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How do I tell when a picture was taken?

clip_image002Stump the PC Club is a free tech-advice column written by members of the North Orange County Computer Club, which has been in existence since 1976. Visit the club’s site at

QUESTION: When I look at a picture on my PC in Windows 7 I see several dates. Can I tell when it was really taken?

PC CLUB:  When you open your Pictures folder in Windows 7 or My Pictures on XP, the way the pictures are displayed depends on your View settings. If your Menu Bar is not showing click Organize, Layout and select Menu bar. To see the dates that are associated with your pictures click View and select Details.

You will see a few column headings including Name, Date, Tags, etc. Right click to the right of these headings and select Date taken. It appears that the Date column and the Date taken columns are the same. Microsoft has not been too precise with these headings. For more confusion show the column titled Date created. The Date created may be the date that the file was added to your PC and I usually ignore this.

Windows XP works basically the same way but does not provide a column titled Date taken.

Let’s discuss how programs including Windows figure out when the picture was taken. The date taken is stored in all pictures taken with a digital camera and are easily retrieved. This date and a lot more data including the camera model and settings used for the particular picture are stored as well. Two great free programs can retrieve this data and they are as follows:

· XnView available at

· PhotoME available at

They work differently but both are excellent at what they do. Regardless of which program you use, you should look for a feature that displays the EXIF data. EXIF is an abbreviation for Exchangeable Image File Format and is well described on Wikipedia. Photoshop Elements provides this feature also when you click File, File Info. Instead of looking for EXIF data, select the tab titled Camera data.

Even if you are not looking for the date taken, you can review the camera settings for your photos and learn a little about how to take better pictures. This assumes you use other settings in addition to the fully automatic ones. Experiment with various ISO settings, flash settings etc.

Everything in this article assumes that your camera was set to the correct date and time or all bets are off. Cameras with a built in GPS will save the location of where the shot was taken allowing you to retrieve this data later since it is stored in the EXIF data. If you post photos on line that were taken with a GPS enabled camera, just be aware that this data becomes common knowledge.

Ed Schwartz is a member of the North Orange County Computer Club. To send in a question, go to and click the Contact Me menu. Archives of previous columns are also on the website.

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