Being a good web denizen: Don't strip EXIF metadata from photos

A few days ago after posting photos from my trip on the John Muir Trail, a colleague asked what camera I was shooting with. It’s an easy question to ask with a direct line over Slack, but also one that’s quick to answer using a program like ImageMagick’s convert or any number of other tools that can read EXIF tags:

$ identify -format '%[EXIF:*]' john-muir-trail-1_large@2x.jpg
exif:LensModel=RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM
exif:LensSpecification=24/1, 105/1, 0/1, 0/1
exif:Model=Canon EOS R6

Photos on this site go through a comprehensive pipeline before being published, being resized with ImageMagick and optimized with MozJPEG to maximize web-friendliness. But there’s nothing special to leave EXIF in – both these programs will do the right thing by default and preserve properties like camera model, lens, f-stop, and shutter speed, all of which another photographer might find interesting. And beyond my specific CLI tools, leaving EXIF data in place tends to overwhelming default – the desktop publishing programs I use like Pixelmator do it as well.

To my dismay, I find that so many sites online including those run by self-described photographers strip out this information, and my guess is that it isn’t for a particularly good reason – probably because they haven’t thought about it or are cargo culting copy/pasted commands than anything else. There are some sensitive EXIF tags that you’d conceivably want to remove like serial numbers or GPS coordinates, but programs like exiftool can cauterize those on a per-tag basis.

So in the same vein of being a good web denizen like stop truncating RSS: leave your EXIF metadata in! Most people will never know it’s there, but it leaves the web a little richer, and is occasionally useful for someone who cares.

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