Photo Dates and Terminology – An Introduction

A more detailed version of this article is available to those who sign up for a Free membership. It includes more in-depth explanations.

Different software and different systems use different photo date terminology. In this article, I will provide a little bit of information about photo dates, but I will focus on explaining the terminology that is commonly used, and that is commonly misunderstood.

If you’re a professional photo organizer or photo manager, it’s essential to understand photo dates. Unfortunately, most professional photo organizers have been exposed to misinformation about photo date metadata in courses, webinars, blog posts, and YouTube videos. A great deal of that misinformation is a result of misuse and misunderstanding of terminology like Capture date and Date Taken.

Before you read any further, it’s important to understand the terminology I use in this and all other Photo Organizing Stuff articles and videos. So, if you have not already done so, please visit the Definitions page of this website.

It’s also important that you do not believe everything you read—on this website or anywhere else. Please do your own research. At the end of this article, you will find links to online resources about photo date metadata.

System Date Metadata

System dates, also known as file dates, include Date Created and Date Modified. System date metadata fields are labeled the same way on both Mac and PC. 

Date Created (System)

The Date Created for a file (in this case an image file) is usually the same as the Snap Date as long as the photo stays where it is. But, as professional photo organizers and photo managers, we gather our clients’ digital files by copying, exporting, downloading, or syncing them. As a result, the Date Created of many photos will change and become irrelevant to our work. 

In Finder for Mac, there is no column intended to represent the Snap Date of photos, but there is a Date Created column. The term ‘Creation date’ is also used on Macs to represent the date the file was created.

Date Modified (System)

A file’s Date Modified will change when the file or photo is changed. Changes may include editing or resizing the photo, adding metadata like Keywords, or editing the Snap Date.

Photo Date Metadata

Photo date metadata fields display dates directly related to the photo, and do not change when files are copied or moved.

EXIF photo date metadata is added by the capture device – the camera or phone or whatever device was used. One EXIF field, EXIF ModifyDate, changes if the photo is edited, converted to another format, or other metadata is added or changed. 

XMP and IPTC photo date metadata are added by applications photos are imported to, opened by, or changed by. I do not fully understand all the reasons why XMP and IPTC dates are added or changed. One reason is that those changes often happen ‘behind the scenes’, and those changes vary from application to application. 

EXIF, XMP, and IPTC date metadata can be added or edited, but not by all applications.

The names of the U.I. fields that are intended to display a photo’s Snap Date vary by application. For Windows File Explorer and some PC applications it’s Date Taken. For most photo applications, it’s Capture Date. Mylio uses the terms Date Created and Date Shown.

Capture Date

Capture Date is an expression, not a metadata field. Capture Date is used in many applications as the name of the U.I. field that is intended to display a photo’s Snap Date.

Here are some examples of things I’ve heard or read in courses, webinars, blog posts, and YouTube videos for professional photo organizers, and presented by professional photo organizers:

  • Capture Date is the date the photo was taken.
  • Capture Date is the same as EXIF DateTimeOriginal.
  • There is a metadata field named Exif Capture Date.

None of those three statements are true, but many believe they are. As a result, many professional photo organizers do not realize how many Undated photos are in the collections they organize and therefore deliver collections that include mis-dated photos.

Are you prepared to start questioning what you’ve been taught? Want to learn the facts?

More details about Capture Date are included in the version of this article available to those who sign up for a Free membership.

Date Taken

Date Taken is a Windows property, not a metadata field. Date Taken is used in Windows File Explorer and some application for PC and is intended to represent a photo’s Snap Date.

Unfortunately, misinformation about Date Taken is common, and mirrors the misinformation about Capture Date:

  • Date Taken is the date the photo was taken.
  • Date Taken is the same as EXIF DateTimeOriginal.
  • There is a metadata field named Exif Date Taken.             

Not always. Not true. Not true.

Sign up for a Free membership to access a version of this article that includes more information about Date Taken.

Mylio: Date Created and Date Shown

Mylio will display a Date Created or Date Shown for every photo—even those without any Snap Date metadata.

I am puzzled by Mylio’s decision to use ‘Date Created’, as most people who work with photos think of Date Created as the System/File Date Created.


© Meg Macintyre, Photo Organizing Stuff