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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Tip: Resolving out of place pictures in Photos

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


Recently, my mom took a trip to Europe with my aunt and uncles1, and of course that resulted in a lot of pictures. However, the company with which she did the week-long river cruise also provided its guests with a flash drive full of photos its tour guides had taken, which my mom wanted to interleave with her own pictures.

But when she imported those files into her Photos library, the pictures the tour guides had taken showed up out of order in Photos. So there would be three pictures of a cathedral, some pictures of the cruise boat, and then more pictures of the aforementioned cathedral.

Photos has pretty much one sorting mode for its main library screen: by date, with the oldest first. So you can’t really rearrange the photos manually. (The only way to do that is to create an album.) But it also narrowed down the suspects: I concluded that the time on the tour group’s photos must have been incorrect. I looked at the metadata for all the photos, but was perplexed, as their pictures of the cathedral reported being taken at the same time as my mom’s pictures. So what gives?

What gives, my friends, is timezones. My mom had been using her iPhone as the camera, and it’s smart enough to adjust timezones based on its location. So when those pictures were added to Photos, it reported them as taken at 12:55 p.m. Central European Time. But the tour group’s pictures were clearly taken with a non-smartphone camera, which doesn’t know anything about time zones. So while it reported the same 12:55 p.m. time, Photos interpreted it as the current timezone: Eastern Standard. Hence, a six-hour difference, which is why the photos the tour guide had taken were separated from the rest taken at the same place.

Adjust Date and Time

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to fix. In Photos, I selected the pictures that were out of order, and chose Adjust Date and Time from the Image menu. In the resulting dialogue box, I changed the timezone first, by typing in a city near where the pictures were taken. Photos attempted to be helpful by then shifting the hour based on the new time zone. (It will also helpfully note how much the time on the photos will change.) So in this particular case, that meant then I had to set the time back to the original 12 o’clock hour after I’d changed the timezone.

After getting that taken care of, I clicked Adjust and voilà: the photos were re-sorted to the appropriate time, and all was right with the world. If you’ve got pictures that seem persistently out of order in your Photos library, an errant timezone might be at the root of the problem.

  1. Her first to the continent! 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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