1. Discussion forum
  2. Determining tag names
  3. ExifTool doesn't read/write properly
  4. Aperture and shutter speed
  5. Date and time formats
  6. "Can't convert TAG" errors
  7. Deleting all EXIF from a TIFF
  8. Writing Make, Model & MakerNotes
  9. Tag locations when copying
  10. Coded character sets
  11. User-defined tags
  12. Export to database
  13. Output file size and image quality
  14. GPS coordinate format
  15. MakerNote errors
  16. Some files not renamed
  17. List-type tags
  18. Windows character encoding
  19. Formatting tag values
  20. Write errors (repair corrupted EXIF)
  21. Newlines in values
  22. Order of operations
  23. "0 image files updated"
  24. Date/time gets reset to today
  25. Image validation
  26. Import from database
  27. Windows .BAT file problems
  28. Copying a shifted date/time
  29. ARGFILE options
  30. Extracting all metadata
  31. Rewriting the entire file
  32. Safely removing all metadata

ExifTool FAQ

1. "Is there a forum for discussing ExifTool issues?"

ExifTool issues can be discussed on the ExifTool forum at https://exiftool.org/forum/

2. "How do I determine the tag name for some information?"

When you run exiftool, by default it prints descriptions, not tag names, for the information it extracts. These descriptions are in English unless the -lang option is used to select another language. Note that descriptions often contain spaces between words, but tag names never do. Also, tag names are always English, regardless of the -lang setting. To print the tag names instead instead of descriptions, use the -s option when extracting information. eg)
exiftool -s image.jpg
Valid characters in tag names are A-Z, a-z, 0-9, _ and -. See the tag name documentation for a complete list of available tag names.
Tag names may be optionally prefixed by a group name to specify a particular information type or location. Use the -g0, -g1, etc (or -G0, -G1, etc) options when extracting information to see the corresponding group names. See the Tag Groups section of the ExifTool home page for more information.

3a. "ExifTool reports the wrong value or doesn't extract a tag",
3b. "ExifTool doesn't write a tag properly", or
3c. "Other software can't read information written by ExifTool"

[Also see FAQ number 23 for reasons why ExifTool may not write some tags to certain file types.]
First, if ExifTool says "image files updated", then some information was written. Make sure you are looking at the right information. Use ExifTool with a command like this to extract all information from the file, along with the location it was written:
exiftool -a -G1 -s c:\images\test.jpg
In this command, -a allows duplicate tags to be extracted, -G1 shows the family 1 group name (ie. the location) of each tag, and -s shows the tag names instead of their descriptions. (Substitute the path name of your file in place of "c:\images\test.jpg".)
When duplicate tags exist, only one is extracted unless the -a option is used. Beware that options like -EXIF:all select all EXIF tags from the extracted tags, so EXIF tags hidden by duplicate tags in other locations will not appear in the output for -EXIF:all. For example, the command
exiftool -gps:all image.jpg
will NOT necessarily extract all EXIF GPS tags because some may have been suppressed by same-named tags in other groups. To be sure all EXIF GPS tags are extracted, the -a option must be used:
exiftool -a -gps:all image.jpg
[But note that GPS information may be stored in metadata formats other than just EXIF, so restricting the command to the EXIF "GPS" group may miss GPS information in other formats. The following command is better suited to extract all GPS from a wide variety of file formats:]
exiftool -a "-gps*" -ee video.mp4
If you are having problems with other software reading information written by ExifTool, if possible try first writing the information from the other software, then use ExifTool (with the -a and -G1 options) to determine where the information was written. Once you know where it should go, you can use ExifTool to write to this location. You can read or write information in a specific location by prefixing the tag name on the command line with the desired group name. eg.) "-ExifIFD:DateTimeOriginal"
This problem may also occur if contradictory information exists in different meta information formats within the same file. For example, often XMP will be ignored if IPTC exists and the Photoshop:IPTCDigest does not agree with the IPTC content. The Metadata Working Group recommends techniques to keep the EXIF, IPTC and XMP metadata synchronized. These recommendations are implemented by the ExifTool MWG tags. For maximum compatibility with the widest range of applications, it is suggested that these MWG tags be used whenever possible.
One final note: When writing, the -v2 option may be useful because it provides details about what ExifTool is writing, and where.

4. "ExifTool reports more than one shutter speed or aperture value, and they are slightly different"

There are a number of different ways that aperture and shutter speed information are stored in many images. The standard EXIF values (EXIF:FNumber and EXIF:ExposureTime) should correspond to the values displayed by your camera, but these values may have been rounded off by the camera and/or ExifTool. (You can use the -n option to avoid rounding by ExifTool and show the full value in decimal form.) The corresponding EXIF APEX values (EXIF:ApertureValue and EXIF:ShutterSpeedValue) may be different due to their own round-off errors. If available, the MakerNotes values may be the most accurate because they haven't been rounded off to nice even values for display, so with these you may see odd values like 1/102 instead of 1/100, etc.

