What is EXIF Data?

This article is about the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) and the methods of reading EXIF Data from photographs. Back in the film days, photographers were forced to carry a pen and a notepad with them to record important information such as shutter speed, aperture and date. They would then use this information in the lab, going through one picture at a time, hoping that what they wrote actually corresponds to the right image. It was a very painful process, especially for newbies that wanted to understand what they did wrong when an image didn’t come out right. Nowadays, every modern digital camera has the capability to record this information, along with many other camera settings, right into the photographs. These settings can then be later used to organize photographs, perform searches and provide vital information to photographers about the way a particular photograph was captured. This stored data is called “EXIF Data” and it is comprised of a range of settings such as ISO speed, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, camera model and make, date and time, lens type, focal length and much more.

Being able to read such data can be of great importance not only for beginners, but also for other photographers who want to find out what settings and tools were used to create a particular photograph. Unfortunately though, the only web-friendly (in terms of size) file format that can handle EXIF is JPEG, which means that you wouldn’t be able to read the data from other image formats such as GIF/PNG and also from websites that use Adobe Flash or other similar products. In addition, some photographers choose to strip EXIF data from their images to protect their image and their style, while others do it to save website traffic (yes, EXIF does add up to the size of the file). Those, who leave this data in their images either have no idea that they even have it, or they intentionally leave it like I do – for others to see and possibly learn.

While I choose to retain EXIF data in my images, they do not show up when looking at photos through a web browser, because the data is embedded in the files and it is not part of the actual image.
So how do you view it? Don’t worry, because there are multiple quick and easy ways to read it from images.

Method #1: Firefox Addon “Exif Viewer”

Install Firefox browser if you do not already have it. Once installed, get the Exif Viewer addon by clicking the “Add to Firefox” button. After the addon is installed and Firefox is restarted, you will be able to instantly view the EXIF data by just right-clicking on an image and selecting “View Image Exif Data”.

Go ahead and try it on this image:

What is EXIF Data

NIKON D700 @ 86mm, ISO 200, 5/1, f/14.0

Once you click on “View Image Exif Data”, you should see a new window that looks like this:

Exif-Viewer

Use the scroll bar on the right hand side of the screen to go up and down the page and see more EXIF details. As you can see from the above screenshot, the EXIF information indicates that I used a Nikon D700, with ISO sensitivity of 200, an aperture of f/14 and a 5 second shutter speed to photograph the above fireworks. The original date/time field indicates 2009-07-04, which means that those are Independence Day fireworks :) Further down, there is a long list of other settings that I used in my camera at the time of taking the picture.

One thing to keep in mind though – thumbnail images typically do not contain any EXIF data. So, whenever you see a clickable thumbnail image, do not select “View Image Exif Data”, but rather select “View Link Exif Data”. That way, the EXIF Data is taken from the original file the thumbnail is linked to.

Try it on this image:

Badwater with water

NIKON D700 @ 27mm, ISO 200, 1/125, f/11.0

If you see an error that says “Unable to extract some or all of the Exif data”, it means that the JPEG file you are looking at contains no EXIF information.

Method #2: Save the file and use a photo viewer

If for whatever reason you do not want to install Firefox or the Exif Viewer addon, you can also use the following method to view this information. It is much slower than method #1, because it requires you to save the JPEG file on your PC, then go to Windows file properties or use a third party photo viewer that is capable of displaying EXIF Data embedded in JPEG files.

Save the first photo on this page on your PC, then right click on the file and go to “Properties”. Click on the “Details” tab and you should see the following:

File Properties

Although the most important EXIF information is provided, just keep in mind that this method will only display some of the data. But if you are only after aperture, shutter speed and ISO, this would be more than adequate for the job…

Comments

  1. 1) arefin
    October 10, 2010 at 5:19 am

    This is not too much helpful for exif data information. i need more.

    • October 22, 2010 at 1:18 am

      Arefin, can you be more specific? What exactly are you looking for?

  2. 2) Diane Burchfield Johnson
    December 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Wow That is such a big helpful. I never knew all this stuff before. No one ever mention and now I’m learning things from your website. HOORAY!!! I have LR3 and abode photoshop CS3. I prefer this photoshop and I have looked with CS4 which I dont think I’ll be able to get this. Dont use abode photoshop that much but LR is one of my favorite part. I wanted to thank you for guiding us with your understanding by helping every step of the way. I look up my pictures that I had on my desktop and did the properties wow it surely shows the EXIF Data. I’m soooooo please with this. Now I’m reading more about the LR and trying to get more information from your web. :)

    • December 7, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      Diane, you are most welcome! I love Lightroom and use it every day for my photography.

