Cameras and mobile devices typically embed extra information about a photo in the photo itself. This extra information is referred to as metadata. Metadata is most commonly added to your photos using the Exif format.

The most relevant Exif metadata pertaining to Google Photos is:

  • The date the photo was taken
  • GPS data (location) about where the photo was taken

If Exif metadata is included in a photo that you upload to Google Photos, there are some really useful benefits. For example:

  • Google Photos automatically organizes photos based on date and location
  • Google Photos automatically enables you to search your photo library based on date and location

Regardless of whether or not the metadata was embedded in your photo, you can manually add or edit date and location in Google Photos.

How Gather handles/preserves metadata

Dropbox and Flickr

Files are sent as-is, Gather does not alter the photo in any way.

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook and Instagram remove any Exif metadata from photos made available via their APIs. Gather will automatically add the following Exif metadata to save you some time.

  1. Date
  2. Location (if available)

Date
The date will be set as the date you posted the photo on Facebook or Instagram.  

  • If your photo has GPS metadata, we pass the timestamp as-is (UTC) and Google Photos shifts the timezone based on the GPS location automatically.
  • If your photo does not have GPS metadata, we detect your timezone in the browser and automatically convert the Facebook and Instagram timestamps that are in UTC to your timezone.

This approach won't always work as you'd like (for example, perhaps you've moved to a city in a different timezone since a photo was taken), but should work a lot better than just sending things over as UTC which will always be off unless you live in that timezone.

Location
For Facebook, location is only made available if you mentioned a place in your Facebook post.

For Instagram, location is made available if it was included in your original photo.

Summary
By explaining the value of the Exif metadata that's included with your photos, we hope it's clear why we put in the work to help you avoid manually setting the date and location for the photos that you copy from Facebook and Instagram to your Google Photos library. We do, however, understand that our approach is not perfect and we'll keep looking for ways to improve it.

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