How to remove EXIF Data

Now that I explained you what EXIF Data is and showed you how you can view EXIF on JPEG files, I will now show you how to remove EXIF Data completely or partially from JPEG files.

1) EXIF Data and XMP Data explained

There are multiple reasons why you might want to remove EXIF fully or partially from files:
a) You are posting an image to a low-bandwidth site and need to keep the file sizes to a minimum
b) You want to protect your work and photographic style
c) You want to remove unnecessary junk from JPEG files to keep the file smaller, yet need to retain important EXIF Data such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

I personally use the last reason to keep my files a little smaller and to make sure that unnecessary junk does not get written into my JPEG files.

Let me first explain what EXIF Data is written into a file. If you use Adobe products such as Photoshop or Lightroom for manipulating your images, EXIF Data typically consists of three parts: the normal EXIF Data that contains your camera settings, the XMP Data that contains post-processing steps you took before the image was exported and a thumbnail of the image. Here is a short excerpt from the above URL:

XMP also defines particular schemas for basic properties useful for recording the history of a resource as it passes through multiple processing steps, from being photographed, scanned, or authored as text, through photo editing steps (such as cropping or color adjustment), to assembly into a final image. XMP allows each software program or device along the way to add its own information to a digital resource, which can then be retained in the final digital file.

Is this good or bad? Having XMP in your original image files is definitely good, since it retains your settings. However, why would you want to keep all of it in exported images?

Let’s look at a sample image that contains XMP Data:

Remove EXIF Data

I opened an image using an ASCII text editor and look at what’s in that file – that’s in addition to the EXIF Data that is already stored in the file header. Scrolling down, I could see everything from White Balance to Saturation and Hue adjustments I used in Lightroom before exporting the image. Worst of all, the file even included ALL of the image history, including what I did in Photoshop and how many times the image was saved!

Take a look at the yellow area highlighted in this screenshot:

Remove EXIF Data2

I applied Tone Curve to my image and as you can see, the history is right there. Imagine how large your files can grow if you work on them multiple times! In addition, why would you want to preserve the thumbnail of an image that is being exported for the web?

2) Removing unnecessary EXIF and XMP Data

Let’s now talk about how you can either completely or partially remove both EXIF and XMP Data from an image. There are multiple ways to remove EXIF and XMP data from JPEG files – you can either remove EXIF data completely, or you can choose what to keep, while deleting specifically what you want.

2.1) How to remove EXIF Data from an image file completely

The easiest way to remove EXIF and XMP Data from an image without involving third party software is to either do it in Photoshop or in Lightroom. In Photoshop, simply go to File->Save for Web & Devices and make sure that “Metadata” is set to “None”:

Remove EXIF Data3

Once you save the file, all EXIF and XMP Data will be gone!

You can achieve a similar result in Lightroom by checking “Minimize Embedded Metadata” while exporting an image:

Remove EXIF Data4

However, this only does what it says – it minimizes EXIF metadata and does not completely remove it. Most of the EXIF Data such as Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and XMP Data will be gone, but some of it such as copyright info, your image dimensions and image thumbnail will be kept. I’m not sure why Adobe chose to do this, as I find this feature useless. It would have been much better if there was an option to completely remove metadata rather than to “minimize” it.

There is one more way to remove EXIF Data from files completely, but you would need to get Phil Harvey’s “ExifTool“. Download the executable file, then use the following command prompt:

exiftool -all= SourceFile.jpg

Obviously, replace SourceFile.jpg with the name of the JPEG file you want EXIF Data deleted from. All metadata, including the image thumbnail will be stripped from the file.

2.2) How to selectively delete EXIF Data from images

This part is for those like me, who like to keep important EXIF Data in their images, but want to get rid of all other junk such as XMP Data and image thumbnails from their images. There are two ways of doing this – from Lightroom directly, or from a command prompt. I personally like to do it directly from Lightroom, because it saves me a lot of time. If you already have a bunch of exported files, it might be easier to just run the tool from the command prompt.