5. "How do I format date and time information for writing?"

All information (including date/time information) is written in the same format as it is read out. When reading, ExifTool converts all date and time information to standard EXIF format, so this is also the way it is specified when writing. The standard EXIF date/time format is "YYYY:mm:dd HH:MM:SS", and some meta information formats such as XMP also allow sub-seconds and a timezone to be specified. The timezone format is "+HH:MM", "-HH:MM" or "Z". For example:
exiftool -xmp:dateTimeOriginal="2005:10:23 20:06:34.33-05:00" a.jpg
When writing XMP or other information types which allow incomplete date/time values, the following input formats are also accepted:
YYYY:mm:dd HH:MM
Having said this, ExifTool is very flexible about the actual format of input date/time values when writing, and will attempt to reformat any values into the standard format unless the -n option is used. Any separators may be used (or in fact, none at all). The first 4 consecutive digits found in the value are interpreted as the year, then next 2 digits are the month, and so on. [The year must be 4 digits. Other fields are expected to be 2 digits, but a single digit is allowed if the subsequent character is a non-digit.] For EXIF date/time values, all 6 date/time fields must exist ("YYYYmmddHHMMSS"), but XMP date/time values require only the year ("YYYY"). This feature facilitates useful operations such as setting date/time tags from a date embedded in the file name. For example, the command
exiftool "-alldates<filename" c:\images
will set the common date/time tags from the file name for all images in the directory "c:\images". This will work for any file name which matches the above criteria (eg. "IMG_20110927_103000.jpg"). [AllDates is a shortcut for 3 tag names: DateTimeOriginal, CreateDate and ModifyDate. See the Shortcuts Tags documentation for more information.]
The -d option provides additional flexibility in parsing strings when writing date/time tags with ExifTool 10.32 or later if POSIX::strptime or Time::Piece is installed (use "exiftool -ver -v" to check the installed packages). The format of the -d argument is the same for reading and writing.
The -n option may be used to disable all of the date/time reformatting when reading and writing which will allow otherwise invalid date/time values to be written (eg. partial EXIF dates). The reformatting may be disabled on a per-tag basis by adding "#" to the tag name instead of using -n
Special feature: A value of "now" may be used to represent the current time when writing any date/time tag. For example:
exiftool -xmp:dateTimeOriginal=now a.jpg
[There is also a Now tag which may be used for a similar purpose by copying its value to another tag, but copying tags adds an extra read stage to the processing which is best avoided if performance is an issue.]

6. "I get 'Can't convert TAG (not in PrintConv)' errors when writing a tag"

By default, ExifTool applies a print conversion (PrintConv) to extracted information to make the output more human-readable. Some conversions involve lookup tables which are documented in the Values column of the tag name documentation. For example, the GPSAltitudeRef tag defines the following conversions:
0 = Above Sea Level
1 = Below Sea Level
For this tag, a value of '0' is printed as 'Above Sea Level', and '1' is printed as 'Below Sea Level'. Reading and writing with ExifTool is symmetrical [with the possible exception of list-type tags -- see FAQ number 17 below], so a value that is printed as 'Above Sea Level' must also be written in that form. (In other words, the inverse print conversion is applied when writing values.) For example, to write GPSAltitudeRef you can type:
exiftool -gpsaltituderef="Above Sea Level" image.jpg
or any unambiguous short form may be used and ExifTool will know what you mean, eg)
exiftool -gpsaltituderef=above image.jpg
Alternatively, the print conversion can be disabled for all tags with the -n option, or for individual tags by suffixing the tag name with a '#' character. In either case the printed value of GPSAltitudeRef will be '0' or '1' when extracting information, and the value is written in the same way. So following two commands have exactly the same effect as above:
exiftool -gpsaltituderef=0 -n image.jpg
exiftool -gpsaltituderef#=0 image.jpg
Integer values may also be specified in hexadecimal (with a leading '0x'). For example, the following commands are all equivalent:
exiftool -flash=1 -n image.jpg
exiftool -flash=0x1 -n image.jpg
exiftool -flash#=1 image.jpg
exiftool -flash#=0x1 image.jpg
exiftool -flash=fired image.jpg
Programmers: These techniques look like this when calling Image::ExifTool functions from a Perl script:
$exifTool->SetNewValue(flash => 1, Type => 'ValueConv');
$exifTool->SetNewValue(flash => 0x1, Type => 'ValueConv');
$exifTool->SetNewValue('flash#' => 1);
$exifTool->SetNewValue('flash#' => 0x1);
$exifTool->SetNewValue(flash => 'fired');

7. "I can't delete all EXIF information from a TIFF file using 'exiftool -exif:all= img.tif'"

