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.
EXIF data embeds a lot of this technical information into the image itself, 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:
Camera manufacturer and model. Data and time. Compression type. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Metering mode. Flash mode. Pixel resolution.
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 or iOS device, those photos can contain the GPS coordinates of where you took them. This can be great for geotagging your adventures, but can also give away the location of your home to strangers if you upload those shots to social media.
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), 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.
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.
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!
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.
The only downside, as far as we’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.
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.
You can try Exif Eraser for Android and EXIF Purge for both MacOSX and Windows.
Remove EXIF Data on MacOSX
Before you submit your images for their EXIF data to be removed, it is advised that you check to see if your images actually have that data. So how do you do that? Well, the Preview app on your Mac will help you you.
Right click on the image that you want to check the EXIF data for and select “Open With” followed by “Preview”. It will launch the image in the Preview app.
Click on “Tools” followed by “Show Inspector” in the Preview app. It will launch the information panel for your image.
Here is where you can see if your image has EXIF data embedded in it. If your image has that data, you should see it in the “EXIF” tab. Click on it, and it will expand with more details.
In case you do not see any data under the EXIF tab, then your image probably does not have any data embedded in it. You should see that the EXIF data contains almost all the information about the image.
We are going to use a free app called ImageOptim to get the task done. Besides removing EXIF data, the app offers other features as well, including the ability to compress your images so that they load faster on the Internet. To get started, download the ImageOptim app on your Mac.
When the app has been downloaded, double click on it to extract the actual app file. Then drag and drop that app file onto the Applications folder in the Finder. It should show up in your Launchpad.
Click on Launchpad in your dock, search for and click on ImageOptim, and it will launch.
When the app launches, you should see that there are almost no buttons or options on the main interface. Instead you just have a window where you can add your images to have their EXIF data removed. You can add multiple images into the app for faster EXIF data removal.
What you need to do now is open the folder where your images are located and drag and drop them onto the ImageOptim window. They should automatically be processed by the app. The removal process should be instant unless you are processing plenty of images simultaneously. Do note that your original images will be overwritten. So if you want to keep your original images with the EXIF data, please make a copy of those images before adding them into the app.
You can add as many images into the app as you want, and they will all be processed in one go. That saves you the time that you would otherwise spend removing data from individual images.
Once you are done stripping off the EXIF data, you may want to check if the data is really gone.
Right click on the image and select “Open With” followed by “Preview” to launch the image in the Preview app.
Click on “Tools” followed by “Show Inspector” to bring forth the image information panel.
You should see that there is no “EXIF” tab in the panel. It indicates that your image does not have EXIF data. That means the above method successfully removed the data from your image.
Unless it is really important, you should not share your images with the EXIF data embedded in them, as they expose a lot of information that you may not want to share with others.
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