Did you know that your photos contain hidden information, including the GPS coordinates of the location they were taken at, the date and time, camera shutter setting details, and possibly even the name of the program you used to edit them? This type of metadata can be useful, but you may want to remove it from your photos before sharing them online.
Cameras — both standalone digital cameras and smartphone cameras — add this metadata to the photo when they create it. Software programs may also update the metadata later, noting what software was used to edit the photo. You can easily view this metadata and erase it.
Understanding and Viewing EXIF Metadata
When you take a photo with a digital camera or your smartphone, you don’t just get a JPEG image. The camera also saves other information in the image file. It does this by storing Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) metadata.
Here’s some of the metadata that may be stored along with your photo:
- The location (latitude and longitude coordinates) where the photo was taken, assuming you took the photo with a GPS-enabled device, such as a smartphone.
- Camera settings, such as ISO speed, shutter speed, focal length, aperture, white balance, lens type, and more.
- The camera’s make and model.
- The date and time the photo was taken.
- The name of the program you used to edit the photo.
Read our in-depth look at EXIF data for more information.
This adds up to a lot of information. It’s certainly useful for photographers, who can go back and see what camera settings they used when taking a photo. However, if you’re sharing your photos online, you may want to get rid of this data. For example, if you take a photo in your house and then post it online, people may be able to read the photo’s EXIF metadata and determine where you live. Or, you may be a photographer that doesn’t want to share your photo-taking tricks. You may just want to save some bandwidth on your website, as EXIF data can increase a photo’s file size somewhat.
To view EXIF data in Windows, right-click a JPEG image file, select Properties, and click the Details pane.
Erase EXIF Metadata With Windows Explorer
Windows includes a way to quickly wipe EXIF metadata from one or more image files at the same time. First, open Windows Explorer (File Explorer on Windows 8) and select all the image files you want to remove the metadata from. Right-click them and select Properties.
Click over to the Details tab and click the Remove Properties and Personal Information link.
You can have Windows create copies of the images with the personal data removed or remove specific EXIF tags.
However, Windows isn’t perfect. It can’t remove some EXIF tags and choked on the images we provided here. Some Googling indicated that Windows may have problems handling images with embedded GPS coordinates in their EXIF metadata. That’s a problem.
Use a Third-Party Tool
The tool built into Windows unfortunately just isn’t good enough for many purposes. For example, it can’t wipe out certain types of EXIF metadata and appears to fail on some images containing GPS metadata — exactly the thing most people would prefer to erase.
To actually remove EXIF metadata if Windows Explorer is choking on your photos, try using Metability QuickFix. It’s a small, free program that will wipe the GPS data from photos you provide. Just drag and drop the photos you want to scrub into the window and click the Quick Fix button.
You won’t see any metadata left over if you go into Windows Explorer’s Properties dialog again. By default, QuickFix saves a copy of your original file as well, but you can disable this option from its Settings tab.
This isn’t the only third-party metadata-removing tool — the Internet is full of tools for this purpose. Almost any of them should work for you. Just be sure to download a reputable one that isn’t full of adware.
Preemptively Remove EXIF Metadata
You may also want to make your camera stop creating EXIF metadata in the first place.
If you’re using a smartphone camera and don’t want your photos tagged with their GPS coordinates, simply open your Camera app and dig through its settings until you find the Location option. This will be in a different place on different smartphones. Even on Android phones alone, manufacturers heavily customize the Camera app from phone to phone.
On an iPhone, you’ll need to open the Location Services configuration pane and disable location access for the Camera app. Keep in mind that this will prevent you from seeing where you took your own photos in the future. You just won’t have the data available to you.
There’s generally not a way to prevent other EXIF metadata from being created by a smartphone camera.
If you’re using a digital camera, it’s possible that the camera itself will let you disable the creation of EXIF metadata in its settings. However, we’re not aware of any cameras that actually offer this feature.
If you want to disable anything other than location data, you’ll have to clear the data manually afterwards. Realistically, the GPS coordinates are the EXIF data most people would worry about and there’s generally a way to disable creation of GPS data.
Do you regularly remove your photo’s EXIF metadata? If so, do you use a tool we didn’t mention here? Leave a comment and share your favorite metadata scrubber!
Image Credit: Roberto Ventre on Flickr