Synchronized shooting

April 30, 2010

Lightroom, Photo Tips

There are times when you may end up with two or more sets of images from a single event or photo shoot. Whether it be a DSLR and a point-and-shoot, your camera and a companion’s or two cameras on a BlackRapid DS-R. I will often shoot with two cameras at events when creating a variety of images in a minimum amount of time is of the essence. Not needing to constantly change lenses can be a great benefit in these situations. Otherwise, I may use a DSLR but also shoot images with a point-and-shoot, for example using the P&S to snap images of displays in a museum for reference. Here are a few tips to help you organize and efficiently manage the timestamps on multiple camera’s images.

Pre-synchronize the cameras
The most efficient manner of synchronizing multiple cameras would be to precisely synchronize them before an event or shooting expedition. Although your camera’s clock may drift over time, it will remain precise over the course of days or even weeks with minimal change. However, unless your camera supports setting the exact second, this method doesn’t always yield a precise synch. If you can do so, I like to synch the cameras to for maximum precision.

Photograph a clock with a second hand
Taking an image of a clock with a second hand, one with every camera at the event, allows you to synchronize the image sets exactly in Lightroom later. Make sure every camera takes an image of the same clock. Because of the great way the Lightroom handles time changes, it does not have to be done at the same time.

Sorting images
Use your standard ingest procedures in Lightroom to import the images into their respective folders. I personally keep cards from different shooters in different folders in the file structure, then use Lightroom Collections to combine all of the shots into a single view. Multiple cameras from the same shooter, i.e. if I use a DSLR and a point and shoot, go together in one folder.

Synchronize clock photos in Lightroom
We will deal first with the easier situation, where you were able to take photographs of a clock. Use filters to show all of the images from a single camera in your folder collection. Browse to the image of the clock, select it, and then Select All. After the entire set is selected, with the highlight on the clock photo, choose Metadata-Edit Capture Timeā€¦

Leave the radio button on Adjust to a specified date and time and change the Corrected Time to precisely match the time on the clock. Now click Change All and wait for the progress bar to complete. This process will change the time of the selected photo to the changed time and then change the time of every photo selected, the rest from that particular camera, by the exact same number of hours, minutes and seconds.

Change your folder or filter to another camera and repeat the process above for the next image. Once you have completed these steps for all of the cameras, the images will all exactly match date and timestamps. Make sure you have XMP metadata set to synchronize or that you save the metadata back to the files in order to save these steps back into the original files.

Synchronize other photos
Sometimes you will end up with a batch of unsynchronized photos from multiple sources for a single event or collection. You can still get these images synchronized, but it may take a bit more work. First, choose one camera to be the master time source. Ensure that if it needs to be adjusted, it is done so first. Now, you need to look through images from the secondary camera and find one taken at as close to the same time as possible to an image from the master camera. Once you find one, follow the process above to choose the image that is the same time and select all of the images of the secondary camera. Now change the date/time to match either exactly or by an offset that you will just have to estimate. Repeat this process if there are more cameras.

Congrats, you now have a set of time-synchronized photographs!


This post was written by:

- who has written 20 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Jeremy is a photographer who lives in Connecticut. Jeremy is an expert on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and his goal is to share a piece of our reality in a way that perhaps the viewer had not considered. You can follow Jeremy on twitter at

Contact the author

6 Responses to “Synchronized shooting”

  1. Bill Says:

    Thanks so much. This is exactly what I needed to learn today. Perfect timing.


  2. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Glad it was helpful, Bill! Good luck shooting or editing, whichever one you’re doing. :)


  3. Jeremy Joubert Says:

    Assuming you still have access to all the cameras, is there any reason you couldn’t do the clock trick after the shoot? You could even mail the clock to the other photographers involved, as long as it doesn’t travel too close to the speed of light, which is unlikely with most postal services/couriers!


  4. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Sure Jeremy, that would work just fine as long as the times haven’t been changed manually in the interim. And good point on not mailing it too fast… maybe stick with the post office, just in case.


  5. Damien Franco Says:

    I seriously didn’t know that I could do this in Lightroom.

    This will come in handy the next time I’m forced to shoot a wedding.


  6. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Excellent Damien, I’m glad it was helpful! I definitely end up using it all the time. Somehow it is very easy to forget to synch those cameras beforehand. I remember about one event in ten. :)


Leave a Reply