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.

➡ 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.


Cannot edit EXIF data in iPhoto

Those of us using iPhoto (up to version 6) are probably pretty disappointed to find out that we can’t edit a photo’s EXIF data. What’s more, whatever data we add to the photo (changing title, date, description, rating) also doesn’t get stored to a photo’s EXIF fields. Instead, it gets put in some other associated file, and gets lost entirely when the photo is exported out of iPhoto — for example, uploaded to Flickr.

This may not be so bad for photos that we take with our digital cameras, because they’ve already got a good amount of EXIF data stored in them, but it absolutely stinks for photos that we’ve scanned in. I’ve got all of my family’s photos in iPhoto, organized and rated and dated. A good chunk of those photos — over 60% of some 17,000 odd photos — are scanned in. That means that when I email those photos or import them into a program like Picasa on my PC, or upload them to Zooomr, all of the date information and other data that shows up in iPhoto is lost, by design (and a poor one at that). Isn’t this ridiculous? It makes all of that time spent working with the photos in iPhoto useless. They pass through the program like a duck through water. All of that “water” drips right off when the photo’s out of the app. It’s just not right.

If I can crop and adjust a photo’s color, brightness, contrast, exposure, sharpness and other parameters in iPhoto, and have those changes be preserved when I drag that photo into an email, it stands to reason that any other changes made to the photo (date, title, description, rating) should also be preserved. Otherwise, iPhoto is really not a full-fledged photo management app.

Now, I understand there are apps like Aperture, Lightroom, and of course, Photoshop, for editing photos and getting at more of a photo’s EXIF data. But not everyone wants or needs those applications. They’re meant for users who do a lot more with photos. To me, even though I have Photoshop, it seems silly to open it up just to edit the EXIF data of a photo. And I’m not going to get Aperture just to edit EXIF data. Aperture is meant for professional photographers and I’m still just an amateur photographer. This is such a basic function that it should be integrated directly into iPhoto. If the EXIF data from a photo can be viewed in iPhoto, it should also be editable, and that same data should be preserved inside the photo when it is exported to the web or for use in other applications.