This is because of the way a TIFF file is structured. With a JPEG image, this command removes IFD0 (the main Image File Directory) as well as any subdirectories, thus removing all EXIF information. But with the TIFF format, the main image itself is stored in IFD0, so deleting this directory would destroy the image. The same is true for any TIFF-based RAW file such as DNG, CR2, NEF, etc. For these types of files, ExifTool just deletes the ExifIFD subdirectory, so any information stored in other directories is preserved (BUT NOTE THAT WITH PROPRIETARY RAW FORMATS THIS MAY DELETE INFORMATION THAT IS NECESSARY FOR PROPER RENDERING OF THE IMAGE).
Use "exiftool -a -G1 -s img.tif" to see where the information is stored. Any tags remaining in other IFD's must be deleted individually from a TIFF-format file if desired. For convenience, a CommonIFD0 shortcut tag is provided to simplify the deletion of common metadata tags from IFD0 by adding "-CommonIFD0=" to the command line.

8a. "All maker note information is lost if I change the Make or Model tag", or
8b. "I can't copy maker note information to an image", or
8c. "I can't view a RAW image after changing the model tag"

The Make and Model tags are used by some image utilities (including ExifTool) to determine the format of the maker note information. Deleting or changing either of these tags may prevent these utilities from recognizing or properly interpreting the maker notes (which, for a RAW image, may mean that the image can no longer be properly rendered). Also beware that the maker notes information may be damaged if an image is edited when the maker notes are not properly recognized. So it is a good idea not to edit the Make and Model tags in the first place.
If you really want to delete the Make and Model information, you might as well delete the maker notes too. You can do this with either of the following commands:
exiftool -make= -model= -makernotes:all= image.jpg
exiftool -make= -model= -makernotes= image.jpg
For the same reason, maker notes can not be copied to an image with an incompatible Make or Model. To do this, the Make and Model tags must also be copied. eg)
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg -makernotes -make -model dst.jpg
(Note that in this case the "-makernotes:all" syntax does not work because it attempts to copy the maker note tags individually. Since maker note tags may not be created individually, they must instead be copied as a block with "-makernotes".)

9a. "The information is different when I copy all tags to a new file", or
9b. "The tag locations change when I use -tagsfromfile to copy information"

This feature is explained under the -tagsFromFile option in the exiftool application documentation, but the question is common enough that it is discussed here in more detail.
By default, ExifTool will store information in preferred locations when either writing new information or copying information between files. This freedom allows ExifTool to write or copy information to files of different formats without requiring the user to know details about where the information is stored.
The preferred general locations for information written to JPEG images are 1) EXIF, 2) IPTC and 3) XMP. As an example, information extracted from the maker notes will be preferentially written (on a tag-by-tag basis) in EXIF format when copying information between two JPEG images. But if a specific tag doesn't exist in EXIF, then the tag is written to the first valid group in the order specified above. The advantage of "translating" the information to EXIF is that it then becomes readable by applications which only support standard EXIF. The disadvantage is that you don't get an exact copy of the original information structure.
But ExifTool gives you the ability to customize this behaviour to write the information to wherever you want. This is done by specifying a group name for the tag(s) to be copied. This applies even if the group name is "all", in which case the original family 1 group is preserved. So to copy all information and preserve the original structure, use this syntax:
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg -all:all dst.jpg
In this command, since no destination tag was specified, the destination is the same as the source (ie. "-all:all>all:all"), so the information is copied to the same family 1 group.
Here are some examples to show you the type of control you have over where the information is written. All commands in each example are equivalent:
# copy all tags to preferred groups (no destination group)
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg -all dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all>all" dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all:all>all" dst.jpg

# copy all tags, preserving family 1 group (destination group 'all')
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg -all:all dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all>all:all" dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all:all>all:all" dst.jpg

# copy all tags to EXIF group (destination group 'exif')
# [the destination family 1 group is the preferred EXIF IFD]
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all>exif:all" dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-all:all>exif:all" dst.jpg

# copy XMP tags to XMP group (destination group 'xmp')
# [the destination family 1 group is the preferred XMP namespace]
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-xmp:all" dst.jpg
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-xmp:all>xmp:all" dst.jpg

# copy XMP tags, preserving family 1 group (destination group 'all')
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-xmp:all>all:all" dst.jpg

# copy XMP tags to preferred groups (no destination group)
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-xmp:all>all" dst.jpg

