I have an old (2013 Macbook Air) Mac and a new-ish iPhone (13). I am attempting to upload photos from my Mac to iCloud so I can have a cloud-based backup and so I can download them onto my iPhone so all my photos are in one place.

In the Photos app on my Mac, the photos are all nicely in chronological order and with the dates/times correct (I think in this image the time on the camera was wrong but that's not a massive issue).

Photo on Mac

Now after having uploaded to iCloud and synced and downloaded to my iPhone the date/time is completely different (~9 months later).

Photo on iPhone

My question isn't about what this is (re. import date/photo taken date), but is there a way, on uploading to iCloud from my Mac, to enforce all pictures to take the 'taken date' and use that. I'm looking at uploading thousands of photos and changing them all manually will take far too long.

  • Are you sure you look at the same photo here? The Mac one is way bigger than the iPhone one, and properly named. Which date do you see if you look at the picture on iCloud.com? Do both dates have meaning or is one of them totally random?
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 24 at 9:28
  • They’re definitely the same photo, I suspect the size difference is to save space on the iPhone. On iCloud.com the date is Sep 21 as on the iPhone. And I don’t know what the significance of the Sep 21 date is. It could be when the file was imported, but I cannot say for certain (it also seems unlikely I would have imported the file 9 months later) Commented Apr 24 at 9:54
  • For a tiebreaker, what does the iCloud web app for photos show for the date on this photo? Making an album with three different images should let you know if all syncs are using the same offset unrelated to time zone settings or it’s specific to each image.
    – bmike
    Commented Apr 24 at 9:59
  • The iCloud web app also shows the Sep 21 date (same as on iPhone). I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean by the album part though, however this has happened to a large number of photos - not just this one Commented Apr 24 at 10:03
  • They show the same scenery, but they are not the same photo/JPG file. Even with "Optimize Storage" enabled, the metadata would show the same information on all devices. So whatever gets synced into iCloud is not the same as the original on the Mac. What happens if you export the picture on the Mac, give it a unique name, import it into Photos again and let it sync?
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 24 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


As clarified in the comments, you are seeing the result of dragging thumbnails (instead of the actual picture) directly from Photos on Mac into iCloud Photos. As your version of Photos/macOS is apparently too old to support iCloud Photo library syncing, there are alternatives:

  • If your version of Photos supports this: right-click on a photo in Photos, select "Reveal in Finder", wait for Finder to open the window and then drag&drop the picture into iCloud Photos.
  • Otherwise, right-click on the Photos library in ~/Pictures, select "Show Package Contents" and look for the photo in the appropriate sub-folder.
  • Firstly, thank you very much for all your help. So your first suggestion (opening the photo in full) does not work and I still have the smaller/wrongly-dated image in iCloud. I'm afraid I can't see "Reveal in Finder" as an option after right-clicking. And your third option does work, however it is still a bit frustrating, because 1: finding the image in the first place takes some time, and 2: the images I wanted to upload were in an album and manually choosing thousands of photos is still a large task (I admit I didn't share this information initally, though). Commented Apr 24 at 14:00
  • @DanielWard the reveal option could also be in one of the menus or only be available in the full view (has been a while, don‘t remember anymore). As for the bigger challenge, this might be a topic for a new question. But I fear that there won‘t be an easy solution. You could update to macOS 11 and upgrade Photos a bit at least to try.
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 24 at 14:09
  • Yes, that may be the case. File > Show Referenced File in Finder is greyed out for some reason. My current best option, I think, is to try exporting photos in batches and accepting that it's a bigger job than I hoped. Commented Apr 24 at 14:14
  • "Referenced File" only works if you choose to keep the photos outside of Photos, and just imported references.
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 24 at 14:18
  • @DanielWard You could also find somebody with a more modern Mac, load your library there and have iCloud sync it. Also, support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/icloud/mmb5dbaf376f/icloud mentions the macOS 13 requirement only for Shared Libraries, that's not what you are doing. Why don't create a local backup of your Photos library and then try to enable iCloud Photo Library on your Mac?
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 24 at 14:18

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