As we’ve already established, I love to take photos, and I have a strong bias toward digital. While I received my first digital camera (the aforementioned Game Boy Camera) on my birthday in 2000, it wasn’t until the following summer that I got my first “real” digicam, a Nikon Coolpix 775.
From there, the flood of digital photos began. Initially, I just dumped every photo into a single folder on my shiny, new, gonna‐help‐me‐do‐well‐in‐college‐this‐fall laptop, and let their sequential filenames (DSCN0001.JPG, 0002, etc.) do the “sorting.”
This worked for a while, until it became clear that having all of my photos in one folder was poor for both organization and performance, so I started organizing my photos using dated subfolders (e.g. photos/2001/2001 – 08‐12/). This was all the organization I did for my photos, and was also how I viewed them, up until I began using photo managing software (first Picasa on Windows, later F‐Spot under Ubuntu).
While these apps excel at taking photos and turning them into a well‐organized stream based on date taken, I noticed that a small handful of photos were out‐of‐place in the timeline.1
After spending some time puzzled by this, it occurred to me that:
- none of these photos had EXIF data
- all of these were taken in 2001
- all of these had been taken in “portrait” mode (when you turn the camera sideways), as opposed to “landscape”
In an example of clearly misguided, youthful indiscretion, I had manually rotated these photos — remember, cameras didn’t have orientation sensors back then — using Windows Picture & Fax Viewer (Windows ME/XP’s default), and it ate my photos’ EXIF data! From then on, I started using the camera’s built‐in rotate functionality.
But, ugh, I still had a bunch of old, messed up photos. Fortunately, I wasn’t totally in the dark about these photos’ chronology, as I knew the correct dates that these photos were taken, thanks to the surrounding sequential photos still having their EXIF data.
For the last few years, I let these few photos just be, annoyed that they would always show up in the wrong places. So today, I finally did something about this: I gave them new EXIF data using the best information I had at my disposal.
While I didn’t know the precise time taken, I did have dates for these photos, so I figured giving them EXIF with the right date and wrong time was better than no date at all. I accomplished this using a pair of Linux programs: jhead and touch. Here’s how:
First, I created an EXIF tag for a given photo using jhead:
$ jhead -mkexif DSCN1282.JPG
Then, I touched the file (in Unix‐y parlance, change the file’s “modified” timestamp) to midnight (00:00:00) on the appropriate date (e.g. August 12, 2001):
$ touch -t 200108120000.00 DSCN1228.JPG
Finally, I used jhead to change the file’s EXIF timestamp to the newly‐fixed modified date:
$ jhead -dsft DSCN1282.JPG
Having re‐added the problem images to my F‐Spot library, the photos now appear more‐or‐less in the place they should. They’re now good enough that I’ll never again have to see those photos mixed in with the wrong year!
- I know what you’re thinking: that there were times when I forgot to set the date on my camera. Nope. No way. I never forget to set the date on my camera, because making sure my photos have the correct date and time is something that I’m a bit obsessive about, and the first thing I do after charging my camera’s battery is always check the date. ↩