters took a photo at the same exact time (or dang close to it). This doesn’t have to be an exact, down to the mili-second thing…they just need to be close. For this wedding I found a shot that Cliff took of me taking a picture of the bride showing off her boots. Perfect. All I needed to do was find the picture that I took at that moment.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 9.05.24 AMThe first thing you need to do is select the first photo you find by clicking on it in Library Mode. Then, scroll down to the other image from the second camera, hold down command on a Mac (control on PC) and click that one as well. This will select both images at the same time. Now hit the ‘C’ key on your keyboard which will bring up the two images in Compare mode side by side. Once in compare mode you can click back and forth between the two images to see all the EXIF information on the right hand side. Again, this all has to be done in Library Mode, not Develop Mode.

On the right hand side in the EXIF data, you will see the Capture Time. This is how you tell if the images are off at all. Just click back and forth between the two images and watch how the time changes. If they are off by more than a few seconds, it’s time for the next step.

Syncing The Times

This part was a little tricky the first time. Go ahead and write down the exact times of each photo on a piece of paper or type it onto your computer somewhere. Note which time correlates with each image.

Now you need to decide which set of images you want to sync. In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Nobody cares what time the picture was taken, they just need to be in order of when they were taken. So I just chose to make Cliff’s images match the time of my images. I could have gone the other way around and gotten the same result.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 12.14.44 PMTo sync the time stamps, select all the images from the camera you want to correct. If you have them in separate folders this will be easy. If they are all mixed in to the same folder, you can sort by File Name in Library Mode and then the images will be separated. If all the images from the one camera are in their own folder, just hit Command A on a Mac (Control A on PC). This will select all the photos. If the images are mixed with another camera in the same folder, separate them by file name, then select the first image from the camera you want to correct by clicking on it, then scroll down to the last image from that camera, hold down Shift and click the last image.

Now that you have all the images selected that you want to fix, go up to Metadata in the top menu and scroll down to Edit Capture Time. When the window pops up all you need to to is update the time under the ‘New Time’ section. The original time will be on the top so just plug in the time that you wrote down from the correct camera in the ‘Corrected Time’ section.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 12.16.11 PM

Once this is done, it’s important to just double check everything and make sure you have everything correct. It says at the bottom of the window that the operation cannot be undone so don’t make any mistakes! Once you are sure you have everything right just click Change and you’ll be done! You should now be able to select the images from both cameras in library mode, sort by time and see all of the images in chronological order.

Conclusion

Like I said in the beginning, it’s way easier to do this right the first time by synching the cameras before the shoot. But if you ever forget this like I did, being able to do it in Lightroom is a life saver!

 

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James Brandon is a photographer located in Dallas and a lover of iced tea, Chipotle and his wife Kristin (but not in that order). Be sure to sign up for his newsletter for a free ebook along with in-depth photo tips and videos! You can find his work at his website or on social media. Links below.

  • http://www.maeeh.de Axel

    Nice article, i ran in this a couple of weeks ago as well.

    But i found a different approach as LR4 seems not be as flexible as needed.

    There is a oppurtunity in LR4 to change the timings within the map-module, but unfortunately only hour-based.
    So i remebered the solution i was used to tkae before lightroom became an map and tagging module. G

    Geosetter (http://www.geosetter.de dont be afraif of the german TDL, the program is available in multiple languages), which is currently the one-and-only-tool i use for geotagging purposes.

    Not only it allows to geotag your pictures, it also allows to geotag using some time-offsets for the whole bunch of pictures.
    So, after geotagging with Geosetter, i’m going to import the pics in Lightroom.

  • http://stormwarestudios.com/ Peter Kingsbury

    It would be a far simpler solution to create a weekly/monthly notification in the calendar app accessed by your smartphone, as a reminder to synchronize your camera times.

    Setting the timestamp for one photo is more time-consuming than just a few clicks (think comparing directory trees of ill-stamped files, and trying to determine the correct order). It would far less time-consuming to sync clocks before you start shooting, if time is an issue.

