As mentioned in the title, sometimes the desktop or mobile application used to process/edit a photo, especially if it has been moved, copied, re-saved, etc.. would cause the very original date of the image, the date it has been shot the first time, to change or even disappear. One would then be stuck with a "fake" date that reflects the date on which the image has been processed or saved last time.

Now does the original date remain "engraved" there, somewhere, no matter how much editing/processing work an image has undergone? Is it encrypted, or embedded somewhere in the file metadata or the EXIF data? In this case, is there any tool/software that can retrieve that original date from where it still is?

I know.. too much interrogations. Any help in this matter is truly appreciated.

  • Note that the EXIF data is a type of metadata.
    – Hugo
    Sep 4, 2015 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


Photo metadata, such as EXIF metadata, is written into a RAW, TIFF, or JPEG file in a data section which sits alongside the image (pixel) data. Data can be added, edited, or removed without affecting the image data. In theory it's possible to embed data (usually a copyright watermark) inside the image data, but a professional photographer is unlikely to use this method in the master file because it does (subtly) alter the image and because the data degrades every time the image is retouched.

If your software truly is editing or deleting the creation date in your photo metadata then you're unlikely to find any way to recover it. But make sure you browse all of the metadata in your image file in case you're simply not using software which reads all of the data available. (The file access/creation date shown in your operating system is unlikely to be the EXIF image creation date.)

If you're comfortable with using the command line, try Exiv2 which is very powerful for viewing, copying and editing metadata. If you prefer a graphical user interface then find a photo viewer/editor which lets you see all of the metadata written into a photo file.

  • 1
    It's worth noting that the original creation date should not be altered by editing software in normal operation, but can easily be changed, so while this is useful for keeping dates straight in a regular workflow, it shouldn't be taken as strong evidence against fakery or anything like that.
    – mattdm
    Jul 10, 2016 at 16:00
  • Also the creation date merely shows the date the cameras time setting thought it was... It is not necessarily always set accurately, and it too could have been set to a fake date. It could not be considered absolute proof of anything.
    – WayneF
    Aug 9, 2018 at 18:34

There should be an EXIF tag DateTimeOriginal that should have the exposure date and time. It can be rewritten by other programs but I don't see the purpose of rewriting it.

Use EXIFTOOL or any other exif tool to retrieve the value.


You can take the photo using the infostain app, it gets the time from a server and then fixes it on your photo as an encoded serial number so you cannot forge it. You can lookup the serial number on their app or website and find out all sorts of information about the conditions of acquisition.

  • 1
    But someone can always remove the serial number.
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 2, 2018 at 14:58

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