First, download ExifTool, if you haven’t done it already. Create a folder called “ExifTool” inside “C:\Program Files (x86)” on 64 bit systems and “C:\Program Files” on 32 bit systems and put the executable “exiftool.exe” into that folder. On my 64 bit Windows 7 system, the full path to the executable file is “C:\Program Files (x86)\ExifTool\exiftool.exe”. You can save it elsewhere, if you want to – I just personally prefer to keep it in program files folder. Then, go ahead and create a text file in notepad and copy-paste the following into it:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\ExifTool\exiftool.exe" -overwrite_original ^
-XMP:All= ^
-IPTC:Keywords= ^
-ThumbnailImage= ^
%*

Now save the file as “RemoveJunkEXIF.bat” in the same folder where you saved the exiftool executable. You should now have two files in that folder. So, what does the above batch file do? It basically calls exiftool, removes all XMP Data, IPTC Keywords and image thumbnail from your file, while keeping the rest of the EXIF Data intact. The option “-overwrite_original” makes the tool overwrite the file, rather than creating a separate file and renaming the original.

Once you save the file, go to Lightroom and open the export dialog box. On the very bottom of the page, expand “Post-Processing”, then select “Open in Other Application…” from the “After Export” drop-down. Then click on “Choose…” button, browse to “C:Program Files (x86)ExifTool” folder and double click on RemoveJunkEXIF.bat file. The export screen should look like this:

Remove EXIF Data5

Now click “Export” and make sure that you are not getting any errors. If the export succeeded and you did not receive any errors, you are all set! Next time when you export your images, this setting will be preserved and your EXIF Data will be correctly removed from your files!

If you have a bunch of image files that you need to remove EXIF Data from, then I recommend executing exiftool directly from a command prompt. Just copy all your image files to the “C:Program Files (x86)ExifTool” directory, then open up command prompt and do the following:

cd "C:\Program Files (x86)\ExifTool"
RemoveJunkEXIF.bat *.jpg

Obviously, if you are on a different platform or placed exiftool in a different folder, just change the folder path above and everything should work perfectly!

P.S. One more thing. If you are wondering why I couldn’t just use Jeffrey Friedl’s “Metadata Wrangler“, then you should know that I actually did use it for a while. But his plugin continuously crashed my Lightroom after 10-15 exports and there was a time limit, which needed a paypal donation to fix. I wouldn’t mind making a contribution to his plugin, but I was getting tired of it crashing and needed a different, permanently working solution.

Please let me know how this worked out for you by leaving a comment below :)

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Paul
    March 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Nasim,

    I was hitting the same obstacles you mentioned while using the “wrangler” plugin. Thanks to your description and Phil’s EXIFTool everything is nice and cosy.

    Thanks,
    Paul

    • March 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

      Paul, you are most welcome! Thank you for stopping by and dropping a comment! :)

  2. 3
    ) Cynthia
    April 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I just wanted to say that your article was informative in ways you might not have intended! I found it because I was having trouble retaining my EXIF in JPEGs made from Photoshop files. But what I learned here is how to set up a preset in Lightroom for exporting my images as JPEGs in the size I want them. I’m a very new LR user and there’s no manual. And on dial-up, the online help just doesn’t load. I knew there had to be a way to export a JPEG that was larger than 640 pixels wide, but couldn’t figure out how until I saw your screen shots and realized that the export dialog box had a scroll bar! All I saw before that was the Export Locations, File Naming and File Settings options.

    I guess I am getting blinder as I get older, LOL! But once I realized there were more options I could scroll to, I was good.

    • April 17, 2010 at 2:48 am

      Cynthia, thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment. I’m glad that you found my article useful! Please let me know if you have any questions.

  3. 5
    ) duphi
    May 17, 2010 at 10:48 am

    there is another impotent reason you might want to remove EXIF – to protect your privacy when the photo is shared. If a camera with GPS was used, the Exif will include the coordinates of the location where the photo was take. This can expose your home address if the photo was taken there. The thumbnail in Exif can also cause embarrassment (See http://graphicssoft.about.com/b/2003/07/26/techtvs-cat-schwartz-exposed-is-photoshop-to-blame.htm ). in addition to the command line based “ExifTool”, there are free batch Exif removers with easy to use GUI such as “jStrip” and “BatchPurifier LITE”.

    • May 24, 2010 at 12:15 am

      Duphi, I agree – if a GPS unit is present in the camera, removing all EXIF or parts of it might be a good idea.

      Thank you for sharing the information about other EXIF utilities.

  4. 7
    ) Lilantha
    June 29, 2010 at 3:42 am

    Dear Nassim
    I entered some incorret charactors in front of my name on my nikkon d3000 comment option. Trash can button only hels to delete current position charactors. Please help me to delete these unwanted charattors.

    • June 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

      Lilantha, how about using the round dial to move the characters to the left? You can use the trash button afterwards.