  3. January 6, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Hello Nasim! I would like to ask how you add the copyright [yourname] in the exif data? Are you doing this with Lightroom? (I also use Lightroom)

    Thanks, fantastically helpful site! :)
    //Alexander

    • 3.1) Sergio
      April 17, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Alexander,
      I don’t know anything about LR, but you should be able to add copyright info to your pictures directly in the camera. In the D700 for example, go to SETUP MENU and then Copyright Information.

  4. 4) Toon
    February 5, 2012 at 6:08 pm
  5. 5) mark
    December 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Just use opera browser. Right click, properties, there you are. Two clicks,no plugins, no software.

  6. 6) Shawn
    August 20, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Can you tell me if I use a software package to edit the picture, does it keep the original EFIX data or is the software (Adobe) smart enough to somehow change the original data to what the editted picture would be?

  7. 7) pietas
    May 23, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    you cannot photograph the sun but I found exif data on a “photo” of the sun. Can you please explain what this information is all about?

    System
    File Name
    706436main_20121114-304-193blend_m6-orig_full.jpg
    File Size
    2.6 MB
    File Modify Date
    2015:05:23 19:47:07-04:00
    File Permissions
    rw-r–r–

    File
    File Type
    JPEG
    MIME Type
    image/jpeg
    Exif Byte Order
    Big-endian (Motorola, MM)
    Image Width
    4096
    Image Height
    4096
    Encoding Process
    Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
    Bits Per Sample
    8
    Color Components
    3
    Y Cb Cr Sub Sampling
    YCbCr4:2:0 (2 2)

    JFIF
    JFIF Version
    1.01
    Resolution Unit
    inches
    X Resolution
    72
    Y Resolution
    72

    ICC -header
    Profile CMM Type
    Lino
    Profile Version
    2.1.0
    Profile Class
    Display Device Profile
    Color Space Data
    RGB
    Profile Connection Space
    XYZ
    Profile Date Time
    1998:02:09 06:49:00
    Profile File Signature
    acsp
    Primary Platform
    Microsoft Corporation
    CMM Flags
    Not Embedded, Independent
    Device Manufacturer
    IEC
    Device Model
    sRGB
    Device Attributes
    Reflective, Glossy, Positive, Color
    Rendering Intent
    Perceptual
    Connection Space Illuminant
    0.9642 1 0.82491
    Profile Creator
    HP
    Profile ID
    N/A

    ICC_ Profile
    Profile Copyright
    Copyright (c) 1998 Hewlett-Packard Company
    Profile Description
    sRGB IEC61966-2.1
    Media White Point
    0.95045 1 1.08905
    Media Black Point
    0 0 0
    Red Matrix Column
    0.43607 0.22249 0.01392
    Green Matrix Column
    0.38515 0.71687 0.09708
    Blue Matrix Column
    0.14307 0.06061 0.7141
    Device Mfg Desc
    IEC http://www.iec.ch
    Device Model Desc
    IEC 61966-2.1 Default RGB colour space – sRGB
    Viewing Cond Desc
    Reference Viewing Condition in IEC61966-2.1
    Luminance
    76.03647 80 87.12462
    Technology
    Cathode Ray Tube Display
    Red TRC
    (Binary data 2060 bytes)
    Green TRC
    (Binary data 2060 bytes)
    Blue TRC
    (Binary data 2060 bytes)

    ICC -view
    Viewing Cond Illuminant
    19.6445 20.3718 16.8089
    Viewing Cond Surround
    3.92889 4.07439 3.36179
    Viewing Cond Illuminant Type
    D50

    ICC -meas
    Measurement Observer
    CIE 1931
    Measurement Backing
    0 0 0
    Measurement Geometry
    Unknown (0)
    Measurement Flare
    0.999%
    Measurement Illuminant
    D65

    IFD0
    Photometric Interpretation
    RGB
    Orientation
    Horizontal (normal)
    X Resolution
    72
    Y Resolution
    72
    Resolution Unit
    inches
    Software
    QuickTime 7.7.1
    Modify Date
    2012:11:13 08:01:05
    Host Computer
    Mac OS X 10.7.5

    Exif IFD
    Color Space
    sRGB
    Exif Image Width
    4096
    Exif Image Height
    4096

    Composite
    Image Size
    4096×4096

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