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What Is EXIF Data – How to Find It, Use It or Remove It

Every time you capture a shot digitally, the image stores all sorts of data. The Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF data) contains everything about your image, including your address.
Creepy, right? Sometimes it’s useful. Other times – less so. So what is EXIF data? What does it do? And how do you find, edit and remove EXIF data if necessary?
An overhead shot of three small bowls containing nuts and dates - how top remove EXIF data

What Is EXIF Data?

Information surrounding an image is very helpful. The lenses used, the film type and speed, and even the camera itself offered all sorts of help to photographers.
When it came to printing the images, the photographers knew more about the situation and acted accordingly.
No information means no help. It was a painstaking process with a high margin of error. Nowadays, every digital camera collects this information alongside the image.
This stored data comprises of a range of settings. ISO speed, shutter speed, aperturewhite balance, camera model and make, date and time, lens type, focal length, file size, and much more. You may not need to know this information, but we are going to tell you why EXIF data is very useful.
a man sitting on a while, working on a laptop at evening - EXIF data

EXIF Data Supported Formats

EXIF is limited to two image formats. These are jpeg and TIFF. This isn’t a problem, as most people tend to shoot in JPEG. However, this doesn’t help us RAW photographers. Setting your camera to capture RAW files means you won’t be able to capture EXIF data.
Recently, camera manufacturers have created their own EXIF data equivalents, which do support RAW. When you later convert that image to a jpeg, that data will be converted to EXIF and stored alongside it.
Icons for RAW, jpeg and tiff file types - What is EXIF data?

How to View EXIF Data in Windows and iOS

You can view EXIF data via a multitude of ways. You can search for it in the properties of your image on your computer, or by using editing software.
For Windows users, locate your image.
screenshot of how to search for EXIF data in the properties of your image on your computer
Right-click on your image and go to properties.
screenshot of how to search for EXIF data in the properties of your image on your computer
Go to the ‘Details’ tab.
screenshot of how to search for EXIF data in the properties of your image on your computer
For Mac users, right-click on the picture, click “Get Info”, and expand the “More Info” section.
If you would prefer to check EXIF information in a photo editing software, we recommend checking EXIF data in Lightroom. Go to the ‘Library’ Module and locate the ‘Metadata’ tab on the right.
A screenshot of how to view EXIF data of a photo on Lightroom
You will see all the EXIF data information in that area.
A screenshot of viewing EXIF data of a photo on Lightroom
I prefer the Lightroom method as it makes more sense to me. It will also give you more information than the jpeg version on the desktop. Lightroom also makes it easy to change, edit and remove, which we will look at in greater depth.
My Metadata for this image looks like this.
A screenshot of metadata of a photo on Lightroom - what is EXIF data
You can see that most of the values are understandable and easy to read.

Other Ways to Find EXIF Data

If you don’t have access to Adobe Lightroom, but need to change your data, there are a number of ways you can do it. Lightroom comes at a cost, so it might not be a viable option for you. Also, the desktop method of EXIF data will not show you the full range of information.
ExifTool with the GUI plugin is simple, free to download, and shows more information than other EXIF data tools. Other good EXIF data tools are Opanda IExifIrfanView’s Metadata plugin, and KUSO Exif Viewer. These are all freeware options.
Other photographic editing software programs have built-in EXIF data management. These include PhotoshopPhotoshop ElementsLightroom, Bridge,  iPhoto, and GIMP. These can be quite expensive, whereas GIMP is free.
A screenshot of viewing the EXIF data of a photo on Photoshop
If you prefer to view your metadata online, use a site like Jeffrey’s Exif viewer. This gives plenty of information but can be a slow option. You have to wait for your photo to upload to the website. Longer if it’s a big file.
You can also view the EXIF data via web browser extensions and add-ons.
Firefox Add-ons – Exif Viewer and FxIF.
Chrome Extensions – EXIF Viewer and EXIF Reader.
Internet Explorer Add-ons – IExif.
 A screenshot of viewing the EXIF data of a photo

Why Is It Useful?

So EXIF data tells you all the necessary information. By looking at my information for a particular image, I know which combination of ISO, shutter speed, and f-number I used.
If I get home after photographing a sports event and realise my images are blurry, I can use this image metadata to help myself improve.
From taking many images over a period of 15+ years of digital photography, I have amassed a huge amount of them. This EXIF data will show me which camera I used for each shot.
I couldn’t begin to guess which camera I used for that portrait 10 years ago, so this data helps me.
Knowing the camera or lens used for a particular image allows me to change the image’s distortion or colour that may be specific to that make, model or brand.
Also, protecting your images is very important. Some photographers use watermarks to deter and stop others from using their image without correct identification or copyright information. These distract from the image and reduce their sharability.
A screenshot of 'watermarks for water' by getty images - EXIF data

EXIF Data Can Help You Solve Copyright Issues

Other photographers make sure their EXIF data includes all their necessary information. This allows photographers to prove the image is actually theirs.
Imagine this. A company finds an image online and uses it. There is no EXIF data, so the company doesn’t know who to attribute the image to. Let’s say you see the company using the image and decide to sue them.
Your details are not part of the image, so the company is in a stronger position. They can say they didn’t know who the image belonged to, making your prosecution and/or reimbursement difficult.
Now imagine your name, address, phone number and email is located in the EXIF data. The company cannot say they didn’t know who it belonged to, as the information is in front of their face.
You win, the crowd goes wild.
An important area here is that you can check the data on the images you find. If you locate an interesting landscape shot and want to know how they did it, the EXIF data will tell you.
It won’t let you know about filters and other gear, but it will get you most of the way.
I use stock photography sites, personally and professionally, for adding images into blog posts. Unsplash lets you see the data or ‘info’ behind most images.
This is helpful if I am looking for an image captured using a specific lens, camera or aperture, etc.
Screenshot of the EXIF data of a photo

How to Add, Edit and Remove EXIF Data

Adding, editing and removing EXIF data is all very easy. In Lightroom, you can add the necessary information, such as name and copyright details. You can copy these settings across all of your images, or even create a preset.
This preset can add the data to the images during the import stage, making it easy and ensuring the information is there.
You may ask, Why would you want to remove any of this data? Well, the location of a personal image may show where you live or work. This data can be seen by anyone who wishes to look.
Perhaps the images you send to competitions should include your address and phone number, but images shared on Facebook shouldn’t.
To add, edit or remove this data you have to go to one of the aforementioned EXIF data options. Lightroom is what I use. When I have located the data, a simple click will allow me to type away, or delete.
NB: There are many areas that can not be changed. Camera and lens type, make or model, for example, are uneditable.
A screenshot of a photo on flickr with the information underneath, the 'show exif data' section highlighted
And there you have it. You now know how to find, edit, and remove EXIF data.

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