Time Zone Workflow


Today’s Question: When traveling through multiple time zones on a single trip and you are using several cameras, do you change the time for each camera to the identical times for each time zone, or do you use your home time in all cameras and don’t reset in each time zone.

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preference is to change every camera to local time based on my current location, so that the metadata will show the local time of capture in case I need to reference that information. For example, this is sometimes helpful in terms of determining how close to sunset a photo was captured.

More Detail: In my mind there are two approaches to setting the time zone on your camera that make sense. The first is my preferred approach, which is to try to make sure that my camera is always set to local time.

Admittedly, it isn’t all that often that I really need to know what time a photo was taken. However, from time to time I do find this information helpful. That might be due to a celestial event, such as sunrise. Other times it might help determine details about the photo, such as the time I was able to learn which satellite appeared as a streak of light in a photo I had captured of the Milky Way galaxy. Again, this type of information isn’t generally critical, but it can be helpful and interesting.

Plus, I just like knowing that the capture time for my photos is an accurate reflection of when the photo was actually captured. Of course, this too can be confusing, such as on the several occasions I’ve been photographing on consecutive days that involve crossing the International Date Line.

The second approach to time zones is to choose a single time zone to keep your camera set to permanently, without changing that time zone no matter where you travel. To me the most logical time zone choice would be Coordinated Universal Time (UTC, often referred to as Greenwich Mean Time or Zulu time). This is a standard time zone reference, so I feel it is a good choice. You could also keep your camera set permanently to your time zone at home.

My opinion is that having accurate capture time information in metadata is preferred. However, I also appreciate the convenience of having a single time zone used for metadata for all photos. But if you use a single time zone permanently, it can be a little tricky to determine the actual time of capture for a given photo should you want that information at a later date.