How do I delete metadata from images

Remove metadata from photos

Metadata in photos is useful. Recording time and GPS coordinates help sort and find photos; Exposure parameters provide information on why a picture was particularly successful or unsuccessful. But the same place and time information can also reveal many details about lifestyle, place of residence and social relationships: especially in combination with keywords that you have added yourself using image management. And the more meticulous users try to encrypt their content, the more valuable meta information becomes for data-hungry companies and organizations.

If, for example, social networks “remove” the metadata during upload, they will not be published - but may be stored and analyzed by the platform operator. If you want to keep sensitive information to yourself, it is better to delete it yourself before publishing it. For Windows, macOS and Linux as well as Android and iOS, there are some practical free utilities that remove all or selected tags in no time at all.

Metadata types

Photos essentially transport three types of metadata, each of which has its own area reserved in the file: EXIF, IPTC and XMP. Cameras write all possible information about the circumstances of the recording into the EXIF ​​data: time and location (GPS coordinates), shutter speed and aperture as well as correction filters and processing presets.

IPTC fields are usually not filled in automatically when the picture is taken, but only afterwards: Photographers can enter copyright and contact information, keywords or location information such as the country, city or the name of the sightseeing photographed here.

The XMP introduced by Adobe serves as a container for all kinds of metadata: It can record EXIF ​​and IPTC entries, but also extensive processing instructions: These are immortalized in the XMP fields by non-destructive photo developers such as Lightroom or Darktable.

Often there are duplicate EXIF ​​and IPTC entries because, for reasons of compatibility, they are written both in their traditional headers and in the XMP area.

Quickly removed

In Windows Explorer, simply select several photos to remove them, right-click to display the context menu and open the properties dialog. Under “Details” you will find the option “Remove properties and personal information” at the very bottom. There you decide whether Windows should delete the metadata directly in the originals or create metadata-free copies. In addition, individual fields can be specifically selected for deletion. In the long run, however, this procedure is too cumbersome because you cannot save your own preferences as defaults.

On the Mac, the free ImageOptim tool does the job using drag & drop: Simply drag PNG / JPEG files or an entire image directory into the program window and the files will be cleaned up according to the settings made previously.

The free viewer IrfanView only deletes EXIF ​​and IPTC data or the image description by batch processing. The photo developer Lightroom offers four export options for removing metadata, which, however, reveal sometimes too little and sometimes too much, depending on the purpose. The following tools provide full control.

Flexible with ExifTool

The all-round tool for the Windows, macOS and Linux desktop is called ExifTool by Phil Harvey. It shows and processes EXIF, IPTC and XMP metadata extensively via command line commands or dispose of them without leaving any residue - in all imaginable image formats. The metadata specialist installs itself as a command line tool and Perl library.

With a few simple steps, it can also be easily integrated into the normal workflow, without calling up the command line. Under Windows, for example, you can pack your favorite ExifTool commands into practical automation droplets with little effort and place links to them on the desktop. Whenever you want to send photos or publish them in some other way, you can simply drag and drop them onto the appropriate droplet in batches of sensitive data. Practical: Some image processing programs such as Lightroom can also call up such scripts after the export and apply them to the converted photos.

First unzip exiftool.zip and then copy exiftool (-k) .exe to a location of your choice. We have created a directory called ExifTool for this in the Windows program directory. To create a batch script to clear all metadata, open a simple text editor, add the ExifTool call

into the document and save the file instead of with the extension .txt as .bat under a self-explanatory name - e.g. RemoveMetadata.bat. You can also simply rename a file saved as .txt to .bat. You save the scripts in the ExifTool program directory. Now create a shortcut on the desktop by selecting the RemoveMetadata.bat file and dragging it onto the desktop while holding down the right mouse button. If you now select several photos in Explorer or your preferred image viewer and drag them onto this desktop shortcut, ExifTool starts and frees you of all metadata. Due to the (-k) parameter in the program name, the script is stopped briefly and the command line is displayed: Press the return key to continue. You can keep this mode for testing. Later, rename exiftool (-k) .exe to exiftool.exe and the scripts will run through without interruption. Caution: Due to the -overwrite_original option, no copy is created.

"-All =" means that all types of metadata will be deleted. The -r option causes ExifTool to process directories recursively,% * transfers the names of all selected image files to ExifTool. So you can drag entire folder hierarchies onto the .bat script.

Delete selectively

Analogous to the above-mentioned -all command, the ExifTool arguments cut

only these explicitly named metadata blocks. If you want to control the flow of information even more precisely, you can select individual tags or define exceptions.

Only IPTC keywords can be removed with the following command:

If you only want to delete the location data from the EXIF ​​information and keep the remaining recording parameters, set this option

We have made ready-to-use .bat scripts with these examples available for download at ct.de/yx7s. For Lightroom Classic, the developer Jeffrey Friedl offers an add-on called Metadata Wrangler based on ExifTool for free download. Which tags end up in the exported photos can be conveniently selected and deselected via an interactive surface.

Mobile cleaner

A practical tool for Android devices is the F-Droid app Scrambled Exif, which can be switched in between when sharing - so privacy only costs one additional tap. Instead of sending the selected photos directly to the usual mail, messenger or social media apps, select Scrambled Exif from the app list when sharing. The photos then end up in the cache, where they are stripped of the metadata and renamed. The app list then appears again - tapping one of the icons shares the cleaned images as usual. Important: The orientation tag is retained so that portrait photos are automatically displayed in the correct orientation. F-Droid is a collection of open source apps that are not installed via the Google Play Store, see ct.de/yx7s for the source.

Those who prefer less radical solutions can use Photo Exif Editor to specifically edit or delete individual fields - even for several photos simultaneously. On iOS, you will find the corresponding functions in the Shortcuts app as well as in the metadata specialist ViewExif.

Curb the flood of data

Putting photos online without metadata is no insurance against all kinds of spying and tracking. Information can also get into the databases of companies via third parties and image recognition algorithms. Nevertheless, the solutions presented here prevent information about place of residence and other preferred whereabouts as well as hobbies, friends, etc. from lying around on the Internet, freely accessible to everyone. (atr)


This article comes from c't 5/2020.