# copy XMP tags to EXIF only (destination group 'exif')
# [the destination family 1 group is the preferred EXIF IFD]
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg "-xmp:all>exif:all" dst.jpg
The same rules illustrated above also apply when copying individual tags.
Note: If no destination group is specified, a new tag is created if necessary only in the preferred group, but if the same tag already exists in another group, then this information is also updated. (Otherwise inconsistent values for the same information would exist in different locations. Of course, you can always generate inconsistencies like this if you really want to by specifically writing contradictory information to different groups.)
Certain types of meta information (such as EXIF, IPTC, XMP and ICC_Profile) may also be copied as a block. This technique copies all meta information, even if ExifTool doesn't have the ability to write some individual tags contained in the block. For all block types except EXIF, the metadata is copied byte-for-byte from the original image. With EXIF however, the metadata may be restructured to ensure that it is self-contained. Also note that EXIF may not be written as a block to TIFF-based file formats. Beware that any existing metadata of this type in the destination file will be overwritten by the new block.
# copy EXIF as a block between same-named JPG files in different directories
exiftool -tagsfromfile SRCDIR/%f.%e -exif -ext jpg DSTDIR

# copy XMP as a block from one file to another
exiftool -tagsfromfile src.jpg -xmp dst.cr2

10. "How does ExifTool handle coded character sets?"

[Also see FAQ number 18 for help with special characters in a Windows console.]
Certain meta information formats allow coded character sets other than plain ASCII. When reading, most known encodings are converted to the external character set according to the exiftool "-charset CHARSET" or -L option, or to UTF‑8 by default. When writing, the inverse conversion is performed. Alternatively, special characters may be converted to/from HTML character entities with the -E option.
A distinction is made between the external character set visible to the ExifTool user, and the internal character used to store text in the metadata of a file. These character sets may be specified separately as follows:
  1. The external character set for tag values passed to/from ExifTool is UTF‑8 by default, but it may be changed through any of these command-line options:
    -charset CHARSET   or   -charset exiftool=CHARSET   or   -L
    The encoding of file and directory names (eg. the FILE argument on the command line) is different. By default, these names are passed straight through to the standard C I/O routines without recoding. On Mac/Linux these routines expect UTF‑8, but on Windows they use the system code page (which is dependent on your system settings). However, as of ExifTool 9.79, the external filename encoding may be specified:
    -charset filename=CHARSET
    When this is done, file and directory names are converted from the specified encoding to one appropriate for system I/O routines. In Windows, this also has the effect of enabling Unicode filename support via the special Windows wide-character I/O routines if the required Perl modules are available (these are included in the Windows executable version of ExifTool). See WINDOWS UNICODE FILE NAMES in the application documentation for more details.

