Due to popular demand, we are starting our new series of articles on commercial wedding photography. Since I have been helping out my wife with her wedding business, being a second shooter during weddings and engagement sessions, I have been writing down some helpful tips, which I am planning to provide on Photography Life. These tips range from very basic things like preparing for the wedding day, to complex setups involving specific situations, like setting up flashes indoors. Our first wedding photography tip is about properly synchronizing time on cameras when working with second shooters and assistants. If you have been commercially photographing weddings, you might have already been frustrated to see photographs from multiple cameras get mixed up when you import them to an Aperture or Lightroom catalog. It is not pleasant to see ceremony images mixed with images from the dance floor and it is certainly not fun to try to go through hundreds, if not thousands of photos and sort through them one by one. Gladly, there are workarounds to situations where it had already happened, which I will share with you in this article. First things first, let’s talk about the proper way to synchronize time between multiple cameras.
How to Properly Synchronize Time Between Multiple Cameras
The easiest method that works every time for us and many others, is to have each person hold his/her camera, get into the camera menu and set specific time. On Nikon DSLRs, for example, time can be changed via “Setup Menu”->”Time Zone and Date” or “Setup Menu”->”World Time”->”Date and Time”. Once time is set to an exact hour, minute and second, everyone in the party must press the “OK” button at the same time. This will make sure that the timer starts at that exact time on every camera. If you use two cameras yourself, just set the time on each camera, then press the OK button simultaneously. The idea is to have the time set exactly the same, second to second, across all cameras, so that shots appear in proper order later. The set time does not have to match real time. As long as all cameras have the same clock time, your images will appear in correct order when post-processing them later.
Another method is to photograph a clock that displays hour, minute and second. You don’t have to do this on all cameras at once and time settings do not matter – just point each camera at the same clock and take a picture. Since you have an image of the actual time in every camera, you can then re-adjust the recorded time in images later.
The last method, which is slightly more cumbersome, is to shoot an image across all cameras at the same time at some point during the wedding. This could be during a lunch break or at the end of the wedding when you are packing your gear and getting ready to leave. Just point all cameras at the same subject, so that you know which frame you will use as a reference. Time differences between cameras then won’t matter, because you will be able to adjust the time later (read on to see how).
Adjusting Time in Lightroom
If you forgot to sync time between different cameras or used other methods to “sync” cameras, there is a relatively quick way to adjust time across many photos at once via software. Lightroom has a built-in functionality to adjust time, whether you shot in RAW or JPEG. If you do not use Lightroom, you can use other third party tools such as ACDSee Pro (my favorite image viewing software) and EXIF Date Changer to adjust / offset time. Many third party tools, however, won’t be able to adjust time in RAW files and require JPEG images instead, which is why I prefer to do it in Lightroom.
The first step is to identify the time offset for each camera that needs to be adjusted. Locate the image of the clock you photographed, or the subject that you used to sync different cameras. Look at the time shown in the photo and determine by how much you need to adjust all photographs. The clock method is easy, because you just look at the time on the clock and adjust the time to be exactly the same. For the subject sync method, you will have to use your camera as the reference for accurate time. If you forgot to sync, you will have to look for photos that appear to be shot at the same time. Perhaps it is the first kiss during the ceremony, or some other important event that all photographers shot at the same time. Then you use the time in your photos as a reference and calculate time differences between all other cameras. To locate recorded time on photographs, simply press “G” to get into the Library Mode, click on the image you want to view time for and locate the “Metadata” sub-module on the right panel. It will look like this:
For now though, we don’t need to worry about this. Before we start looking at time and thinking about adjusting it, we first need to filter images by camera type or camera serial number (if the camera model was the same) in Lightroom. If you do not already have the filter panels turned on, go to “View”->”Show Filter Bar” or press the “\” shortcut button. Once the panel is there, click the “Metadata” link and you will see something like this:
To filter images by a specific camera, simply click on the camera model and Lightroom will only show you images for that particular camera. But what if cameras were of the same make and model? In that case, you can filter out images by the camera’s serial number. Simply click the “Camera” link and select “Camera Serial Number” from the drop down list and it will show images sorted by serial numbers:
Now you can click on individual serial numbers to make Lightroom only display images from a specific camera.
The next step is to select all photographs that need to be adjusted. You can do that by going to “Edit”->”Select All” in the main menu or by pressing CTRL+A keyboard shortcut.
With all the images from this particular camera selected, you can then edit the time by going to “Metadata”->”Edit Capture Time”. A window will come up that looks like this:
As it says on the top: “Modify the capture time stored in the selected photos by entering the correct time adjustment for the photo displayed to the left. Other photos (but not videos) will be adjusted by the same amount of time”. This means that for the photo that is displayed on the left side of this window, the time will change to whatever time you specify under “Corrected Time”. However, all other images that you selected earlier will be adjusted differently, by looking at the time offset between the original and the corrected times. This is exactly what we want. If the photo that appears on the left is not your reference clock or subject sync photo, then close this window and left-click the reference window. With all the photos already selected, Lightroom will still let you pick the starting photo. Bring up the “Edit Capture Time” window again, make sure that the selection is set to “Adjust to a specified date and time”, then adjust the time under “Corrected Time”, as shown below:
Before you click the “Change All” button, which will kick off the time change process, make sure that the new date/time information is correct. Keep in mind that this process cannot be undone – it will permanently overwrite the date/time data stored in each image.
Once the date and time changes are written, you can go back to the filter bar in Lightroom and select “All”, so that Lightroom shows you all images. Now make sure that your view is sorted by capture time (“View”->”Sort”->”Capture Time”), then review the order of the images – they should appear correctly for the images that we have just adjusted.
Repeat the process for each camera that was used.
Adjusting Time in ACDSee Pro
If you are an ACDSee Pro user, you can perform a similar task to adjust the time. First, filter images by the camera’s model number using the “Organize” sub-module (“Organize”->”Auto Categories”->”Photo Properties”->”Camera Model”. Then select all applicable images and go to “Tools”->”Batch”->”Adjust Time Stamp…”. Under the “Date to Change” tab, select “EXIF date and time”, as shown below:
Click the “Next” button. Then select “Shift date and time by a specific number”, which will allow you to just specify the offset of all images. Select either “Shift Forward” or “Shift Backward” and then specify the difference in hours, minutes and seconds. Once done, click the “Adjust Time Stamp” button, as shown below:
ACDSee will then go through each file and modify the time by the specified offset.
Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any questions.