      • 9
        ) Lilantha
        July 1, 2010 at 4:00 am

        Dear Nasim,
        Thank you very much for your kind advice. According to that I done it correctly.
        By the way what is the meaning of using that option which, that comment entered by me is not visible in the pictures. I want to know, inserting comment and copyright mark can be done only by using PC? I am new to photography!
        I apologize for type you name incorrectly in previous mail.

        • July 3, 2010 at 11:23 pm

          Lilantha, the comment/copyright information you are putting on the camera will be automatically embedded to every picture. It does not mean that the image will be watermarked with your copyright info though – all it does is add some extra data to each image, so when you publish it on the web, it will contain the copyright data in the image header, also known as “EXIF“.

          Inserting a copyright watermark can only be done using an image-manipulation tool like Adobe Photoshop, you will not be able to do it on the camera.

  5. 11
    ) Lilantha
    July 6, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Dear Nasim
    Thank you very much for every thing! I read some articles of you and hope read everything. Those are very helpful. And I managed to put a comment and read EXIF data by using third party tool name “photoscan”.
    By the way Nasim, I live in Sri Lanka and If you happens to visit this Inland I would like give my fullest support for you.

    • July 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Lilantha, you are most welcome and thank you for the invite, I truly appreciate it :)

  6. 13
    ) Lilantha
    July 27, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Dear Nasim
    I sent a mail to you which was not permitted here( It says my mail is a spam). If you received it please give me some comments after checking those photoes.

    • July 29, 2010 at 3:18 am

      Lilantha, I have not had a chance to read my email yet. I will try to respond as soon as I can.

  7. 15
    ) Syd
    November 9, 2010 at 3:32 am

    Sure.. help all the thieving bastard plagiarists out there

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Syd, there is nothing wrong with removing unnecessary EXIF data from photos. Why waste Internet space with thumbnails of images and Lightroom settings in your images?

  8. 17
    ) John
    May 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Sorry Nasim, It was a lot of talking but as usual nothing actual. So it worked zero. The point is one needs to remove the name of the owner in a file which is his computer name and apparently he does not want to send a file with this data. Neither Photoshop nor any your mentioned software can solve the problem. On the other side I do not see the reason to remove anything else from the file. Sorry but all you have written was waste of time.

    • May 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      John, what do you mean by “needs to remove the name of the owner”? Owner of what, where?

      The above instructions are for removing EXIF data from files.

      • 45
        ) Tim
        December 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        I too have this issue. In Windows, if you go to check the file’s “owner” and “computer”, that data is still present, even after using the Photoshop method of removing metadata.

        • 48
          ) Al
          July 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

          owner and computer are both the file system properties, not embedded data

  9. May 20, 2011 at 5:35 am

    I really appreciate the time and effort you put into writing your how-to articles, I just can’t image why I would want to remove all my EXIF data from an image, especially if it gets shared across the internet. I attached copyright information, website, and all that as a way to show ownership of the image when it is shared or used somewhere else, and also just a way to promote my photography. I understand people have privacy issues, especially with GPS location information attached to images, I’ve just always been trying to preserve that data not delete it

    Great article. Thanks for the info, even if I didn’t use it exactly the way you put it out there. :)

    • 49
      ) Al
      July 4, 2013 at 9:07 am

      what’s about copyrights if you completely selling your photo to another party ?

  10. 20
    ) Adi
    June 3, 2011 at 9:51 am

    The ExifTool command from Section 2.1 was very useful, I didn’t want to download the heavy & commecial software like Photoshop to remove that data.

  11. June 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Nasim,

    ExifTool is a great and powerful tool for anyone who wants to use the command line. My small little software company in Philadelphia just released a nifty little freeware that does it faster, via drag and drop and with a single click. The application is for Windows and is called FileMind QuickFix. It removes GPS location data as well as any other personal information (Iptc, XMP, Exif) from photos (JPG only at this time), with a single mouse click. A detailed description, youtube video and download link can be found here: http://www.metabilitysoftware.com/products/filemind-quickfix.html

    • 35
      ) Michael Dixon-Brooks
      May 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Hans, works great, is it possible to keep some of the stuff like lens, exposure, shutter speed etc.?

  12. 22
    ) Bill Daly
    July 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Nasim, you are the only one who had the correct answer for my problems with metadata saved in the images! You rock! Great work sir!

  13. 23
    ) Karen
    July 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

    The information and directions provided were precisely perfect. Thanks again.

  14. 24
    ) Em
    August 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Good Day Nasim!