  2. The internal character set for strings stored in file metadata may be specified for some metadata types:
    -charset TYPE=CHARSET
    (where TYPE is "exif", "iptc", "id3", "photoshop", "quicktime" or "riff")
Valid CHARSET values are (with aliases given in brackets, case is not significant):
UTF8(cp65001, UTF‑8)DOSLatinUS(cp437)
Latin(cp1252, Latin1)DOSLatin1(cp850)
Cyrillic(cp1251, Russian)     MacRoman(cp10000, Mac, Roman)
The -L option is equivalent to "-charset Latin", "-charset Latin1" and "-charset cp1252".
Type-specific details are given below about the special character handling for EXIF, IPTC, XMP, PNG, ID3, PDF, Photoshop, QuickTime, AIFF, RIFF, MIE and Vorbis information:
EXIF: Most textual information in EXIF is stored in ASCII format (called "string" in the EXIF Tags documentation). By default ExifTool does not convert these strings. However, it is not uncommon for applications to write UTF‑8 or other encodings where ASCII is expected. To deal with these, ExifTool allows the internal EXIF string encoding to be specified with "-charset exif=CHARSET", which causes EXIF string values to be converted from the specified character set when reading, and stored with this character set when writing. The MWG recommends using UTF‑8 encoding for EXIF strings, and in keeping with this the "-use mwg" feature sets the default internal EXIF string encoding to UTF‑8 (ie. "-charset exif=utf8"), but note that this will have no effect unless the external encoding is also set to something other than the default of UTF‑8.
A few EXIF tags (UserComment, GPSProcessingMethod and GPSAreaInformation) support a designated internal text encoding, with values stored as ASCII, Unicode (UCS‑2) or JIS. When reading these tags, ExifTool converts Unicode and JIS to the external character set specified by the -charset or -L option, or to UTF‑8 by default. ASCII text is not converted. When writing, text is stored as ASCII unless the string contains special characters, in which case it is converted from the external character set (UTF‑8 by default), and stored as Unicode. ExifTool writes Unicode in native EXIF byte ordering by default, but the byte order may be specified by setting the ExifUnicodeByteOrder tag (see the Extra Tags documentation).
The EXIF "XP" tags (XPTitle, XPComment, etc) are always stored internally as little-endian Unicode (UCS‑2), and are read and written using the specified external character set.
IPTC: The value of the IPTC:CodedCharacterSet tag determines how the internal IPTC string values are interpreted. If CodedCharacterSet exists and has a value of "UTF8" (or "ESC % G") then string values are assumed to be stored as UTF‑8. Otherwise the internal IPTC encoding is assumed to be Windows Latin1 (cp1252), but this can be changed with "-charset iptc=CHARSET". When reading, these strings are converted to UTF‑8 by default, or to the external character set specified by the -charset or -L option. When writing, the inverse conversions are performed. No conversion is done if the internal (IPTC) and external (ExifTool) character sets are the same. Note that ISO 2022 character set shifting is not supported. Instead, a warning is issued and the string is not converted if an ISO 2022 shift code is encountered. See the IPTC IIM specification for more information about IPTC character coding.
ExifTool may be used to convert IPTC values to a different internal encoding. To do this, all IPTC tags must be rewritten along with the desired value of CodedCharacterSet. For example, the following command changes the internal IPTC encoding to UTF‑8 (from Windows Latin1 unless CodedCharacterSet was already "UTF8"):
exiftool -tagsfromfile @ -iptc:all -codedcharacterset=utf8 a.jpg
or from Windows Latin2 (cp1250) to UTF‑8:
exiftool -tagsfromfile @ -iptc:all -codedcharacterset=utf8 -charset iptc=latin2 a.jpg
and this command changes it back from UTF‑8 to Windows Latin1 (cp1252):
exiftool -tagsfromfile @ -iptc:all -codedcharacterset= a.jpg
or to Windows Latin2:
exiftool -tagsfromfile @ -iptc:all -codedcharacterset= -charset iptc=latin2 a.jpg
Note that unless CodedCharacterSet is UTF‑8, applications have no reliable way to determine the IPTC character encoding. For this reason, it is recommended that CodedCharacterSet be set to "UTF8" when creating new IPTC.
Refers to the older IPTC IIM format. The more recent IPTC Photo Metadata Standard actually uses the XMP format (see below).
XMP: Exiftool reads XMP encoded as UTF‑8, UTF‑16 or UTF‑32, and converts them all to UTF‑8 internally. Also, all XML character entity references and numeric character references are converted. When writing, ExifTool always encodes XMP as UTF‑8, converting the following 5 characters to XML character references: & < > ' ". By default no further conversion is performed, however the -charset or -L option may be used to convert text to/from a specified external character set when reading/writing.
PNG: PNG TextualData tags are stored as tEXt, zTXt and iTXt chunks in PNG images. The tEXt and zTXt chunks use ISO 8859-1 encoding, while iTXt uses UTF‑8. When reading, ExifTool converts all PNG textual data to the external character set specified by the -charset or -L option, or to UTF‑8 by default. When writing, ExifTool generates a tEXt chunk (or zTXt with the -z option) if the text doesn't contain special characters or if Latin encoding is specified (-L or -charset latin); otherwise an iTXt chunk is used and the text is converted from the specified external character set and stored as UTF‑8.
JPEG Comment: The encoding for the JPEG Comment (COM segment) is not specified, so ExifTool reads/writes this text without conversion.
ID3: The ID3v1 specification officially supports only ISO 8859‑1 encoding (a subset of Windows Latin1), although some applications may incorrectly use other character sets. By default ExifTool converts ID3v1 text from Latin to the external character set specified by the -charset or -L option, or to UTF‑8 by default. However, the internal ID3v1 charset may be specified with "-charset id3=CHARSET". The encoding for ID3v2 information is stored in the file, so ExifTool converts ID3v2 text from this encoding to the external character set specified by -charset or -L, or to UTF‑8 by default. ExifTool does not currently write ID3 information.
PDF: PDF text strings are stored in either PDFDocEncoding (similar to Windows Latin1) or Unicode (UCS‑2). When reading, ExifTool converts to the external character set specified by the -charset or -L option, or to UTF‑8 by default. When writing, ExifTool encodes input text from the specified character set as Unicode only if the string contains special characters, otherwise PDFDocEncoding is used.
Photoshop: Some Photoshop resource names are stored as Pascal strings with unknown encoding. By default, ExifTool assumes MacRoman encoding and converts this to UTF‑8, but the internal and external character sets may be specified with "-charset Photoshop=CHARSET" and "-charset CHARSET" respectively.
QuickTime: QuickTime text strings may be stored in a variety of poorly documented formats, and ExifTool does its best to decode these according to the -charset option setting. For some QuickTime strings where the internal encoding is not known, ExifTool assumes a default encoding of MacRoman, but this may be changed with "-charset QuickTime=CHARSET".
AIFF: AIFF strings are assumed to be stored in MacRoman, and are converted according to the -charset option when reading.
RIFF: The internal encoding of RIFF strings (eg. in AVI and WAV files) is assumed to be Latin unless otherwise specified by the RIFF CSET chunk or the "-charset RIFF=CHARSET" option.
MIE: MIE strings are stored as either UTF‑8 or ISO 8859‑1. When reading, UTF‑8 strings are converted according to the -charset or -L option, and ISO 8859‑1 strings are never converted. When writing, input strings are converted from the specified character set to UTF‑8. The resulting strings are stored as UTF‑8 if they contain multi-byte UTF‑8 character sequences, otherwise they are stored as ISO 8859‑1.
Vorbis: Vorbis comments are stored as UTF‑8, and are converted to the character set specified by -charset or -L when reading.
Programmers: ExifTool returns all values as byte strings of encoded characters. Perl wide characters are not used. The encoding is UTF‑8 by default, but valid UTF‑8 can not be guaranteed for all values, so the caller must validate the encoding if necessary. The encodings described above are set by the various Charset options of the API.

