While viewing images on the Internet, you might have noticed that some websites provide valuable information related to those images. The information such as their exposure settings, camera brand, location, time, and etc. The mentioned information are known as “EXIF Data” that can be an important source of knowledge in figuring out how photographers capture images and what tools they use in the process. Now in this article we will talk about what EXIF data is and how to get rid of it from images. Sometimes you need to get rid of EXIF data as they can be used by some social media platforms like Instagram for spying on you.
What EXIF Data Is
Back in the early film days, photographers were forced to carry a pen and a notepad with them to record important information such as shutter speed, aperture and date. They would then use this information in the lab, going through one picture at a time, hoping that what they wrote actually corresponds to the right image. It was a very painful process, especially for newbies that wanted to understand what they did wrong when an image didn’t come out right. Nowadays, every modern digital camera has the capability to record this information, along with many other camera settings, right into photographs.
These settings can then be later used to organize photographs, perform searches and provide vital information to photographers about the way a particular photograph was captured. Such stored data is called “EXIF Data” and it is comprised of a range of settings such as ISO speed, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, camera model and make, date and time, lens type, focal length and much more. The word “EXIF” is based on the Exchangeable Image File Format standard.
Being able to read such data can be of great importance not only for beginners, but also for other photographers who want to find out what settings and tools were used to create a particular photograph. Unfortunately though, the only web-friendly (in terms of size) file format that can handle EXIF is JPEG, which means that you often cannot read the data from other image formats such as GIF and PNG. In addition, some photographers choose to strip EXIF data from their images to protect their work and their style, while others do it to save website traffic (yes, EXIF does add up to the size of the file). Those, who leave this data in their images either have no idea that they even have it, or they intentionally leave it like I do – for others to see and possibly learn.
While many photographers choose to retain it in their images, this information does not show up when looking at photos through web browsers, because it is not part of the actual image. Instead, EXIF data is embedded into the physical file and specific tools that are capable of reading this information must be used to view it. For example, some image viewers and post-processing tools like Lightroom are capable of viewing and extracting such information in order to properly organize images, while some operating systems are capable of reading this data to display relevant data.
How to View EXIF Data
1. View It in Firefox
If you are using the Firefox browser, get the Exif Viewer addon by clicking the “Add to Firefox” button. After the addon is installed and Firefox is restarted, you will be able to instantly view the EXIF data by just right-clicking on an image and selecting “Exif Viewer”.
One thing to keep in mind though – thumbnail images typically do not contain EXIF data. So, whenever you see a clickable thumbnail image, do not select “Exif Data”, but rather open the image fully, then use the tool on the full-sized image.
If you see an error that says “Unable to extract some or all of the Exif data”, it means that the JPEG file you are looking at contains no EXIF information.
2. View It in Chrome
If you prefer to use the Chrome browser, it also has a similar extension that is capable of viewing EXIF data. Download and install the “EXIF Quick View” by clicking “Add to Chrome”. Once installed, you will be able to right-click any image and select “Show EXIF data”, which brings up a pop-up. Actually, this tool provides quite a bit of useful information, including a histogram. All the common exposure, camera, date and other information is provided in the “EXIF” section of the extension.
3. View It with a Photo Viewer
If for whatever reason you do not want to install a browser addon, or perhaps you want to be able to view this data on existing images on your computer, you can also use a separate photo viewer application, or the built-in capabilities of your operating system. This method can be a bit slower than the above two for viewing images online, because you will need to first download images, then use the photo viewer or your OS to view the EXIF data. However, if images are already on your computer, a dedicated photo viewer application or your OS tools will probably be the best way to go.
Let’s first take a look at how you can use your operating system to view EXIF data. If you are using a Windows OS, simply right-clicking the image and clicking the “Details” tab will reveal some information.
However, keep in mind that this is pretty limited information – if you want more details, such as what lens was used when capturing the image, you might not be able to find such detail in this tab. To get that information, you will need to use a photo viewer. Now if you are wondering which photo viewer to use, there are way too many to list and it is all a matter of personal preference. ACDSee can be an excellent tool to view EXIF data.
