Editing EXIF data in photos

I’ve been doing a bit of research about the ability to edit a photo’s EXIF data, and I came across four pieces of software, three of them for the PC and one for the Mac.

The first one, recommended by people in various forums, is PowerEXIF Editor, made by a company called Opanda. Everyone seems to say it’s a really powerful editor, but I find it overpriced given its features. What I’m most interested in at this point is being able to batch edit the EXIF data in my photos. I have thousands of photos I’ve got to edit, and being able to select entire sets and change the date and other info directly would be a huge help. Well, the Standard version of PowerEXIF doesn’t do this, even at $49.99, which is a fairly high price for the application’s limited scope. No, I’d have to get their Professional version, at $89.99, in order to do batch EXIF editing. I find that ridiculous. At that price, I might as well add another $100 and spring for Aperture, where I get a professional photo management application that not only edits EXIF data but allows me to work with my images in pretty wonderful ways. I wouldn’t recommend PowerEXIF at their current prices. I think they should price the Standard version at $19.99, and the Professional version at $39.99. Then I’d be tempted to purchase it.

Luckily, I found Exifer. It’s coded by a single person, Friedemann Schmidt, and it comes recommended by LifeHacker as well. It’s “postcardware”, which means you’ll “need” to send a postcard to the author if you like the software. It’s a cool concept that used to be popular in the 90’s and now it’s sort of retro-cool. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, yes, this means it’s free. It also does batch-editing of photos, so I highly recommend you give it a try.

The third piece of software is called EXIF Pilot, and it’s shareware ($19.99). While it’s got a cleaner interface than Exifer, it won’t let you edit photos in batch-mode until you pay up. It will, however, let you edit the EXIF data of individual photos, so that’s something to keep in mind. Still, $19.99 is a reasonable price to pay given the functionality of the software, and if it indeed delivers on the promise of batch EXIF data editing, then it’s well worth it.

The fourth piece of software is Reveal, made for the Mac. It’s free, and it’s meant to be mainly an EXIF data viewer, with “limited editing capabilities”. It also doesn’t do batch editing of photos. What you do is add it to the Dock, then drag photos from iPhoto onto it to display that photo’s info. You can edit each photo individually, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether that info gets written to the original photo itself, or to a cached iPhoto copy.

Why am I interested in EXIF data editors? Because I manage my photos in iPhoto, which does not edit EXIF data by itself. This is something that I find truly annoying. I need a way to add dates and other EXIF data to my photos. What I currently propose to do is to export the photos from iPhoto, over the network, to my Windows laptop, where I can edit entire sets with EXIF Pilot or Exifer. This all seems very unnecessary, and I should be able to edit the EXIF data directly in iPhoto, but with things being what they are, this is what I have to go through.

:arrow: Updated 8/16/07: Since I wrote this post, I discovered two more free utilities for photographers, created by Microsoft. They work on Windows XP, and some of their functionality is built into Vista. I’ve also switched to editing my photos entirely on my PC laptop using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I do most of the EXIF and IPTC editing in there, because the batch editing functionality is amazing. Sometimes I also use Microsoft Photo Info (one of the utilities) to do some further EXIF editing. But if you’re not a pro or semi-pro photographer, using the two free utilities discussed in this post should work for most of your needs.

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36 thoughts on “Editing EXIF data in photos

  1. Steer clear of Opanda Support after you buy is non existant, if you have a hard drive crash Opanda software staf (all 2) have no way of reissuing your reg code. So if you only need to use it once go ahead and buy. Repeated email to these two are ignored if you need help. BUT if you send them a email about a NEW purchase they respond instantly. Buyer beware there are many better products.

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  2. Yoram Peres says:

    Raoul, Thank’s a lot for tis helpful post. I see it started some good time ago, did you find in the meanwhile any good new freeware? I’m also in a wide search for something to solve this problem. I am a pro photographer and have numerable pictures at work and home. I am looking for a simple but good one to organize and search my pics,
    Thank’s
    Yoram

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    • No, but I haven’t really looked since. I bought Adobe Lightroom and haven’t looked back since. I use it all the time, it’s worth the money if you’re a serious photographer.

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      • Yoram Peres says:

        Hi,
        Yes, I used to use it more a fine editor, but now I work more strait with Photoshop and Brige.
        I’ll tell you if I find something interesting.
        Yoram

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      • I use lightroom myself as well however I prefer using picasa for organising my photos once again I have generated the final images from lightroom. Use the tagging option to give each image set good identifiers then you can easily search all your images

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  3. captain says:

    Aperture lets you edit EXIF data??? Huh? Not anywhere I can find. You can edit the IPTC Core data, but not the EXIF. It’s one of the many things that annoy the Hell out of my about Aperture and Apple. :-/

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  4. I wrote a tool called EXIF Date Changer a while back to help with bulk editing some fields in your images. It’s mainly aimed at correcting the date/time taken of your images and then renaming the images to match the new dates however it also allows you to enter data like copyright, credit, keywords and caption/title.

    http://www.exifdatechanger.com

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  5. Adobe Bridge is the best thing I’ve found giving a similar interface to Light Room… I just needed to be able to edit Captions, and Bridge does the trick for that.

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  6. tolgaevran says:

    i ve taken a great photo with my cam.. but but i changed its colour with photoshop and now when i check the info it shows the name of photoshop.. how can i delete this info or can i ?