    Could you please share with me the name of the ASCII text editor that you have used above? I tried using notepad but that was chaotic.

    I would greatly appreciate knowing this! Your article is insightful.

    -Em

    • August 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      Em, it is not a text editor – it is a file manager called “Far Manager“. I am very used to it since DOS Norton Commander days :)

      • 29
        ) Em
        October 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm

        Thank you for informing me Nasim! I am awfully sorry for the delay – I’d not been informed of a reply. Realized it after returning to your page! Have a phenomenal life! :)

        -Em

  15. 26
    ) Saeed
    August 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Very Very Very

    Thanks

  16. 27
    ) jose
    August 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Nasim
    Thanks for your article.
    Another point that makes your article VERY VERY important. When you syncronizes a Win folder with IPAD, IPhoto orders the photos by the EXIF creation date, instead of Windows file name OR Windows file creation date. That make photos on IPhoto a liitle mess. So, if I delete EXIF data, Sync/Iphoto uses Windows creation date to order the photos. I Iam doing a small programs that:
    1- delete exifs using your instructions for EXIFTools
    2- re-dates Windows files creation+modification dates so that they becom in sync with file names.
    item 2 above is ready and working, I’m now working into include EXFtools to it.

  17. September 1, 2011 at 5:41 am

    We also developed an utility for removing EXIF, ExifCleaner. It is a paid application, but it is quite accurate in dealing with various metadata types, has a nice graphical interface for those who dislike command lines. It is integrated with the Windows Explorer shell and lets to preview EXIF fields before actual deletion.

  18. 30
    ) David
    January 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve read alot about how to take care of EXIF info on PC’s but what about for the mac user? Any drag and drop solutions for us???
    Thanks

  19. 31
    ) Ethan
    April 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Hi,

    I’ve tried exiftool 8.86 and it only works when using it on command prompt.
    When I use it on lightroom 4′s post-processing option it did not work.
    But, it will work on lightroom 3.6′s post-processing option.

    Did you found the same problem too with Lightroom 4.0?
    Thank you.

  20. 32
    ) JustTheUsual
    April 13, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Once the EXIF data is completely removed is there a way to get it back? Was just wondering…

  21. 33
    ) Matt
    April 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Same experience as Ethan, #31, except that it would not work on 3.6 either. This is on a Mac.

    It won’t associate with a file that’s not an application, or so it seems.

  22. 34
    ) OACNVS method
    April 27, 2012 at 4:58 am

    There is an easier way to remove the EXIF data using any image software (e.g. MS Paint will do it). I will call it the OACNVS method:
    Open the image (Ctrl-O)
    select all (Ctrl-A)
    copy (Ctrl-C)
    Open a new blank image (Ctrl-N)
    Paste (Ctrl-V)
    Save the new image (Ctrl-S)
    With this procedure, only the image content is copied, not the EXIF data. For a small low-res photograph I had, the jpeg file size changed from 22 kb to 12 kb.

    • 38
      ) Iustin
      July 7, 2012 at 6:55 am

      However, this is bad method, since it will re-compress the JPEG data, leading to quality loss. The exiftool method (or any other method which only modifies the EXIF metadata) will not alter the actual image contents.

  23. 36
    ) Eaton
    May 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Nasim,

    Do you know of a way to copy metadata from one JPEG to another? When I edit my pictures I sometimes mix and mask as a layer in photoshop with other layers from files that do not have any metadata. When I merge these files into the final product all my metadata (camera model, lens, settings, focal length, GPS location) are all missing. I would like to just take the metadata from my original picture and paste it into my processed picture but I can’t seem to find a way to do it. Do you know of a way?

    • 39
      ) Carl
      July 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Nasim,
      I have the same problem I want to keep the data in my picture and not remove it when I do process the file, Is there a way to stop or protect the data in your photo files so you don’t loose the data.
      Thanks:

      • 43
        ) Jan
        November 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

        exifer.exe is freeware and allows you to copy the metadata from the original jpeg into the modified one with the command ctr I. By the way all measures to remove metadat a in my opinion don’t remove all. If I use jpegsnoop.exe I alwys find the remark that the picture was modified in e.g. Photoshop Saved as …

    • 44
      ) Jan
      November 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      exifer.exe is freeware and allows you to copy the metadata from the original jpeg into the modified one with the command Ctr I. By the way, all measures to remove metadata in my opinion don’t remove all. If I use jpegsnoop.exe I alwys find the remark that the picture was modified in e.g. Photoshop Saved as …

      • 52
        ) Jan
        September 10, 2013 at 6:01 am

        modification in e.g photoshop (what jepsnoop may find) is not exif data. If you save the modified picture with anothor editor the message of photoshop has disappeared.

