strip exif data

I have a large collection of photographs on my computer. And each Christmas the collection grows ever larger. I use digiKam to manage that collection, but as I have mentioned before, storing family photographs as a collection of jpeg files seems counter intuitive to me. Photographs should be on display, or at least stored in physical albums that family members can browse at will. At a push, even an old shoebox will do.

So when this Christmas I copied the latest batch of images from my camera to my PC, I did a quick count of the files I hold – it came to nearly 5,500. Ok, so many of these are very similar, and this is simply a reflection of the ease (and very marginal cost) of taking photographs today compared with the old 35mm days, but even so, that is a lot of images. Disappointingly few of these ever see the light of day because whilst both my wife and I can happily view them on-line, I don’t print enough of them to make worthwhile albums. Sure, actually /taking/ photographs is cheap these days, but printing them at home on the sort of inkjet printer most people possess is rather expensive. Which is where online print companies such as photopanda, snapfish, photobox or jessops come in.

Most of these companies will provide high quality prints in the most popular 6″ x 4″ size for around 5 pence each – so a batch of 40 Christmas pictures is not going to break the bank. But one nice innovation of the digital era is that you can get your photos pre-printed into hard back albums for very reasonable prices. Better yet, my wife pointed me to a “special offer” (70% off) being run by a site she has used in the past. That was such a bargain that I decided to go back over my entire collection and create a “year book” for each of the eleven years of digital images I currently hold.

However, I don’t much like the idea of posting a large batch of photographs to a site run by a commercial company, even when that company may have a much less cavalier approach to my privacy than does say, facebook. Once the photographs have been posted, they are outside my control and could end up anywhere. And of course I am not just concerned with the actual images, but the metadata that goes with those images. All electronic images created by modern cameras (or more usually these days, smartphones) contain EXIF data which at the minimum will give date and time information alongside the technical details about the shot (exposure, flash timing etc). In the case of nearly all smartphones, and increasingly with cameras themselves, the image will also contain geo-location details derived from the camera’s GPS system. I don’t take many images with my smartphone, and in any case, its GPS system is resolutely turned off, but my camera (a Panasonic TZ40) contains not just a GPS location system but a map display capability. Sometimes too much technology gets crammed into devices which don’t necessarily need them. As digicamhelp points out, many popular photo sharing sites such as Flickr or picasa helpfully allow viewers to examine EXIF data on-line. It is exactly this sort of capability which is so scarily exploited by ilektrojohn’s creepy tool.

So, before posting my deeply personal pictures of my cats to a commercial site I thought I would scrub the EXIF data. This is made easy with Phil Harvey’s excellent exiftool. This tool is platform independent so OSX and Windows users can take advantage of its capabilities – though of course it is much more flexible when used in conjunction with an OS which offers shell scripting.

Exiftool allows you to selectively edit, remove or replace any of the EXIF data stored in an image. But in my case I simply wanted to remove /all/ EXIF data. This is easy with the “-all= ” switch. Thus having chosen (and copied) the images I wanted to post to the commercial site it was a matter of a minute or two to recursively edit those files with find – thus:

find . -type f -iname ‘*.jpg’ -exec exiftool -all= {} \;

Highly recommended – particularly if you are in the habit of using photo sharing sites.

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    • MJ Ray on 2014/01/13 at 12:16 am

    How about mogrify -strip *.jpg ?

    • Mick on 2014/01/13 at 1:18 pm

    … part of the ImageMagick toolset.

    I hadn’t considered it, but yes, that works too. As the Perl hackers say, “there’s more than one way to do it.”

    One disadvantage of mogrify though is that it overwrites the original file whilst exiftool leaves you with a copy of the original (called, appropriately, filename.jpg.original).


    • Sonya W. Leon on 2014/01/19 at 7:50 am

    For instance, a photographer can compare various settings on images that they like or don’t like to improve their photos in the future or an amateur photographer can study what settings a pro is using to create some of the magnificent imagery that is on the Internet.

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