  • http://blog.martindoersch.at MartinDoersch

    Hi.

    Here a small and very effective small bonus tip:
    Try to get a photo of the same swatch (incl. seconds) on all camera which deliver images. I personally use a a iPhone App with a big display clock including seconds called “Clocks”.

    Why the same?
    So you can sync all images from each camera to the captured image of the clock and the shown time. It even can be a different time – because you sync to the time shown on the picture.

    And in the end all images from all cameras a perfectly in sync!

  • http://blog.martindoersch.at MartinDoersch

    @Peter Kingsbury
    Syncing the camera is also fine.
    But you have a problem: Most cameras aren’t able to sync for seconds.

    With the SWATCH-TRICK you can sync precisely to seconds.

  • http://cbparkerphoto.com Carol Parker

    Of course it can be undone – by repeating the scenario and adjusting the time by the same amount in reverse. Just can’t click the ‘undo’ button!

  • http://www.james-brandon.com James Brandon

    Thanks everyone!

    Carol – hehe, good point ;-)

  • Scottc

    Wow, if I just had a second camera “body” (that means a second camera to most of us) I’d have something to “synch”.

    Not nit-picking, the info is valuable for those who can use it, it’s just that most of us that haunt this site don’t have the scratch for more than one DSLR.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/

  • http://www.randyhi.com RandyHI

    Nice article. Nice comments. My comments:
    1) I used to use GeoSetter too. The main thing to remember IF you use it is to use it FIRST! Read your files into LR AFTER running GeoSetter or you will mess up LR metadata like star ratings, keywords, etc.

    2) I photograph running events and I always try to shoot the big display clock at the finish line with all the bodies — this allows me to know the race time correction from the camera’s time stamp (and thanks to this article it also gives me the correction and method to sync multiple bodies after the fact).

    3) It is possible to set the camera’s time to the second — just press the “okay” button on an exact minute.

    4) The clocks in cameras are very poor clocks and I find they need to be synced more often than every few months — before every major event is my routine.

    5) I find the best clock to photograph is the one in my GPS unit. That way the bodies are not just synced to each other but they are also synced to the world!

  • maks

    @scottc:

    Not at all, I only use one DSLR, but I also use my iPhone and a waterproof camera… When importing photos from a trip where I forgot to set the time on my DSLR (iPphone and waterproof adjust automatically based on location) doing this saves me so much trouble.

  • jar

    I used to worry about getting the date/time synced “almost” exactly on my 2 cameras, especially before trips.

    1. Sometimes, I screwed up. Concentrating on getting the seconds exactly
    matched, I’ve set the hour or minute wrong. Once, somehow, I even set the MONTH wrong.

    2. I’ve found that the sync doesn’t hold, because my cameras’ clocks aren’t perfectly accurate. They “drift” (I assume losing time) at slightly different rates. That has resulted in incorrect images appearing to have been shot in the middle of a panoramic group, for instance. That is obviously incorrect.

    Now, beforehand, I make sure the clocks are “approximately” synced &, after the shoot, take shots with both cameras at exactly the same time. The subject isn’t important. The method isn’t important. Both hand-held; both on tripods; 1 on tripod & 1 hand-held; etc. Just press the shutter buttons at the same time. I usually do this at the end of a shoot, just because it’s easier to find the 2 images to compare. If on a several day/week trip I often do it at the end of most days.

    I used to use shareware software for adjusting times, but it’s good to know that Lightroom provides a way to edit capture time.

  • http://x-country.tumblr.com/ Jörgen Wedmark

    I’d just like to say thank you very much for this great tutorial. I went to Greece with my family last summer and I collected all the pictures from five different cameras. I will certainly make sure that everybody sync the cameras on our next journey. If you don’t feel like searching through the menus of different cameras to sync the clocks a tip is to take a photo of the same clock at the same time.

