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Understanding Metadata in Photography (2023 Update)

Learn all about photo metadata, including different types, examples, and how to view it and remove it using different tools.

Metadata in photography is an invisible yet highly useful tool for professionals and hobbyists alike.

Photo metadata gives you valuable info about your photos that can help you sort them, organize them, and protect them from copyright issues.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what photo metadata is, how you can view it on your image files, and examples of how you can use it to improve your photography processes.

Let’s get started.

What is Metadata for a Photo?

Adobe photoshop cs6 - how to create a photo library in adobe photoshop c.

Metadata options in Adobe Lightroom.

The definition of metadata in photography relates to the concept of “data about data.” It refers to the bundle of additional details that accompany every photograph you capture.

This includes a range of technical data, such as the type of camera and lens used, and exposure settings like shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and focal length. If your camera has a GPS function, the metadata can also store geographical details.

In essence, the definition of photo metadata is a comprehensive summary of how, when, and sometimes where a photo was taken.

Despite being invisible on the image itself, metadata is highly valuable in digital photography, aiding in image organization, copyright protection, editing processes, and more.

Types of Metadata in Photography

Photographic metadata comes in various types, each containing different information sets about the photo. Here are some of the most common ones:

EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format)

EXIF is one of the most well-known types of image metadata.

When you take a photo, your camera automatically records specific technical details in the form of EXIF data.

This includes the camera model, lens type, exposure settings (like aperture and ISO), other camera settings like white balance, whether flash was used, and more.

If your camera has GPS capabilities, the photo’s geolocation might also be saved as part of the EXIF data.

IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)

IPTC metadata is mostly for news agencies, but it’s also useful for photographers wanting to include additional details about their images in their image files.

IPTC data can include copyright information, details about the photographer, caption, the creation date, location, and keywords for better organization and searching.

XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform)

Developed by Adobe, XMP metadata is a more recent and versatile type of image metadata. It includes similar information to IPTC data but can be extended with custom metadata fields.

It’s used in many Adobe apps, such as Photoshop and Lightroom, and allows for seamless data exchange between Adobe’s suite of products and other systems.

How to Get Metadata from a Photo

A screen shot of a photo editor on a mac.

Find out what camera model, lens, aperture and other settings photographer used with Pixel Peeper

Extracting metadata from a photo is pretty easy, and there’s a variety of tools and methods you can use to do it.

On Your Camera

Many digital cameras allow you to view basic metadata, such as exposure settings, right on the camera’s LCD screen. This can be useful when reviewing your photos in the field.

Using Computer Software

For more detailed metadata viewing, computer software is often the best route. Many photo editing programs, like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, have built-in metadata viewers.

When you open a photo in one of these programs, you can usually view its metadata by navigating to the program’s metadata panel.

Online Photo Metadata Viewers

For those who prefer a quick, installation-free method, online metadata viewers are a great choice.

Websites such as Metapicz and PixelPeeper provide user-friendly platforms where you can upload an image file and view its metadata.

Photo Metadata Viewer Apps

In addition to the above, there are dedicated photo metadata viewer apps available for smartphones and tablets. These apps allow you to view a photo’s metadata on the go, right from your mobile device.

How to Remove Metadata from a Photo

There might be times when you need to strip metadata from your photos, often for privacy reasons. Here’s a brief overview of how you can do this:

Online Tools

Websites such as EXIF Purge allow you to upload a photo and download a version with the metadata stripped. This can be a handy and quick solution.

Image Editing Software

Programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom also have capability to remove metadata. This is often achieved via a “Save As” or “Export” function where you select an option to exclude metadata.

Built-in Computer Functions

Depending on your operating system, you may also have built-in functions for removing metadata. For example, on Windows, you can right-click a photo, select Properties, and then remove desired metadata from the Details tab.

Remember, while removing metadata can help protect your privacy, it also erases potentially valuable information. Use these methods with care and always keep original copies when possible.

Metadata in Photography Examples

Let’s walk through some real-world examples of metadata in photography. This will illustrate how metadata works and how photographers use it to improve their work.

Example 1: Learning from EXIF Data

Imagine you’ve just seen an amazing photograph online, and you’re curious about how the photographer captured it.

You upload the image file to an online EXIF data viewer to quickly extract the image metadata.

The photo’s EXIF data reveals that it was taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, using a 50mm lens. The exposure settings were 1/200 sec, f/1.8 aperture, and an ISO of 100.

From this information, you can get a sense of the gear and camera settings needed to create a similar shot.

Example 2: Organizing Photos with IPTC Data

Consider a professional photographer who has just returned from a wildlife photography trip, with thousands of photos to sort.

Using the IPTC metadata, they can add keywords and descriptions to each photo – for example, “elephant”, “sunset”, and “Serengeti”.

Later, when they need to find all the sunset photos or all the pictures of elephants, they can easily do so by searching for these keywords.

Example 3: Ensuring Copyright with XMP Data

Suppose a photographer is preparing to share their work on a public platform. They want to ensure their photos are correctly attributed to them, even if someone else downloads and reuploads them.

By embedding their name, website, and copyright information into the XMP metadata of each photo, they can help ensure their work is always identifiable as theirs, providing an additional layer of copyright protection.

As you can see from these examples, the various types of image metadata in photography are very useful at enhancing both the organizational and creative aspects of a photographer’s work.

Photo Metadata FAQs

  • How do I use metadata in photos?

You can view, edit and add metadata to your photos for various purposes. It’s useful for learning the technical details behind a photo, improving your photography skills, organizing your photo library, and embedding copyright information.

  • What is an example of metadata for a photo?

An example of metadata for a photo could be the camera make and model, exposure settings (such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO), date and time of capture, and potentially the location if GPS data was recorded.

  • Do all digital photos have metadata?

Almost all digital photos have some form of metadata attached. However, the amount and type of image metadata can vary depending on the camera settings and the software used to edit or export the photo.

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Content Manager

As the Content Manager of Shotkit, India Mantle brings with her a lifelong love for photography that she developed during her childhood, watching her father document their family moments with his Nikon EM. In her free time, you find her enjoying the awe-inspiring natural beauty of her home, Northern Rivers, Australia.

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