Note: Some settings of the system PERL_UNICODE environment variable may be incompatible with ExifTool's character handling.

11. "My user-defined tags don't work"

For examples of how to add user-defined tags, see the ExifTool_config file in the ExifTool distribution. It may be useful to activate this file as a test before trying to implement your own config file. To activate this file, copy it to your HOME directory then rename it to ".ExifTool_config".
Note: The config file must be renamed at the command line because neither the Windows nor Mac GUI allow a file name to begin with a ".". To do this in Windows, run "cmd.exe" and type the following (pressing ENTER at the end of each line):
rename ExifTool_config .ExifTool_config
or on a Mac, open the "Terminal" application (from the /Applications/Utilities folder) and type this command then press RETURN:
mv ExifTool_config .ExifTool_config
With the sample config file installed, you should be able to write the example tags. A command like this:
exiftool -v2 -NewXMPxmpTag=test FILE
should print this as the first line of its output:
Writing XMP-xmp:NewXMPxmpTag
If this doesn't work, the most common problem is that the ".ExifTool_config" configuration file isn't getting loaded. In this case, there are a few things you can try:
  1. Make sure the config file name is correct. It must be ".ExifTool_config" (note the leading ".", and the capital "T").
  2. Set either the HOME or the EXIFTOOL_HOME environment variable to the name of the directory where you put your ".ExifTool_config" file.
  3. Put the config file in the same directory as the exiftool app. (Also, be sure the config filename starts with a dot! See the note above for help renaming the config file.)
  4. If you can't get the config file to load automatically, you can try loading it manually with the exiftool -config CFGFILE option. (Note: This must be the first option on the command line.) This allows loading of a config file with any name.
If necessary, you can verify that ExifTool is loading your config file by adding the following line to your file:
print "LOADED!\n";
If you see a "LOADED!" message when you run exiftool, but your new tags still don't work, make sure you are using the proper tag name and that the file you are writing can support this type of information.
Note that all tag names in the config file are case sensitive. Specifically, the case must be correct for tag names in Composite tag Require/Desire entries. Also note that XMP tag names are generated automatically by capitalizing the tag ID unless the tag definition contains a "Name" entry.
Programmers: To specify the config file directory from within a Perl script when using the ExifTool API, set the EXIFTOOL_HOME environment variable before loading the ExifTool module:
BEGIN { $ENV{EXIFTOOL_HOME} = '/config_file_directory' }
use Image::ExifTool;
Also see the Configuration section of the ExifTool API documentation for techniques to use a config file with another name, or to disable the config file feature.

12. "How do I export information from exiftool to a database?"

[See FAQ number 26 for help with the reverse -- importing metadata from a database.]
It is often easiest to export information formatted as a tab-delimited or comma-separated list of values using the exiftool -T or -csv option. As well, the -r option is useful for recursing through all images in a hierarchy of directories. For example:
exiftool -T -r -filename -exposuremode -ISO t/images > out.txt
This command recursively processes all images in the "t/images" directory, extracting FileName, ExposureMode and ISO tags, and writing the output to a tab-delimited text file called "out.txt". After the command has executed, "out.txt" will look something like this:
Canon.jpg       Manual  100
Casio.jpg       -       64
Nikon.jpg       -       100
OlympusE1.jpg   Auto    400
One limitation of the -T option is that you must specify a list of tags to extract. Otherwise, all information is extracted from each input file, and the columns would contain values from random tags.
The -csv (comma separated values) option solves this dilemma by pre-extracting information from all input files, then producing a sorted list of available tag names as the first row of the output, and organizing the information into columns for each tag. As well, a first column labelled "SourceFile" is generated. These features make it practical to use the -csv option for extracting all information from multiple images (but impractical for a large number of images due to memory restrictions). For example, this command:
exiftool -csv -r t/images > out.csv
gives an output like this:
t/images/Nikon.jpg,,,,Single Area,,[...]
t/images/OlympusE1.jpg,,Off,,,"Center (121,121)-(133,133)",[...]
Note that the number of columns in the -csv output may be very large if all information is extracted. Missing tags are indicated by empty strings as in the example above, or by dashes if the -f option is used.
It should be possible to import these files directly into most database applications. On the command line, any list of tag names may be used, and any number of file or directory names may be specified. (Hint: If your command line starts to get too long, you may want to look into using the -@ option and/or the ShortCut feature).
In Windows, a .BAT file containing the exiftool command may be used to give drag and drop functionality. Dropping a folder on the following .BAT file will create "out.txt" in the folder:
echo "FileName<tab>Aperture<tab>ISO" > %1\out.txt
exiftool -T -r -filename -aperture -ISO %1 >> %1\out.txt
The "echo" command was included to add column headings to the output. (The tab character in the echo command, indicated by "<tab>", may be generated in Mac/Linux shells with CTRL-v then TAB, or in a Windows cmd shell with TAB when cmd.exe is run with the /f:off option to disable tab completion.)
Other possible export formats include RDF/XML (with the -X option), or JSON (with the -j option). These methods allow transfer of more complex data sets (including structured information with the -struct option), but require that the importing software supports these formats.
Finally, the -p option may be used to generate any arbitrary output format. For example, the following format file (let's call it "my.fmt") may be used to emulate a CSV-formatted output:
with a command like this:
exiftool -f -r -p my.fmt t/images > out.csv
But note that any values containing commas, quotes or some other special characters may mess up the CSV formatting. If this is a possibility, the -api filter option may be added to the command to quote values if necessary. For example:
# in a Windows CMD shell
exiftool -api filter="$_ = qq{""""$_""""} if s/""/""""/g or /(^\s+|\s+$)/ or /[,\n\r]/" ...