  • Nelson Santos

    OR…
    1- open the folder including all pics from the day
    2- go to the library module
    3- right click and go to: stacking -> auto stack by capture time -> move the cursor all the way to the right to where it says LARGER STACK …
    4- THATS IT! As you can see all pics are in order!

Some older comments

  • maks

    April 9, 2013 10:03 pm

    @scottc:

    Not at all, I only use one DSLR, but I also use my iPhone and a waterproof camera... When importing photos from a trip where I forgot to set the time on my DSLR (iPphone and waterproof adjust automatically based on location) doing this saves me so much trouble.

  • RandyHI

    April 9, 2013 06:29 pm

    Nice article. Nice comments. My comments:
    1) I used to use GeoSetter too. The main thing to remember IF you use it is to use it FIRST! Read your files into LR AFTER running GeoSetter or you will mess up LR metadata like star ratings, keywords, etc.

    2) I photograph running events and I always try to shoot the big display clock at the finish line with all the bodies -- this allows me to know the race time correction from the camera's time stamp (and thanks to this article it also gives me the correction and method to sync multiple bodies after the fact).

    3) It is possible to set the camera's time to the second -- just press the "okay" button on an exact minute.

    4) The clocks in cameras are very poor clocks and I find they need to be synced more often than every few months -- before every major event is my routine.

    5) I find the best clock to photograph is the one in my GPS unit. That way the bodies are not just synced to each other but they are also synced to the world!

  • Scottc

    April 6, 2013 09:14 am

    Wow, if I just had a second camera "body" (that means a second camera to most of us) I'd have something to "synch".

    Not nit-picking, the info is valuable for those who can use it, it's just that most of us that haunt this site don't have the scratch for more than one DSLR.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/

  • James Brandon

    April 6, 2013 02:58 am

    Thanks everyone!

    Carol - hehe, good point ;-)

  • Carol Parker

    April 6, 2013 02:21 am

    Of course it can be undone - by repeating the scenario and adjusting the time by the same amount in reverse. Just can't click the 'undo' button!

  • MartinDoersch

    April 5, 2013 11:43 pm

    @Peter Kingsbury
    Syncing the camera is also fine.
    But you have a problem: Most cameras aren't able to sync for seconds.

    With the SWATCH-TRICK you can sync precisely to seconds.

  • MartinDoersch

    April 5, 2013 11:41 pm

    Hi.

    Here a small and very effective small bonus tip:
    Try to get a photo of the same swatch (incl. seconds) on all camera which deliver images. I personally use a a iPhone App with a big display clock including seconds called "Clocks".

    Why the same?
    So you can sync all images from each camera to the captured image of the clock and the shown time. It even can be a different time - because you sync to the time shown on the picture.

    And in the end all images from all cameras a perfectly in sync!

  • Peter Kingsbury

    April 5, 2013 11:40 pm

    It would be a far simpler solution to create a weekly/monthly notification in the calendar app accessed by your smartphone, as a reminder to synchronize your camera times.

    Setting the timestamp for one photo is more time-consuming than just a few clicks (think comparing directory trees of ill-stamped files, and trying to determine the correct order). It would far less time-consuming to sync clocks before you start shooting, if time is an issue.

  • Axel

    April 5, 2013 10:24 pm

    Nice article, i ran in this a couple of weeks ago as well.

    But i found a different approach as LR4 seems not be as flexible as needed.

    There is a oppurtunity in LR4 to change the timings within the map-module, but unfortunately only hour-based.
    So i remebered the solution i was used to tkae before lightroom became an map and tagging module. G

    Geosetter (http://www.geosetter.de dont be afraif of the german TDL, the program is available in multiple languages), which is currently the one-and-only-tool i use for geotagging purposes.

    Not only it allows to geotag your pictures, it also allows to geotag using some time-offsets for the whole bunch of pictures.
    So, after geotagging with Geosetter, i'm going to import the pics in Lightroom.

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