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How to View and Delete a Photo’s Metadata

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There’s tons of information floating around on the Internet. There’s the information we know: our documents, emails, and photos. But there’s also information about those documents, emails, and photos hidden within. Welcome to the matrix…

This information hidden within our documents and photos is called metadata, and it tracks when files are created, when they are modified, who creates them, and more. When it comes to photos, there is in-depth metadata that can tell which camera was used, the settings, and even the GPS location of where a photo was taken. Yikes! That can be a lot of personal info just randomly available to strangers on the internet not to mention that ex you have desperately trying to avoid. There are positives and negatives to photo metadata and ways to protect yourself. 

What is Photo Metadata? 

There are two main types of photo metadata. They are EXIF and IPTC. EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) is data embedded into images produced by digital cameras. There’s often a long list of settings that appear on LCD screens when you take a photo. This information, whether you utilize it or not, is captured and tied to your photo. It can follow your photo all over the internet.  That’s just one reason to make sure your date is set correctly on your camera.

EXIF information includes your camera’s make and model, the date, shutter speed, aperture, white balance and can capture the GPS coordinates if your camera is GPS enabled. It can even capture the device’s serial number. Talk about TMI! Be sure to look through your metadata when you upload a batch of photos to see how much information is being recorded. 

IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) is a format originally used by media entities to track photos and copyright information. IPTC includes a description for the image, keywords, and the photographer. It can also store information about the copyright and licensing information of a photo. 

What is Photo Metadata Used For? 

At first glance, it can seem like Big Brother is watching. It’s partly because they are. A lot of this information can put you at risk. But metadata, specifically, photo metadata can be very helpful for photographers. When taking photos, you can compare EXIF data in old photos to review the camera settings, aperture speeds, or flash settings to learn what worked or what you liked best. You can also use EXIF data from your favorite photographers to snag a few tips on which settings, speeds, and lenses they are using. This comparison can help you more intentionally experiment with your settings and ultimately take better photos. It can remove some of the guesswork with your settings so you can focus more on composition and lighting. 

IPTC information can help you with managing your copyrights, licensing, and getting your photos seen. If you ever want to sell or license your photos this is vital.  Also, by putting in descriptions and keywords you can more easily be located on photo websites and search engines. Be mindful when trying to edit copyright information on photos that you do not own. Editing this information is a criminal offense see §506 of US Copyright law.

The Problems with Photo Metadata 

The perils of photo metadata are they can tell criminals when you are not home. Posting vacation photos on social media can be like broadcasting to potential robbers you are not home. And if your old photos are geotagged they can use that lovely photo of your bedroom to plan their shopping trip through your personal possessions. 

This metadata means your photos can be traceable. If a risque photo gets leaked or a personal moment accidentally gets online this metadata can be used to find other photos you have taken. While, at its core, metadata is very helpful some elements of this information storage can potentially bite you in the flash. 

How to View a Photo’s Metadata on a Mac/in macOS

If you open a photo in Preview you can click on Tools. Then scroll to Show Inspector. From there click on the EXIF or IPTC tab to review that metadata. 

You can also view this by right-clicking on a photo and selecting Get Info then clicking More Info

How to View Photo Metadata on a PC/in Windows

It’s very easy to view photo metadata on a PC. Simply right-click the image and scroll down to Properties. From there, click on Details to see all the EXIF data. On Windows XP you would click the Summary tab then the Advanced button. 

Now you are all set to review your photo metadata and you know exactly why it’s there. It can help you become a better photographer, keep better records of your photos, and maybe even build a business licensing your pictures. 

How To Remove Photo Metadata

Currently, only Windows allows you to remove EXIF metadata. Right-click on the photo. Scroll to Properties then click Details. From there you can click on Remove Properties and Personal Information. From that screen, you can either remove the EXIF data or make a copy of the photo with no metadata. Note: Windows 10 will not remove all of the EXIF data. 

You can remove EXIF metadata with software like GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, or Lightroom. These programs will create a new file free from metadata. Simply, save the photo and ensure that you uncheck EXIF data. This will create a new file that has none of the metadata attached. 

Some photo-sharing sites will also scrub your metadata so this can be a pro or a con. Be sure to double check before uploading your photos. You want to make sure you know what information you’re sharing. 

Photo metadata, like much of the information we share on the Internet, can be used for good or for ill But it’s important to know how much information you are haphazardly sharing with strangers. A clear understanding of photo metadata can make you better at taking photos and protecting your privacy.

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