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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:

Read our in-depth look at EXIF data 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 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 How The Heck Did I Take That Photo?! Checking Picasa For Camera Settings How The Heck Did I Take That Photo?! Checking Picasa For Camera Settings One of the more hands-on ways to learn about the art and science of photography is by looking at photos and the data that comes with it. The data that comes embedded (usually) with every... Read More .  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.

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To view EXIF data in Windows, right-click a JPEG image file, select Properties, and click the Details pane.

exif-metadata-gps-coordinates

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.

open-photo-properties

Click over to the Details tab and click the Remove Properties and Personal Information link.

delete-exif-metadata-in-windows-explorer

You can have Windows create copies of the images with the personal data removed or remove specific EXIF tags.

windows-explorer-remove-exif-properties

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.

not-all-personal-properties-were-cleared

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.

easily-remove-exif-metadata

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 How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software Before downloading a free program, you should be sure it's trustworthy. Determining whether a download is safe is a basic skill, but one everyone needs -- particularly on Windows. Use these tips to ensure you... Read More .

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 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier "Does your phone have a camera on it?" said no one since 2005. Nobody even asks how many megapixels your phone's camera has anymore. With the ubiquity of smartphones today, and the resolution of the... Read More 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.

android-camera-app-disable-location

If you’re using a digital camera Got An Old Digital Camera? It Can Still Do Magical Things Got An Old Digital Camera? It Can Still Do Magical Things I have two ageing digital SLR cameras, my first originally purchased Nikon D50 from 2005 and a Canon EOS-5D which I came across second-hand a few years ago. Despite being an entry-level camera that's getting... Read More , 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

  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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