# in Mac/Linux
exiftool -api filter='$_ = qq{"$_"} if s/"/""/g or /(^\s+|\s+$)/ or /[,\n\r]/' ...
The -p option argument may also be a format string instead of a file name. The following command has the same effect as above except that the row of headings is not printed (Note: Use single quotes as below on Mac/Linux, or double quotes instead on Windows):
exiftool -f -r -p '$filename,$aperture,$iso' t/images > out.csv
With the -f option, the value of any missing tag is printed as a dash (or the value of the API MissingTagValue option, if set). Without this option, missing tags generate a minor warning and the line in the -p output is not printed. The -m option may be used to ignore minor warnings, which causes these lines to be printed with an empty value for missing tags.
See the -p option in the application documentation for more information about this feature.

13a. "Why is my file smaller after I use ExifTool to write information?", or
13b. "Why do some Offset tags change value when I write other tags?", or
13c. "How does editing a file with ExifTool affect image quality?"

There are various specific reasons why this can happen, but the general answer is: When ExifTool writes an image, the meta information may be restructured in such a way that it takes less space than in the original file, or so that some tags are stored at different offsets in the file.
The EXIF/TIFF standard allows for blocks of unreferenced data to exist in an image. Some digital cameras write JPEG or TIFF-based RAW files which contain large blocks of unused data, usually filled with binary zeros. The reason for this could be to simplify camera algorithms by allowing variable-sized information to be written at fixed offsets in the output image. When ExifTool rewrites an image it does not copy these unused blocks. This can result in a significant reduction in file size for some images. [The -htmlDump option may be used to view the file structure if you are interested in seeing these unused data blocks -- use a command like "exiftool -htmlDump a.jpg > out.html", then open out.html in your web browser. Unused data blocks are brown in this output.]
Also, the size of an XMP record may easily shrink or grow when it is rewritten, even if no meta information is changed. This is partly due to the fact that the XMP specification recommends a few KB of padding at the end of the record (ExifTool adds 2424 bytes by default, but this padding is omitted if the -z command-line option or the API Compact NoPadding setting is used), and partly due to the flexibility of the XMP format which allows the information to be written in various styles, some of which are more compact than others (the -z option and the API Compact settings also cause a more compact form to be written).
You may also notice that the values of some "offset" tags (like ThumbnailOffset and PreviewImageStart) may change when the file is rewritten. This is normal, and simply indicates that the associated data is now stored at a different position within the file.
ExifTool does not modify the image data itself, so editing a file with ExifTool is "lossless" as far as the image is concerned.

14a. "What format do I use for writing GPS coordinates?", or
14b. "How do I change the format of extracted GPS coordinates?"

