How to View Metadata in JPG Files

By C. Taylor

Cameras automatically embed metadata in JPG photos.
i Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

A JPG image contains algorithmic data that graphics programs use to display the photo. However, there are also hidden components in these image files that convey a wealth of textual information. This background metadata can describe the photo, the photographer, the camera settings and even the location where the image was shot. Much of this information is accessible with Windows 8's File Explorer, but you might need a specialized program to dig deeper into the metadata.

Metadata Formats

Although there are many metadata formats, three stand out above the rest. The most common format is the Exchangeable Image File format that most digital cameras use to automatically add information regarding the image resolution, orientation, camera settings, time stamp and location, among others information tags. Adobe developed the Extensible Metadata Platform to repeat much of the Exif information, but it also supports user-created tags. The International Press Telecommunication Council format was originally developed as a standard in journalism for conveying photo information, captions and bylines, but its updated Information Interchange Model now contains more information and uses the XMP format.

Viewing in File Explorer

Windows 8's File Explorer displays a wide range of metadata. Right-click the JPG file, select "Properties" and then click the "Details" tab. Although not as vast as viewing all Exif data, the resulting list contains important data, such as dates, camera settings, GPS, resolution, bit depth, size, user tags and the Windows account owner.

Other Viewing Options

File Explorer does a good job at displaying relevant information, but specialized programs extract even more data. ExifTool and Exif2 extract information from various metadata formats. Although ExifTool's programming language is Perl, it works fine in Windows 8 and even supports dragging and dropping a JPG file onto the executable to immediately generate results. Adobe Photoshop also provides access to metadata by clicking "File" and then selecting "File Info," but the results may not be as extensive as the command-line tools.

Problems With Metadata

Digital cameras often employ different methods of using one or more metadata formats and could use vague or omitted data. Furthermore, cameras typically rely on the photographer to update its internal clock, which means the time stamp could be inaccurate, especially if the photographer travels through several time zones. Editing and stripping programs allow users to modify or completely remove metadata. Similarly, editing or merging photos in a graphics program can distort or strip the metadata. Therefore, you can't irrevocably trust metadata, even if it can provide extensive and valuable information.