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Q&A: Why Do the Dates on My Photos Change?

I take pictures at car shows. When I edit my pictures months later, I often end up with a new date. I take so many pictures, I really want to track and group them by the date they were taken. How can I do this if the date changes every time I edit them?

--Ken Runyan, Willits, California

That's an unusual problem, Ken. You don't say what image editing program you use, but I assume it an older application, or at the very least a freeware or shareware program that doesn't play nicely with modern digital photography conventions.

Here's the deal: Digital photo files, including both JPEG and TIFF images, store a variety of nonvisual data such as exposure information, the date and time taken, and even the camera model used. All this is called "metadata" (English translation: "data about data") and it's accessible in the picture files for any photo software to read and write to. All modern software "respects" that data: It can display the information, but only changes it if you specifically attempt to do so. If the dates on your photos are changing to the date you're editing them, I assume your image editor isn't designed to respect your metadata and is changing it willy-nilly.

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