Fix: Photos out of chronological order in albums for imports from camera and iPhone in MacOS

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If you’ve been travelling recently to a foreign country and have been taking photos both on your digital camera and iPhone, you might have seen how your photos are out of chronological order in albums. It’s a problem that’s been bugging me for months. Thankfully, I finally figured out what the problem was and how to fix it.

Why the Photos out of chronological order in albums problem happens

What’s happening is that MacOS Photos app compares the time AND time zone of the photos for the arrangement of photos in the album, not just the time itself. Thanks for being “too smart” on my behalf. ? You see, I’m one who would setup my camera to ensure that it’s set to the current (foreign) time zone where I’m taking my photos so that time shows up correctly. However, my camera does not record the local time zone itself onto the photos it captures. So if the photos are imported into Photos app when the MacOS is running at the current (foreign) time zone, then all should turn up fine because Photos would use the current time zone of MacOS and assumes it’s the same for the photos that are being imported.

However, my photo editing workflow involves processing it first on an app like Lightroom before I post the final set into Photos. As such, the photos are therefore then not yet “seen” by Photos at the time when the Mac is at the foreign time zone. To make this even more confusing, the order of the photos is fine in an app like Lightroom because it only considers the date and time of the photos.

Fixing the Photos out of chronological order in albums problem

The fix is actually really simple and thankfully one that you can resolve easily within the Photos app itself. The following is the exact steps I take to fix the problem.

1. Import the photos from your camera

Yes, import the photos from your camera first, then immediately add them into a new Album. This is so that you don’t get confused which are the ones that you need to readjust the time zone.

2. The Fix: Reset the timezone without changing to time

You probably already figured out by now that the fix involves adjusting the Date and Time of the photo. The idea is to change the time zone of the photos without changing the date and time of the photos itself. First, select all the photos in the album and then open up the Adjust Date and Time utility.


Use the Photos Adjust Date and Time utility

Once you’ve opened up the Adjust Date and Time utility, you’ll find that the photos has been imported with the current local time zone of your MacOS. If you’re like me, this would be your home where you edit the Photos. And don’t worry if this is a reflection of just one of the photos. Photos is smart enough  (thankfully for this) to know to take the adjustment value instead of the actual date and time of the edit here.


Photos imported and defaulted to the current timezone

Now, the first thing you would do is to change the time zone of the photos. In my case, this set of photos that I took was when I was having my vacation in Victoria, British Columbia. To do so, you can either click on the map area and then expand on the Closest City drop down to find the city you were at. Or, you can just click on the Closest City text itself and type and search for the city. However, when you select the correct city, click on the city instead of pressing enter on the keyboard as the that would immediately apply the change. At this point, you don’t yet want to apply the changes because Photos would also change the date and time accordingly.


New time zone changes the date and time as well.

So, the next step is pretty simple but it is the one that I myself have missed out since the user interface wasn’t intuitive enough. ? All you have to do now is to just copy the Original date and time of the photo into the Adjusted time field.


Ensure that the date and time is not adjusted

Once this is done, just click on Adjust and all the photos will now have a new Time Zone set correctly without a change in the date and time of the photos.

3. Finally, you can now import your iPhone photos

At this point, your camera’s photos are all good and you can now import the photos from your iPhone into Photos app. And once you do that, you should find that all is now good in your Photos album.

I hope you find this fix helpful as it has been for me and perhaps even consider buying me some coffee ☕️ (see footer of the page) as a tip. ?


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3 Responses

  1. nampaweb says:

    Hi Ken. Thank you for finding the cause and solution to this problem, and especially for sharing your solution so clearly. I had exactly this issue after my recent trip to the USA, where I took most photos with my Olympus camera, but also some with iPhones. After I returned home to Australia and imported photos from both kinds of cameras, they were out of order, of course. When I imported photos from each device, I had used keywords to identify the camera used for each photo, so it was easy to create a smart album to select the Olympus photos to correct their time zones. Thanks again for your efforts. Jeff Dickson

  2. Ken Ng says:

    You’re welcome! I’m just glad to help someone else who had the same problem as it’s the very reason why I continue to maintain my blog. 🙂

  3. Lynn Davis says:

    Finally — a solution! I traveled to Syracuse to Italy with an iPhone XS Max and a Nikon D7500. My problem was that my iPhone was set to the right to the right time zone and the correct time. I set my Nikon to the right time but I did NOT change the time zone to Italy! Thanks for the explaination!!

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