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Did you know that most cameras embed hidden information, called metadata, into every photograph taken? And when you share those images, say by uploading them to a social network, that hidden information often stays embedded? And that people can view said information for almost no effort at all?

This metadata is called EXIF data (Exchangeable Image File Format) and is harmless in most cases, but can be used by malicious users to inconvenience you at best or harm you at worst.

What Is EXIF Data? And How Can It Be Bad?

Photography is a complex endeavor. Not only is it one of the most creative and life-improving activities 5 Creative Hobbies That Will Make You a Happier Person 5 Creative Hobbies That Will Make You a Happier Person Read More that you could pick up, but it’s also intensely technical: exposure, lighting, composition, posing, etc. This is why online photography courses are so popular How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com Lynda.com is great for online learning. Of the 546 photography courses available, here are some of the best ones for sharpening your skills in just a few hours. Read More — there’s just so much to learn that even a genius would need several decades to achieve mastery of it all.

EXIF data embeds a lot of this technical information into the image itself What EXIF Photo Data Is, How to Find It & How to Understand It What EXIF Photo Data Is, How to Find It & How to Understand It Read More , making it easy for you to see how a particular photograph was taken (great for studying, learning, and recreating). For example, EXIF data can include:

Sounds fine, right? On the whole, EXIF data is actually well-intentioned, innocent, and practical. The problem is that certain devices may embed certain types of data that can betray your personal privacy and security.

Consider a GPS-enabled, camera-equipped smartphone. When you take shots with your Android, those photos can contain the GPS coordinates of where you took them. This can be great for geotagging your adventures Geotagging Photos: What It Is & Why You Should Start Right Now Geotagging Photos: What It Is & Why You Should Start Right Now Geotagging is simple and there are many reasons why you may want to start doing it. Here's everything you need to know, including how to add and remove your own geotags. Read More , but can also give away the location of your home to strangers if you upload those shots to social media. (But don’t take this as a reason to stop using your smartphone as a camera 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More !)

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Consider a DSLR camera that you’ve been using for years. Not only can EXIF data include the manufacturer and model of your camera, but it can also include its serial number. If you ever share or upload an iffy or incriminating photo, it can be traced back to your camera. It could also be used (theoretically) to find other photos on the internet that you’ve taken with that camera.

Or maybe you just don’t want to give away your photo-taking tricks and secrets.

The NSA collects and analyzes EXIF data, too. It’s hardly a surprise now, but a few years ago, files were released that showed training materials from the NSA’s XKeyscore program and how it aimed to use EXIF data (among many other pieces of data) as part of intelligence collection.

Is it likely that EXIF data will come back and bite you in the rear? Probably not. But is the possibility always there? Yes. Unless you have an intentional reason to keep EXIF data, you should always remove it.

Here are three easy ways to do that. (Note that some websites, including Facebook and Flickr, remove metadata on upload. Be sure to check a website’s policy before uploading!)

1. Remove in Windows File Explorer

Windows actually has a built-in method for clearing EXIF data from images and it couldn’t be more straightforward to use. Simply open File Explorer (use Windows key + E as a shortcut 13 Nifty "Windows Key" Tricks You Should Know By Now 13 Nifty "Windows Key" Tricks You Should Know By Now The Windows Key can be used to do a lot of neat things. Here are the most useful shortcuts that you should already be using. Read More ), navigate to your image, right-click on it, select Properties, then go to the Details tab.

Windows 10 can detect two photography-related categories of EXIF data: “Camera” and “Advanced photo”. Camera data includes technical aspects like aperture, metering mode, and focal length. Advanced photo data includes serial number, white balance, EXIF version, etc.

At the bottom, as you can see in the screenshot above, you can click on Remove Properties and Personal Information to open the EXIF removal tool. The tool lets you either create a copy of the image with all metadata removed or pick and choose which properties to erase from the selected file.

exif-remove-windows-10

You can also select multiple images in File Explorer and use this process to remove metadata from all of them at once.

The only downside is that Windows 10 can’t (or won’t allow you to) remove every bit of EXIF data. I’m not sure why Microsoft kept this limitation in Windows 10, but either way, if you need to absolutely nuke EXIF data then you might be better off with one of the other two methods below.

2. Remove Using GIMP

GIMP is another easy and effective way to remove EXIF, especially if you already use GIMP on a regular basis. It may even be easier and more effective than the Windows method!

Simply launch GIMP, open your image, then go to File > Export As… to export the image. (Note: GIMP differentiates between “saving” and “exporting” — the former is for projects, the latter is for images.) Make sure you name the image with a JPG extension!

exif-remove-gimp-step-1

After clicking the Export button, you’ll be presented with a window where you can set export options. Expand the options by opening the Advanced Options panel, and uncheck Save EXIF data. Change the other options to your liking, then click Export to finish.

exif-remove-gimp-step-2

The only downside, as far as I’ve seen, is that batch removal is a nuisance with this method. You have to open all images and export them one by one, and even though it only takes about five seconds per, it can be quite a nuisance.

