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Photography

Quick Tip: Set the Date and Time in Your Camera

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

I recently attended a digital asset management workshop and was surprised to hear from the non-photographers (archivists, clients, designers) attending the workshop that their number one pet peeve is photographers who fail to correctly set their camera’s date and time. Their frustration is understandable: using date and time is a simple, universal strategy for organizing photos in any and all file management systems. Further, incorrect dates and times can send digital assets hurtling through a time warp, depositing the images in the filing equivalent of an unknown time in the past or future.

A clock with many faces and times
Endless Time, Peter Zayda/PhotoDune

We can be forgiven for not remembering to check our camera’s settings. So many of our devices auto-update the clocks as needed, but despite huge leaps in technology, cameras do not magically auto-update date and time. You must undertake that task with each of your cameras.

If you live in a location that uses Daylight Saving Time, use the time change in spring and fall as reminders to update your camera’s settings. If you don’t have Daylight Saving Time, use your birthday, New Year’s Day, the first day of school, or some other memorable event as a reminder to check your camera’s settings. Also check the settings when the camera has been sitting unused for some time.

How to Set the Date and Time

Every camera manufacturer has a different place in the camera’s menu for setting the date and time; however, you can be certain that you will find the settings somewhere in the camera’s menu. Look for a menu item labelled “date/time,” “setup,” “settings,” “tools,” or something similar. The menu item could also be represented by a tool, gear, or wrench. Better yet, save yourself some frustration and dig out your camera’s manual or look for it online! And don’t forget to confirm your settings once you’ve updated them. Look for “confirm,” “OK,” “record”, “save” or something similar.

Back of a camera showing the menu
Canon uses a wrench to identify the menu that contains date and time settings.
Back of a camera showing the menu
After setting the date and time, select OK or equivalent to confirm your settings.

Read Your Camera Manual

While you have your camera manual open, take an hour, put your feet up, and read through the manual. Many of us who are intuitively technically literate just dive in, digging through menu items and changing options. (I am guilty of that!) Or we only read about or learn what we absolutely must know to use our equipment. But reading a manual—all of it—can be one of the most effective ways to improve your photographic output. While a good camera will not compensate for mediocre photography skills, the best photographers will be limited by an inability to use their equipment properly and quickly.

Pages from a camera manual showing how to change the date and time

Check for Firmware Updates

Firmware is the operating system of a digital camera. All digital cameras have firmware. And just as you keep computer software current with updates, so should you update your camera’s firmware. Camera manufacturers typically don’t release firmware updates frequently, but it’s not uncommon to see one or two updates a year, especially for newer models. Again, use the reminder to update your camera’s settings as a reminder, as well, to check the status of your camera’s firmware.

Be Professional

If you are doing a paid shoot, it’s even more important that you have your camera set to the correct date and time and are able to use your camera properly and efficiently. If you have two cameras, synchronize them as closely as possible. It’s good practice to check your camera’s clock before starting any paid shoot. Reset your image counter, too. They are quick actions that speak volumes about your professionalism.

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