Undated Photos Part 1: The Unseen Menace

Undated Photos are a menace! There have been Undated photos in every digital collection I have ever organized. If you have never identified and separated out Undated photos in your clients’ collections, you probably don’t realize how abundant they are.

Why are they a menace?

  • They are difficult to identify using applications commonly used by professional photo organizers.
  • They are difficult to separate out while preserving folder names that may include dates or date clues.
  • It is difficult to find dated versions of Undated photos with many duplicate removal applications.
  • If not found, they will be displayed by the Date Created or Date Modified in the client’s organized collection.

An expertly-organized digital collection should not include any Undated photos – unless they are marked as such and there are no corresponding duplicates with dates.

There are two applications that can identify and separate out Undated photos quite quickly. With those application, Undated photos can be moved with the folder structure intact, so no date information in folder names is lost.  Both applications are for PC only. One is Directory Opus 13 with an ExifTool plugin. I’m keeping the name of the other a secret for now. 

Before you read any further, it’s important to understand what I mean by ‘Undated’, ‘Snap Date’, and other terminology used in this and all other articles and videos. So, if you have not already done so, please visit the Definitions page of this website.

You Many Not See Them, But They’re There!

The hundreds of online discussions I have read about photo date problems have convinced me that most professional photo organizers do not realize how many Undated photos are in the digital collections they organize.

While you may spot some Undated photos by chance because they have a very different look or appear out of place, that’s likely just a small sampling.

If you carefully review your clients’ collections in search of Undated photos, you will certainly find more–but with most applications, that’s a very slow process. 

An upcoming article and video in this series will examine how Undated photos can be identified by their date metadata in applications including Lightroom Classic, Adobe Bridge, Mylio, and Directory Opus 13.

Statistics From My Project Archives

I have kept many of my client’s files for years, so I decided to use those files to compile some statistics about Undated photos. I keep all my clients’ files for six months. After six months, I may choose to keep some project files, and I usually keep APLs to use for testing. The client names shown in the screenshots are aliases.

The files I used for these statistics are from only eight projects, so they are not a fair representation of digital photo collections overall, but even so, I think you will be surprised at how many Undated photos were found!  

I used Directory Opus 13 to identify photos without Snap Date metadata by checking for date metadata in the fields shown below:

Undated Photos Metadata Fields

Undated Photos from Google Photos

These are the last three Google Photos libraries that I worked with. I have not kept any others. Google Takeout was used to download the files. I checked JPEG, JPG and HEIC files to find those that had no Snap Date metadata.

Google Photos displays a date for every photo, and it is not possible to check Snap Date metadata in Google Photos.

Undated Photos Chart Google Photos
Almost 13 percent on average! Are you surprised?

Undated Photos from Apple Photos Libraries

Each of my last eight digital organizing projects included at least one Apple Photos Library (APL) or iPhoto Library. I exported Unmodified Originals from those APLs and checked JPG, JPEG, and HEIC files to find those without Snap Date Metadata.

Within Apple Photos, there is no way to check Snap Date Metadata. A Capture Date is displayed for all photos—even those without Snap Date metadata.

That is just one reason I choose to export from Apple Photos Libraries when organizing digital collections.

Undated Photos Chart Apple Photos

Undated Photos Summary

I have all the files I gathered for the last three collections I organized. The chart below includes Apple Photos Libraries, Google Photos, and photos from all other Sources accounts and devices my clients had.  

Undated Photos Chart All Photos

Undated Photos Part 2: Coming Soon

Part 2 of this series will include and article and a video. Using screen recordings, I’ll demonstrate how Undated photos can be identified by their date metadata in applications including Lightroom Classic, Adobe Bridge, Mylio, and Directory Opus 13.

© Meg Macintyre, Photo Organizing Stuff