Lastly, if you do not want to deal with any addons or software to install on your computer, you might want to check out online EXIF data viewers. Jeffrey’s Image Metadata Viewer, along with MetaPicz provide the ability to view EXIF data by uploading images to them first.
How to Remove It?
Let’s now talk about how you can either completely or partially remove EXIF Data from an image. There are multiple ways to remove EXIF data from JPEG files – you can either remove EXIF data completely, or you can choose what to keep, while deleting specifically what you want.
1. How to Completely Remove EXIF Data
The easiest way to remove EXIF and XMP Data from an image without involving third party software is to either do it in Photoshop or in Lightroom. In Photoshop, simply go to File >> Save for Web & Devices and make sure that “Metadata” is set to “None”:
Once you save the file, all EXIF and XMP Data will be gone!
You can achieve a similar result in Lightroom by selecting “Copyright Only” from the “Include” drop-down field under “Metadata” section, which will remove most of the EXIF data.
However, this only does what it says – it does not completely remove all the metadata. While things like your camera information, exposure settings and XMP data will be gone, your copyright information along with an embedded image thumbnail will be preserved. Unfortunately, Lightroom does not give an option to strip all the metadata from files, so you will need to use other tools to do it.
While there are some websites that allow one to upload images and strip metadata from them, I personally use Phil Harvey’s “ExifTool” to do the job, because it is fast and I can process many images at once. Download the executable file, then use the following command prompt:
exiftool -all= SourceFile.jpg
Obviously, replace SourceFile.jpg with the name of the JPEG file you want EXIF data deleted from. As a result, all metadata, including the image thumbnail will be stripped from the file. If you want to remove EXIF data from all images in the same folder, specify “*” (without quotes) instead of the file name and it will go through every image.
2. How to Selectively Remove EXIF Data
This part is for those like me, who like to keep important EXIF data in their images, but want to get rid of all other junk such as XMP Data and image thumbnails from their images. There are two ways to do this – from Lightroom directly, or from a command prompt. I personally like to do it directly from Lightroom, because it saves me a lot of time. If you already have a bunch of exported files, it might be easier to just run the tool from the command prompt.
First, download ExifTool, if you haven’t done it already. Create a folder called “ExifTool” on your root folder and put the executable “exiftool(-k).exe” into that folder. On my Windows 10 system, the full path to the executable file is “C:\ExifTool\exiftool(-k).exe”. You can save it elsewhere, if you want to – that’s totally your choice. Then, go ahead and create a text file in notepad and copy-paste the following into it:
“C:\ExifTool\exiftool(-k).exe” -overwrite_original ^
Now save the file as “RemoveJunkEXIF.bat” in the same folder where you saved the exiftool executable. You should now have two files in that folder. So, what does the above batch file do? It basically calls exiftool, removes all XMP Data, IPTC Keywords and image thumbnail from your file, while keeping the rest of the EXIF data intact. The option “-overwrite_original” makes the tool overwrite the file, rather than creating a separate file and renaming the original.
Once you save the file, go to Lightroom and open the export dialog box. On the very bottom of the page, expand “Post-Processing”, then select “Open in Other Application…” from the “After Export” drop-down. Then click on “Choose…” button, browse to “C:\ExifTool” folder and double click on RemoveJunkEXIF.bat file.
Now click “Export” and make sure that you are not getting any errors. If the export succeeded and you did not receive any errors, you are all set! Next time when you export your images, this setting will be preserved and your EXIF data will be correctly removed from your files!
If you have a bunch of image files that you need to remove EXIF data from, then I recommend executing exiftool directly from a command prompt. Just copy all your image files to the “C:\ExifTool” directory, then open up command prompt and do the following:
Obviously, if you are on a different platform or placed exiftool in a different folder, just change the folder path above and everything should work perfectly!