When was that photo taken? Memory isn’t perfect, and sometimes a photographer just wants that information stamped on the photograph so it’s impossible to forget. This article outlines some reasons why (and why not) to add a time-date stamp onto a photo, and then some free, easy ways to do so.
Why (or why not) add a time-date stamp?
The most obvious purpose of a time-date stamp is as a memory aid, a perfectly valid purpose. However, many photographers point out that this is also easily accessible via the EXIF data—that is, the digital documentation of not only when the picture was taken, but also the settings with which it was taken, including ISO, exposure and more. There are numerous programs out there for looking over EXIF programs without anything nearly as intrusive as a time-date stamp, including most popular digital editing software and viewing browsers.
Some photographers enjoy time-date stamps because they function as a watermark, a stamp that proves that they took this photo and that they’re the ones with the right to it. In the digital age, it is very easy to steal photos and claim them as your own on the Internet, and this is one way to prevent that. However, time-date stamps do not actually include your name as the photographer. If you are adding a time-date stamp for the specific purposes of a watermark, it might be better to create one with your name on it instead.
Other photographers find them incredibly distasteful, seeing them as intrusive, usually a ruining a perfectly beautiful photograph. If you don’t have a version of the photo saved without the time-date stamp, you will probably have difficulty fully removing it later, even with the aid of powerful digital image editing programs—a real problem if you want to print it out and frame it.
If you still know the problems and want to go ahead with adding a time-date stamp feature to your photograph, please continue on to page 2 of this article.
Before You Begin
Whatever your final option for adding a time-date stamp is, it is critical that the time and date information on your camera is correct. How time-date stamp functions work is by reading the EXIF data that accompanies each image, nothing more: if that information is incorrect, then the time-date stamp will be incorrect as well, entirely defeating the point of it.
Adding Time-Date Stamp Via Camera
Many cameras come with a time-date stamp function included. Usually they aren’t on the default mode of the camera—most photographers prefer not to have physical time-date stamps added to their photographs—but a little poking around in the user manual of the camera will likely yield the right menu. If you have lost or otherwise misplaced your user manual, try either calling the customer service line of your particular camera, or if you don’t like the long wait, look for the camera manual online, either at the manufacturer’s website or elsewhere.
This will probably be your easiest solution—and it’s completely free. However, most time-date functions on cameras are not very customizable, and not all cameras have the software on them. If for whatever reason this doesn’t satisfy you, there is another option—software.
Adding Time-Date Stamp Via Software
How most time-date software works is by reading off of the EXIF data of the image—the information that accompanies every photo. So, the function of these programs is incredibly simple. Many major digital editing programs have this function either built into them or available as add-ons, including free photo editing software such as GIMP, so check your favorite digital editing software for this feature first.
Of course, with access to the EXIF tag, you can always just craft your own custom time-date stamp for any photos you have to add in the digital editing software of your choice, which allows the ultimate in customization: whatever you please, font, size, location, color, etc. This also lets you pick and choose which pictures will be marred with the time-date stamp, and allow you to easily have two separate files without wasting a lot of space, the version with the time-date stamp and the original file without.
Most software that adds a time-date stamp costs money, which is obviously not free. Probably the best alternative is a neat little trick devised by a photography blogger for Windows computers: installing a program called Imagemagick and then doing some terminal commands to create customized time-date stamps on large numbers of images at once following this easy guide.
An interesting alternative to a physical stamping of the image is instead renaming the file with the time-date information. The free Stamp Software Utility v 2.6 is simple and easy to use, and will help you keep your photos sorted as well. Download and install here.
Another alternative is to follow this tutorial – no download required.