Check out this piece of ancient history I found in my office…
An old Kodak Photo CD. Chrome scans from 1995. Wow. When I inserted the CD, iPhoto automatically launched and offered to import. I quit it and launched Aperture, but guess what… Aperture doesn’t import these things. So if you have any laying around, import ‘em quick using iPhoto!
So I imported the lot into iPhoto, and chose Reveal in Finder to locate the originals, which surprisingly opened the iPhoto Library package to show me the files. Interesting. So I copied those out to import into Aperture.
As you probably know by now, my file naming convention contains the yyyy-mm-dd_hh-mm-ss of the image capture, but as it goes without saying, these photos don’t have valid date and time stamps. In fact the stamp they have is from the moment of import off the Photo CD. But that’s OK, I have a nice little workaround for changing the dates on photos and building it into the file name. It’s my double-import trick.
Double-import to correct date & time stamps
Here’s what you can do in a situation where you have images with known incorrect time stamps that you want to correct prior to import, so ultimately the file names can have accurate date info in them.
- Import the photos to Aperture as Referenced. Leave them in the original location, and don’t change the names. This import goes extremely quick since Aperture is just making a reference to the file, and not moving or copying it. In fact the fastest way to do this is to simply command-option drag the photos into an empty Project. This imports as referenced and leaves them where they are (same key-combo to drag-create an alias in the Finder).
- In Aperture, change the date and time using the Metadata > Adjust Date and Time… tool. This allows you to select an entire batch of photos, change one date and time stamp, and the rest fall into place. It’s very important here to select Also change master files.
- At this point, you can delete the files you just imported to Aperture, then re-import the same photos using your normal naming convention, which will grab the updated date and time stamp.
- Unless it doesn’t.
Photo CD and Scans don’t have EXIF data
The above works perfectly fine if you’re working with digital photos from a digital camera, because those files will have EXIF fields in them. However scans, and images from a Photo CD, and I’m sure photos from countless other sources, don’t have the EXIF field to begin with. And without an EXIF field, Aperture can’t update the master. You’ll see no error to the effect, but when you go to re-import, you would see that your date change wasn’t there.
Adding EXIF fields
There are tons of utilities out there to change EXIF data, but every one I tried simply threw back an error that it couldn’t change what didn’t exist — until I found ExifChanger [$9.99, Mac App Store]. ExifChanger not only updates EXIF fields, but will actually create them if they don’t already exist.
It’s not the prettiest app in the world, but it gets the job done. Here is the field you need to add, called Exif.DateTimeOriginal. It’s very important that the data be entered in the right format, of “yyyy:mm:dd hh:mm:ss”. One thing this app will not do is increment the time, so you either have to accept that every photo will have the exact same date and time stamp, or alter each file individually. If you can handle them all having the same time, then just select all of them, enable the right field, and type in your new time stamp.
Because modifying the original file is inherently dangerous, ExifChanger will automatically back up the images before making the change. Once you confirm all is good, you can click the Delete Backups button to clear them out automatically.
Once you’ve processed these, you can import them in to Aperture as normal (just once, no need to double-import), and you’ll have accurate file names!
Pretty nice to know that for those who are extremely data sensitive, you actually can get your older photos tagged properly.
What if you’ve already imported old photos?
If you’ve already imported your photos and want to do this retroactively, you can always add the EXIF data to your referenced masters using ExifChanger, then go Metadata > Update from Master to refresh it in Aperture. If you’re working managed, then relocate the masters temporarily to anywhere outside of the Library, make the EXIF change, update from master and then consolidate maters to bring them back in.