You could also do this using Photoshop instead of GIMP GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One is Right for You? GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One is Right for You? Photoshop is the most popular image editing app out there and GIMP is the best free alternative to it. Which should you use? Read More , but is it really worth buying Photoshop just to remove EXIF data? I don’t think so — but definitely consider it if you plan on getting serious with photography and doing a lot of post-production.

3. Remove Using a Mobile App

If you take most of your photos on your phone, then it may make more sense to use an EXIF-removing app instead so you don’t have to involve your computer in the shoot-edit-upload process.

Before you install a third-party app, first check your Camera app’s settings to see if you can disable EXIF data generation. Some camera apps may only let you disable location inclusion, while others may not allow you to disable EXIF at all.

exif-remove-mobile-apps

Still need an EXIF remover? You can try Exif Eraser for Android or Metapho for iOS. Both are free to download, but Metapho requires an in-app purchase to unlock the ability to remove metadata, edit date and location, and share safely to social networks.

DownloadExif Eraser for Android (Free)

DownloadMetapho for iOS (Free, Premium for metadata removal)

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

When you’re choosing an online photo hosting service Online Photo Albums: Where to Host Them for Free Online Photo Albums: Where to Host Them for Free Which online photo storage service is the best? Between free price tags, unlimited storage space, and photo security, which service is best for you? Read More , consider picking one that automatically scrubs EXIF data. Also make sure to check your social network settings, such as these photo privacy settings on Facebook Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About Read More . It’s just one aspect of how we’re all sharing too much data online Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information? Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information? Sharing has always been a prominent part of what the Internet is and how it functions. And with social networks exploding in popularity in the past several years, sharing is probably the one aspect we... Read More .

We also have plenty of resources for learning photography itself. Check out these must-know photography basics 3 Photography Basics for Better Pictures With No Filters 3 Photography Basics for Better Pictures With No Filters Instead of applying your favorite filter next time, why not trying applying these basic principles of photography? Read More along with these photography skill-building exercises 7 Skill-Building Photography Exercises That Really Work 7 Skill-Building Photography Exercises That Really Work There are lots of exercises that can help "develop your photographic eye". Here are the most effective ones that we've found. Read More . You may even want to look into making money with your photography 5 Most Lucrative Careers for a Budding Photographer 5 Most Lucrative Careers for a Budding Photographer Want to make money with photography? There are a lot of potential career paths before you. Here are a few considerations to help you make the right choice. Read More , such as by selling your shots on the web 12 Most Profitable Places to Sell Your Photos Online 12 Most Profitable Places to Sell Your Photos Online If you have photos that you want to sell, there are a number of websites that can help you. Here are 12 of the best. Read More .

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 below!

Originally written by Chris Hoffman on 10th September 2013.

  1. Charles L
    April 4, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    I tried a few, and the best I found was Exif Tag Remover. It removes Exif metadata but also many other data formats that manufacturers add to my photos.

  2. John Bescherer
    August 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Metability FileMind QuickFix is available on CNET. http://download.cnet.com/FileMind-QuickFix/3000-12511_4-75563232.html

  3. Guy
    December 31, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Metability QuickFix is not available any more. The free BatchPurifier Lite can be used instead to clean multiple photos.

  4. John Crumpton
    January 2, 2014 at 11:24 am

    THanks very helpful - had a hacked website which had base64 infection on the images hidden in the exif data.

  5. Dauphine
    November 18, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Thanks very much for writing this post. The program Metability QuickFix worked like a charm.

  6. Julian A
    September 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I use Exif Pilot (for Windows). The free version strips data from photos one at a time, which is good enough for me as I only use it occasionally. There's a paid version will do the job in batches.

  7. Blackdog
    September 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    oh dry ya eyes & google it for your solution some ppl just got to whinge n whine about something. ..

  8. dragonmouth
    September 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    What about a Linux tutorial? Linux users take pictures, too.

    • Silvio
      January 9, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      I totally agree with the record manager, but unfortunately some TV sets (e.g. Sony) will not display your image in some cases unless metadata are stripped, for some very, very stupid reason.

  9. Uri
    September 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Great tutorial, but I would love a OSX version :(

    • Braney
      September 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      No one uses OSX.

    • Susan
      September 13, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Press Command+i to open the file info.

      As a records manager and archivist in training I have only disappointment to lend to this conversation about erasing EXIF data. At least leave it on your originals - but not the ones you share online. We will enter an age of digital darkness before too long.

    • Silvio
      January 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I totally agree with the record manager, but unfortunately some TV sets (e.g. Sony) will not display your image in some cases unless metadata are stripped, for some very, very stupid reason.

    • <zz
      December 10, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      assshole

    • <zz
      December 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Erasing EXIF data: prevention is better than cure!

      Thanks for the thisk great tutorial :D

      Don't agree with silvio and susan, "We will enter an age of digital darkness before too long"? wut?

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