  24. 37
    ) MKW
    May 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Nasim,
    Thank you very much for your Tool.
    I run the tool and found a bug: for long file path, it doesn’t work or outcome lower success. please resolve this bug.

  25. 40
    ) sp3k3
    August 4, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Thank you for this tut! But, does making a screenshot&saving it in paint or uploading it straight to a website with tools such as Puush also delete the exif data?

    I know that that doesnt work for people that want to keep the quality of their pictures high though, just curious ;)

  26. August 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Phil: many thanks for that. One of my people asked me that question, so it was a delight to find such a concise answer.
    Warm Greetings from New Zealand. Call by if you are passing….

  27. 42
    ) vogelmann
    September 17, 2012 at 12:23 am

    I use the faststonephotoresizer… –> untick keep exif data and use “overwrite”…

    works fast and nice

  28. 46
    ) Eli
    March 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Hi, I have adobe fotoshop 7.0 , file tab has “Save for Web” and don’t has “Save for Web & Devices” & it’s option hasn’t “Metadata” tab. how can I delete all exif data?

  29. 47
    ) Hans
    April 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Quote:
    I’m not sure why Adobe chose to do this, as I find this feature useless

    Context:
    2.1) How to remove EXIF Data from an image file completely

    Answer:
    a) To prevent digital Orphans
    b) for other applications to know what they are dealing with (Exif).

    Following your advice to remove ALL metadata is really not smart.
    The day you find your image printed (small) and for whatever reason gains publicity without even mentioning your name (how and why should it be mentioned, since ALL metadata has been removed), then you will stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is my image, you cannot use it without my permission!’
    Well too late, because you created a digital Orphan anyone can adopt. Tough luck.

    I’d think you know all that quite well.
    So long.

    • 50
      ) Al
      July 4, 2013 at 9:17 am

      You are completely wrong, the metadata purpose is not to prevent digital orphans, for that you must apply other methods like hidden watermarks

    • 51
      ) AGB
      September 9, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      If we as the photographer can remove the metadata then so can anybody else that wants to steal the photograph. There is plenty of software out there that will strip not some but ALL the metadata from our photos. Its up to us as photographers to protect our photos the best way we see fit. Maybe shrink them down so far that the display copy is so small its not worth stealing and/or paste a 3D watermark on them.

  30. 53
    ) AGB
    September 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I have been researching this EXIF information thing for two days now, which is how I came be on this page. BTW, EXIFTool didn’t work for me at all. I may have done something wrong but I’m pretty sure I didn’t, being a DOS programmer from way back.

    Anyways back to my story. I am one of those photographers that LIKES to have my copyright info in the photo files. What I don’t like is all the TAGS put in there by other software like Photoshop which adds about 50+ tags (items) of information. So I was searching for software that I could used to SELECTIVELY remove only some of the tags. No such luck. BUT what I did find was a niffty program called “JPEG & PNG Stripper” which removes ALL the metadata including the thumbnail image and all I had to do was drag the image file over and drop it in the strippers window (lol).

    Now since I like to keep my copyright info in the files, I found another cool program called “Exifer” that I use to backup the ORIGINAL metadata info before modifying the image. Then after the image has been adjusted with photoshop and saved, I run the stripper to strip out the new metadata then run Exifer again to restore the original metadata back again. — If your looking to remove the thumbnail image – this step puts it back in again so you should remove it before backing up the metadata. I don’t mind the thumbnail being there so I didn’t look into getting something to strip just that out.

    So just to review the steps I do …

    1 – use Exifer to backup the original metadata. (capable of processing multiple files at once)
    2 – edit the image with photoshop and save it.
    3 – use the stripper to strip out the new metadata. (Also allows multiple files)
    4 – use Exifer to restore the original metadata back into the image file.

    That’s all there is to it and it works great. I have run this on over 400 images today.

  31. 54
    ) Keith R. Starkey
    February 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Is this bat file utility still necessary with LR 5?

    • 55
      ) Keith R. Starkey
      February 9, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      More precisely, does LR5 remove the thumbnail when choosing the copyright only / & contacted information in the metadata section during import?

  32. February 17, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Thanks for the detailed breakdown of how to remove non wanted data

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