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Think you can’t shoot like the photographers on 500px and National Geographic? Or master a complicated tool like Adobe Lightroom? Well, think again. There are many online photography sites and tools that can help you get there.

Pixel Peeper is a nice web app that lays bare the secrets behind great photos. It breaks down a shot into each individual edit applied using Adobe Lightroom.

Upload a JPEG and the site displays each adjustment made with Lightroom. To develop your own skills, you can study these edits and try to “reverse engineer” a photo with similar settings. It looks impressive. The trick is in the two simple technologies that do the heavy lifting.

The Secrets in a Photo’s Metadata

Pixel Peeper uses the hidden 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 Pretty much every digital camera available today records EXIF data within each image you take. The data is useful for improving your photography and can also be quite interesting, especially if you're a geek. Read More embedded in a JPEG photo to reveal details like the camera model, lens used, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, time of the shot, Flash use, location etc. Along with the EXIF data, the web program also extracts the metadata embedded by Lightroom in a separate file format called XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform).

Pixel Peeper picks both types of embedded metadata with the help of some JavaScript. The browser-side code does all the work, so your photos aren’t uploaded to any servers. The JavaScript first extracts the photo metadata, then posts it to the server.

Pixel Peeper

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As you can see, Pixel Peeper mimics Lightroom’s interface to display each setting. And it only works for files exported with Lightroom (not with Photoshop).

Of course, the program won’t work with photos that do not have any EXIF or XMP data (like Facebook and Instagram photos) or that have been stripped of it with another software.

Does It Make Photography Easier?

Not quite. As most of us know from experience, photography is all about your creative eye. Lightroom presets are the cosmetic surgeons on call. It is also about the process that trails it, and here Pixel Peeper lends a useful hand.

Is Pixel Peeper a good way to experiment with Adobe Lightroom?

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  1. Joseph Wright
    June 30, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Id assume most photogs strip this data before uploading to sites like 500px.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Joseph, as far as I know, 500px does not remove EXIF data. And many photographers don't too...because it makes the pics more searchable. Some photogs might remove location data, but I think wholesale removal is subjective.