170607 Time Sync - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This is a trick that I've learned recently and thought was worth sharing. It depends on Lightroom, so it isn't universal, but it's very useful for two situations that I often find myself in.


I try to set my camera clocks as accurately as possible, but they can be as much as a minute off simply because of a lack of specificity. And camera clocks aren't very good, so they can drift considerably over just a few months. Annoying. In Lightroom the fix is fairly easy. 

Take a photo of your phone displaying a clock with seconds. Import this into Lightroom, and select it along with all of the other photos from that camera that need to have their time corrected. Now go to the Metadata menu, select "Edit Capture Time…" and choose "Adjust to a specified date and time" as the method. Update the "corrected time" to match the time shown in the photo. It's that easy.

Repeat as needed for each camera.

The nice thing about this method is that multiple cameras can be synchronized without needing  a mass simultaneous reference photo, which is something I've actually tried to do. Instead just take a new photo of the clock face with each camera at your convenience and update the metadata accordingly.

Suddenly the 'sort by capture time' option is much more useful when working with multiple cameras, as I occasionally do. Now all I need is for Lightroom to realize that some cameras can take more than one photo per second, and figure out how to use 'sort by file name' as a secondary criteria. Maybe next version – but I digress.


The specific clock app I use probably doesn't matter, but it's The Clocks by Meanterm, and that's where these screen shots are from. Anything that shows seconds will be fine, and even a watch will do if all you need is to sync photos between different cameras. But I use my phone because its time is set by GPS, and sometimes that really matters.

I'll use a standalone GPS tracker when I'm out and about with the cameras or on a hike. Not only does the logger improve the navigation abilities of my phone and tablet without decimating their battery life, it also creates a GPX file that Lightroom (and many others) can use to geotag photos and place them on a map. Knowing the location of each photo is often neat and occasionally very useful, so I try to do it as often as possible. But the location correlation is only as accurate as the time stamp – a discrepancy of just a few minutes, which is a pretty minor drift from the clock in a camera, can mean a distance of a hundred metres or more. Effortlessly having one-second accuracy is absolutely worth the minimal effort this adjustment takes. 


So that's what I've learned this week – nothing profound, but one of those mundane things that can come in handy, so I wanted to share it just in case it can help someone else solve a problem.


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