Be a photo detective – 4 tips for identifying WHEN a photo was taken

During a photo organising project we are constantly identifying and categorising images.  Often those images are grouped by year or decade.

Here are our top 4 things to look at as you are trying to identify WHEN a photo was taken.

FASHION:  Google or wikipedia can be your best friend.  If you find a very old image with a lady dressed in puffed sleeves or a bustle a quick google search will identify an approximate era for that photo.  Some of the more modern era fashion to be on the look out for are:

  • 20’s – Fringing and flapper dresses, think Gatsby
  • 30’s – Functional and military inspired in the war years
  • 40’s – Be on the look out for GLOVES, usually matching a lady’s outfit
  • 50’s – Floral and fun in the post war era
  • 60’s – Flower power, bohemian and mini skirts
  • 70’s – Hippies, flairs, and disco!! Think That Seventies Show
  • 80’s – Power suits and fluorescent colours.  The Material Girl!
  • 90’s – Minimalism, casual and grunge

20141103 fashion collage


Closely linked to fashion, are the people in the picture wearing short or long sleeves?  Coats and jackets or lighter clothing?  Are they at the beach? The snow?  Often facial expressions will give you an indication of the season enabling you to narrow it down a little.


Location, location, location!  Not only will the location tell you more about WHERE the photo was taken but it can also tell you about WHEN.  Look for car models and makes that are easily identified by an era.  Furniture and architecture in the background of a picture will help identify an era too.  Again google is your friend for a quick search.


Can be slightly more difficult to identify with a lot of similarity in style through the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s but a hairstyle coupled with a fashionable outfit will often see you right.  Can you correctly identify the era from the hairstyles pictured below?

20141103 hair collage 2

What other ways can you think of to help identify WHEN a photo was taken?

Have a magical day



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