Even the most talented photographers in the world will tell you, your education as a photographer never ends.
That’s where EXIF data comes in. EXIF data is recorded every time a photo is taken, and it can provide you with valuable insight into the tools and settings the photographer used to capture that image. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive to answer the question of what is EXIF data, and show you how you can use it to improve your photography skills.
How to Understand and Use EXIF Data
Before digital photography, photogs were stuck painstakingly recording important hardware information with pen and paper if they were interested in keeping track of their camera settings and other data when shooting. Thankfully, digital cameras are now able to record all of this relevant data in one central location.
EXIF stands for exchangeable image file format data, which includes standard info about ISO speed, aperture, the make and model of the camera, shutter speed, exposure settings, when the photo was taken, aperture, camera model, copyright information, white balance, date and time, and much more. It’s an invaluable tool, often with password protection, that helps photographers understand the “why and how” behind a photograph.
Supported File Formats
It’s important to note that not every file format supports EXIF data. In fact, many do not. The two formats that fully support EXIF data are JPG and TIFF. Other popular formats, such as GIF or PNG, don’t offer EXIF support.
How to View EXIF Data
There are several ways you can view EXIF data, depending on the device or application you’re using to view the photo. Here’s how you can view EXIF data on each platform.
How to View EXIF Data in Firefox
Viewing EXIF data in Firefox is relatively easy with the help of a simple plug-in. Download the EXIF viewer add-on, and restart your browser once the download is complete.
To view EXIF data, right click on any photograph, and select “EXIF viewer” from the menu. Remember that this tool doesn’t work with thumbnail images; you’ll need to click through and bring up the full-size image to view the data. EXIF info will be available once you open the viewer.
How to View EXIF Data in Chrome
For viewing EXIF data in Chrome, the process is nearly identical. Download and install the “EXIF view” plug-in from the app store and restart your browser. Then, you can right click on any photo and view EXIF data from the dropdown menu, right at home in your browser.
How to View EXIF Data in OS and with a Photo Viewer
For viewing EXIF data from photos saved to your computer, or if you’d prefer not to download a browser extension, you can use the tools that are built into your operating system.
Viewing EXIF data in Windows is as easy as right-clicking a photo. Then, select “show properties” and navigate to the “details” tab, which will provide you with EXIF data.
For Mac devices, double-click the photo you’d like to view the data on, which will open it in Preview. Navigate to the “Tools” tab in the menu bar and choose “Show Inspector” from the dropdown menu.
A new window will pop up with more information on the photo. Select the EXIF tab from the menu, and you’ll be provided with all applicable EXIF data.
Viewing EXIF data in Linux is quite similar to viewing it on other operating systems. Right-click on the photo you’re hoping to inspect, and select “Properties” from the dropdown menu. From there, click the “Image” tab in the file explorer window, which will pull up the EXIF data.
How to View EXIF Data in Lightroom
To view EXIF data in Lightroom, open the Library module within the program. Next, navigate to the metadata panel, and select EXIF from the dropdown menu, which will bring up the data for you to view.
Other Tools for Viewing EXIF Data
Beyond these popular ways for viewing EXIF data, there are a few other handy ways you can access it.
Metadata Viewing Software
There are plenty of great software options available for viewing EXIF metadata, and many of them are free to use. FastStone Image Viewer and EXIF Data Viewer are both free options for Windows PC, and ExifPro is another reliable option, but it does cost $19.95 to register the product. Simple EXIF Viewer for Mac OS X is an excellent option for Apple users, and it’s free, too.
Online Metadata Viewers and Browser Plug-ins
If you need to view EXIF information, but you aren’t interested in downloading a standalone program to get the job done, there are plenty of plug-ins available for popular browsers.
Exif Viewer and Exif Viewer Pro are available on Firefox and Chrome, respectively, and they’re an ideal option if you’re looking for a browser plug-in.
If you’d prefer to use a website to see EXIF data, there are a few reliable options for that as well, including the sites below.
Preserving EXIF Data When Extracting in Lightroom
You can extract photos while preserving EXIF data using Lightroom or a similar post processing program.
First, select the photo you’re looking to export from Lightroom, and navigate to the File menu and select “Export.” Then, select the folder you’d like to export the photo to. Next, you’ll see a metadata field that allows you to choose what metadata the program will export with the photo.
Once you’ve selected what data you’d like to export, click the export button from the bottom of the window.
Editing EXIF Data
Making edits or corrections to EXIF data is easy to do from a Windows or Mac PC.
For Windows users, start by right clicking the photo you need to edit and click “Properties.” From there, select the “Details” tab, which will pull up all of the photo’s metadata. The metadata, which includes all the EXIF information, is contained in the six sections below. Keep in mind; you may not be able to edit every field you see, although you can edit most of them.
