Suwanee River Cooter
Your First Line of Defense
The EXIF file which is attached to all of your photos right out of the camera is your first line of defense in the war against thieves. EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File. This is a file that is invisibly attached to every photo that comes out of your camera, it was first created by the Japanese camera industry more than 10 years ago and the current version dates from 2002 and is version 2.2. This is called metadata, data about data.
The EXIF contains many fields but the most important to this discussion are the: Creator, Creator Address, Phone Number, Email Address and several other similar fields. Filling out these fields with your name, address, email address and other personal info, will brand the image as yours. There are many other fields in the EXIF file, your camera will automatically add information about the exposure, shutter speed and quite a few other items. And there are fields with info about where and when the photo was taken that you can fill out. Those are helpful as keywords when you are searching for a particular image. And Adobe Bridge automatically adds keywords to the EXIF file when you use them.
Now can the thief change this info? Yes they can. But that assumes that they know that it exists. From my observations of these people I’d say most of them are ignorant of any such knowledge. Most of them seem to be barely literate. I think that most people who know about EXIF files probably have plenty of their own images and are less likely to be engaged in stealing. Even if it is changed you still have your original copy that you can show is marked as yours.
How do you add the EXIF data
Now how do you add this information to your photos? If you are using Adobe Bridge you can assign metadata semi-automatically by using the Photodownloader applet to download the files from the flash card to your computer hard-drive. To create a template, open Bridge, go to the Tools menu and click on ‘Create Metadata Template’. Fill in the fields with your name and as much of the address as you feel comfortable using. I just use the City, State and Zip Code on mine and do not fill in the phone number. I do use the email address. You should use an email address as an Orphan Works protection device, more on that in another post.
Scroll down to the Copyright notice field and add your copyright info. This must be in a specific format:
* The Copyright symbol: © or the word spelled out as ‘copyright’ not (c)
* The year: ©2009 (the year the photo was created)
* Your name: ©2009 J Bryan Kramer (in my case you should put your name here)
* and supposedly adding this term will give you some extra protection in some other countries:
* ©2009 J Bryan Kramer all rights reserved
You can make the © symbol my holding down the ALT key while you type 0169 on the number pad, not the numbers at the top of the keyboard. Macs do by Option+g.
Fill in any other fields that you want. Then save the template with a name you like, I use Norm 2009 and change it every year when I update the year.
You can tell Photodownloader to assign a default template of exif data to all the files it processes. Here is a 3 minute YouTube Video by Ellen Anon on the how to do that:
Using Photodownloader Video
I assume that other editing programs have similar functionality but you will have to find the way to do that on your own. One warning about Photoshop, if you use Save-For-Web then photoshop will strip the EXIF data from the file. Undoing your work. So don’t use that. In CS4 you can reportedly turn off the action that strips EXIF data when you use Save-For-Web. You can use the batching function in Bridge to tag any files with template data if you missed doing that.
Canon users have another line of defense, you can embed your name in the camera firmware and it will brand every shot with that info. You use the EOS Utilities that comes on the CDROM included with the camera, look at tab 4 on this site for instructions:
Embedding your name
This also protects your camera if it is stolen since you can show the police that your name is in the camera as the owners name. This is much harder for a thief to change since they would have to know that it is there and have the right software to change it. I have put out a call on some mailing lists to find out if Nikon or other camera brands have the same capability. If you know, then put it in a comment.
That finishes up this entry, next entry will cover how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be your friend too.
I got some comments from Nikon users, apparently you can (at least on the D80 and up) embed a comment directly from the camera to an image file. I am not sure if this provides the same functionality as the Canon feature but the comment seems to be saved in the camera firmware.