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    • You might try opting for File > Save for Web in Photoshop. That might erase most of the info. You can also try File > File Info, also in Photoshop. If it still doesn’t clean the info, don’t worry about it. It’s not important in the long run.

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  7. Donna, iPhoto should work for most people’s needs on a Mac. It’ll let you do batch changes to the title, description and date/time fields, as well as let you adjust that data for individual photos. You can, of course, also keyword the photos.

    I work on a Mac, and I use Adobe Lightroom, which is a professional tool for managing one’s photo library. If you’re a serious photographer or an amateur looking for more control over your photos’ meta data, then you might want to look into it. Apple also makes a similar piece of software called Aperture. I haven’t used it but I hear it’s quite good.

    Spotlight should search the EXIF data automatically, and so should iPhoto. If I’m not mistaken, some of the more advanced options in Spotlight let you set up custom search filters based on EXIF parameters.

    Now, if you want to learn more about EXIF, Google and Wikipedia are always a great place to start. Here’s the EXIF page on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchangeable_image_file_format.

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  8. Donna says:

    Looks like its been a while since this info was updated. I have a mac Power PC and want to edit EXIF info and be able to search EXIF info as well as work with batch files. Any updates out there that will do this? Do you know a good resource to help me learn about EXIF? Thanks

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  9. Biju, sorry, I’ve never worked with that software so I can’t help. Maybe someone else will respond to your comment at some point with more information.

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  10. Biju Samuel says:

    I am in the process of adding exif data to my old roll film pics. I use “AMOK EXIF SORTER” to sort and rename my picture files. After adding the exif data, AMOK is not able to sort it. Basically, it seem to be unable to work seamlessly with this created exif data. Any clues?

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  11. JW says:

    Does anyone know of a way to search my hard drive for files by EXIF data?
    I am primarily looking on the Mac.

    Thanks
    Jeff

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  12. > At that price, I might as well add another $100 and spring for Aperture, where I get a professional photo management application that not only edits EXIF data but allows me to work with my images in pretty wonderful ways.

    I use Aperture and I’m a fan of it but I wouldn’t say it’s great for editing EXIF data. It does do a good job with some types of annotations, keywords for example. But an EXIF editor will allow you to add any valid EXIF tag and Aperture does not do this. For example is no way to add GPSLatitude/GPSLongitude tag values in Aperture (and many others). The app will display these tag values if present in the image files but not add or edit them. What’s more Aperture seems to have some problems when it comes to dealing with changes in EXIF for photos that are already included as referenced masters. Other apps let you edit metadata using something like ExifTool and then rebuild the image to pull in the new tag values. Aperture seems to choke a little if you try to do this, e.g. I’ve had it complain that my image files are invalid after editing EXIF outside of the app though the files are provably intact. Sooner or later it will recognize the files as valid again w/o picking up the new EXIF data. I can only assume there must be some solution to this problem so I don’t want to scare anyone away from Aperture as a photo management app but an EXIF editor it is not.

    I would recommend taking a look at ExifTool which is a cross-platform, easily scriptable commandline EXIF editor and a Perl library. Batch processing photos is not a problem and it’s easy to incorporate in your workflow.

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  13. Wm Pitt says:

    I am using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 and the SF-210 auto slide feeder.
    I have 6000+ slides to scan in, so being able to edit batch and individual exit data is important (e.g. Title, Author, Subject and Comments)
    I am able to do this directly in the OS file browser window in Vista, no utility required.

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  14. Al says:

    I downloaded exifer and used it to batch edit some Exif data and put in a a simple copyright weatermark.

    Watermark worked okay, but the adding of Author and subject data caused the images to change.

    They still open ok in Photoshop, however in Windows the thumbnail is reduced to basic GIF looking colours and the image in windows picture viewer is also the same, mainly green and pink.

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  15. Reveal for the Mac is exactly what I was lookin for. A batch editor woud have been nice, but other than that it works for me. Thanks for the information.

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  16. You might want to check out GraphicConverter — it has quite a few batch processing capabilities; and I’m pretty sure it does EXIF editing, although I don’t have a current copy anymore.

    And it’s pretty cheap for doing a billion things quite well.

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  17. Joel says:

    I don’t know how this compares to “Better Finder Attributes”, but I’ve used this program to sync up the times from several cameras at the same event to get them all in the same “order”. It’s called “PhotoToolCM” and it’s free. Editing the exif info is just a right-click (or ctrl-click) away.

    http://www.pixture.com/software/macosx.php

    –Joel

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  18. Hi,

    I’ve been pointed to your article by a customer.. I though it might interest you to know that you can use A Better Finder Attributes to adjust the EXIF dates to compensate for incorrectly set camera clocks:

    A Better Finder Attributes
    Best regards,

    Frank

    PS

    I’m the author of the tool, so not exactly unbiased.

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  19. Thanks for commenting, Greg. Just had a look at the Exifer options, and it looks like you’re right. It can’t edit the camera make tag. That’s a notable shortcoming, although I have to say it does a great job of editing the other tags. I’ve used it for a few hundred photos so far, and it just works — no bugs, no crashes.

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  20. I have been looking for an EXIF editor for a long time for my Mac. Reveal seems to do what I want. I succeeded in adding a camera make tag to a file that was scanned from a negative.

    I have a pc too so I was interested in Exifer. It does not seem to be able to edit the camera make however.

    Exif Pilot can edit the camera make but I can’t add some other things I’d like to like Flash details.

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