Editing or adding EXIF data is as simple as clicking next to the missing or inaccurate value and replacing it with the correct information.
Removing EXIF Data
While most EXIF data is innocuous, a bit of it (such as your GPS location information) is sensitive information you may prefer to remove from a photo. Some shrewd photographers would also prefer to limit the amount of information other photogs can get from their work. Below, we’ll cover how and why to remove EXIF data.
Why Remove It?
There are many good reasons why you may want to remove EXIF data from your photographs. Here are a few of the reasons why.
- To reduce the size of image files
- To remove sensitive personal information and location data
- To protect “trade secrets” such as the equipment or settings you’re using
What Data is Saved?
Beyond the EXIF data we discussed above, such as GPS information and data related to your digital camera and equipment, additional EXIF data is also stored if you use any post processing programs, such as Photoshop or Lightroom.
If you use photo editing software, additional data related to the edits you make will also be stored. Typically, this is a good thing, as it safeguards your edited photos if you ever lose your image catalog. But, this additional data balloons every time the photo is edited, resulting in massive file sizes that you’d be better off trimming down.
Completely Removing EXIF Data
EXIF data can easily be removed by within the Properties tab in Windows or the Show Inspector tab on Mac. Or, if you’ve used Lightroom, Photoshop, or similar software to edit your photos, you can entirely remove the EXIF data within one of these programs.
In Photoshop, navigate to the File menu, then select “export” and “save for web.” Make sure the metadata field is set to “none.”
The process in Lightroom is nearly identical. From the file menu, select “export,” then select “copyright only” from the metadata dropdown.
Selectively Removing EXIF Data
Many people would live to preserve important aspects of the data EXIF while eliminating the clutter, like XMP data and thumbnails. You can do this directly from Lightroom, but it’s a little tedious without the help of Exiftool.
Using Exiftool, you can easily selectively edit EXIF data on your photos.
Instructions for Windows OS
Make a folder called “ExifTool” in your root folder, and add the executable “ExifTool(-k).exe into that folder. Next, create a text file using notepad, and copy and paste the code below into the document.
“D:\ExifTool\exiftool(-k).exe” -overwrite_original ^
Save this file as EXIFremoval.bat to the same folder you have your executable in.
Next, return to Lightroom, and open up the export dialog box. Scroll to the bottom of the box and expand the section for “Post-Processing.” From the “After Export” dropdown, select “Open in Another Application” and then click the Browse button. Finally, select the EXIFremoval.bat file you’ve created, and click export.
Instructions for Mac OS
For Mac users, start by creating an executable shell script. Open TextEdit, and copy and paste the code below into your file. Save your file as EXIFremoval.sh on your desktop (or in another folder, if you prefer.)
/usr/local/bin/exiftool -overwrite_original \
Next, you need to make this script executable. You can do this by opening Terminal and paste in the command below.
sudo chmod +x /Users/YourName/Desktop/EXIFremoval.sh
From there, the process is identical to the Windows process. Open up the export dialog in Lightroom, and expand the “Post-Processing” section. Expand the “After Export” dropdown and select “Open in Another Application.” Click the browse button, and then select the EXIFremoval.sh script you’ve created. Finally, click Export, and your work is done.
Removing EXIF Data from a Batch of JPEG Images
If you have a batch of photos to remove EXIF data from, it’s easier to forgo Lightroom and use a command prompt instead.
Start by taking all of the photos you need to edit and placing them into a folder. If you prefer to keep the originals, copy the photos and put them into a folder. For the sake of this example, let’s say you placed the photos into a folder called “EXIFEdits” on the C:// drive.
Next, open a command prompt (in Windows) and type in the following code:
Or, if you use a Mac, open Terminal and type in the following code:
sh EXIFremoval.sh *.jpg
Finally, click “run,” and your data removal is complete.
Why EXIF Data is Important
Read on as we cover the importance of EXIF data in different scenarios.
Can EXIF Data be Helpful?
EXIF data is vital for several different reasons. First, it makes it much easier to organize your photos properly and provides you with more control over the parameters you can organize your photos with.
EXIF data can also be a handy tool for learning more about photographs and what kind of impact specific settings and adjustments have over a photo’s appearance.
Comparing EXIF Data Between Photos
EXIF data is also useful when comparing photos. Lens data will help reveal when it’s an excellent time to use the same focal length. Aperture data will help you understand field depth and the appearance of bokeh.
The more you compare the EXIF data on different photos, the better you’ll become at understanding your camera settings and the effect they have on your photography.
Example EXIF Data
Here’s an example of what EXIF data looks like.
Understanding and knowing how to use EXIF data is an essential tool that can help protect any sensitive data or proprietary information contained in your photos. For beginner photographers and anyone looking to hone their skills, EXIF data is an invaluable tool that can help take your shots to the next level.