Images contain a treasure trove of hidden, useful data, including date and time of image capture, time zone, type of smartphone used, and the geographical location the image was taken, including longitude and latitude.
There are many reasons why image data could be retrieved, such as a need to collect evidence for an upcoming trial, help in preventing loss of data, to modify its information, and to learn the image's copyright holder.
To expose any photo’s hidden data, forensic tools may be used. Forensic tools can detect simple metadata or perform more advanced functions, such as to determine if a photo was altered.
One of the ways to retrieve hidden image data is by looking at its EXIF file.
What exactly is an EXIF file?
EXIF, short for Exchangeable Image File Format, is a code snippet containing identifying information of your image saved to your device.
Depending on where the image is uploaded, EXIF file data can be retained or removed automatically. Forensics tools can perform a quick analysis of an original image file.
Lots of image data can be manipulated, such as description, author, and "date modified" information.
Many photographers may do this to preserve the originality of their work or for a webmaster to reduce site load, as EXIF file information may take up considerable storage space.
Which forensic tools are reliable to use?
There are several reputable image forensic tools that will help, ranging from the basic to the advanced, with compatibility depending on the operating system used, camera manufacturer, image file type, and more.
AnalogExif is a metadata editor that is available for both Apple and Windows, allowing users to modify EXIF data for JPEG and TIFF image files.
Other features include the ability to auto-fill exposure number and copy metadata from another file, an excellent feature for batch work where a lot of images are involved.
Other features of AnalogExif:
- Allows modification of most EXIF, IPTC and XMP metadata tags for JPEG and TIFF files
- An equipment library to store metadata information about film cameras and other analog equipment
- Customizable and user-defined XMP schema for film camera properties
- Allows batch operations (copy metadata from another file, auto-fill exposure number)
- Customizable list of supported metadata tags
2. JPEG and PNG Stripper
JPEG and PNG Stripper is a tool for stripping, editing, and removing junk metadata for JPEG and PNG files. Simply launch the program, drag your photos to its window and it will do the rest. This editor also allows the ‘Date Taken’ data to be modified, with a few exceptions, if you wish.
All in all, JPEG and PNG Stripper is a simple and quick program to use for keeping your photo metadata in order. Note: This software is only limited to photos with data under “Microsoft Windows Properties.” It is not suited for photos taken with an iPhone or Android.
ExifTool is one of the more well-rounded command line EXIF editors, ExifTool allows users to read, write, and edit meta information, supporting more than 10 different file formats from 15+ digital camera manufacturers. It is compatible with Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
Note: Since ExifTool is a command line based program, it's suited for more advanced users but you can download compatible ExifTool graphical user interfaces (GUI) to make it easier to use.
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