ExifTool is very flexible in the formats allowed for entering GPS coordinates. Any string containing between 1 and 3 floating point numbers is valid. The numbers represent degrees, (and optionally) minutes and seconds with any number of decimal places.
For EXIF GPS coordinates, the reference direction is specified separately with the EXIF:GPSLatitudeRef or EXIF:GPSLongitudeRef tag. GPSLatitudeRef may be written with a string containing "N", "North", "S" or "South", or with a signed coordinate value (positive for the northern hemisphere or negative for the south). GPSLongitudeRef accepts similar values, but for E/East (positive) and W/West (negative).
For XMP GPS coordinates, the reference direction is specified within the XMP:GPSLatitude or XMP:GPSLongitude value, with west longitudes and south latitudes being specified either by negative coordinate values or by ending the string with "W" or "S".
Here are some examples of equivalent ways to specify a GPS latitude in both EXIF and XMP:
exiftool -exif:gpslatitude="42 30 0.00" -exif:gpslatituderef=S a.jpg
exiftool -exif:gpslatitude="42 deg 30.00 min" -exif:gpslatituderef=S a.jpg
exiftool -exif:gpslatitude=42.5 -exif:gpslatituderef=S a.jpg

exiftool -xmp:gpslatitude="42 30 0.00 S" a.jpg
exiftool -xmp:gpslatitude=42.50S a.jpg
exiftool -xmp:gpslatitude=-42.5 a.jpg
exiftool -xmp:gpslatitude="-42 -30" a.jpg
Note the last example: The negative sign must be applied to all components of the coordinate. Similar styles may be used for longitude. ExifTool will convert any of these coordinate styles to the proper format for the specific tag used.
ExifTool 12.22 and later allow combined lat/lon GPSCoordinates values to be written to GPSLatitude and GPSLongitude, and the appropriate latitude or longitude part will be pulled from the input string. Version 12.36 and later make Composite:GPSPosition writable, allowing EXIF GPS coorinates and reference directions to be all writable via a single tag:
# write all 4 EXIF GPS tags (version 12.36 and later)
exiftool -gpsposition="42 30 0.00 S, 33 15 0.00 W"
exiftool -gpsposition="-42.5, -33.25"
Version 12.44 and later make Composite:GPSLatitude/GPSLongitude writable, allowing the separate EXIF coordinate and reference direction tags to be written together. (Note that the Composite group must be specified here because these tags are otherwise avoided when writing due to possible confusion when attempting to write EXIF tags.)
# write EXIF:GPSLatitude and GPSLatitudeRef together (12.44 and later)
exiftool -composite:gpslatitude="42 30 0.00 S" a.jpg
exiftool -composite:gpslatitude="-42.5" a.jpg
When reading, by default ExifTool reports coordinates in the format
DDD deg MM' SS.SS"
where DDD is degrees, MM is minutes, and SS.SS is seconds. The -n option may be used to change this to decimal degrees, or any arbitrary format may be specified with the -c command-line option (see the application documentation), or the API CoordFormat option.

15. "I get MakerNote warnings or errors when reading or writing information"

Problems like this may be caused by image editing software which doesn't properly update offsets in the MakerNotes when rewriting an image. These offsets are used as pointers to reference tag values and structures within the metadata, and errors like this may lead to missing or incorrect values for some MakerNotes tags. In many cases, ExifTool will detect this type of problem and issue a warning like this when reading (or an error when writing):
Warning: [minor] Possibly incorrect maker notes offsets (fix by -340?)
[Be aware that if multiple warnings occur, the -a option must be used to see them all, since by default only one warning is displayed per file.]
This is a particularly insidious problem that is sometimes difficult for ExifTool to correct automagically, so it requires some operator intervention. If this warning occurs, you have a few alternatives:
1) Use the -F option to allow ExifTool to attempt to fix the incorrect offsets. If ExifTool was correct in its diagnosis, then this option will fix the incorrect offsets. This is usually the appropriate choice if this problem was caused by editing the image with other software.
2) Use the -m option to ignore the warning (or downgrade the error to a warning when writing). This causes ExifTool to honour the existing maker note offsets, and may be the correct choice if images straight out of the camera have this problem.
Often, the first choice (-F) is the right thing to do, but this depends on many factors, so it is best to try both methods then compare the resulting maker note information to see which works best for your situation.
When writing, -F applies a permanent correction to the maker notes. Note that some MakerNote information may be lost permanently if the proper correction is not applied when writing images with this problem.
3) The third alternative is to adjust the maker note offsets by a specific amount. This is done by appending an integer to the -F option. For example, with the warning above (where ExifTool suggests "fix by -340?"), -F would be equivalent to -F-340. See the -F option documentation for more details. This advanced feature may require some technical knowledge about the structure of EXIF information (and here, ExifTool's -htmlDump feature may be very useful for visualizing this structure).
Other types of MakerNote errors may also prevent the file from being written. However, most MakerNote errors are designated as minor, which allows them to be ignored by using the -m option. For example:
Error: [minor] Bad format (65535) for MakerNotes entry 17
Using -m will downgrade the minor error to a warning, allowing the file to be written, but some MakerNote information may be lost when ignoring errors like this.
You may also get one of these warnings when reading or writing a file containing unknown maker notes:
Warning: [minor] Unrecognized MakerNotes
Warning: [minor] Maker notes could not be parsed
These warnings indicate that ExifTool didn't recognize the maker notes in a file, so it couldn't extract any information from them when reading, or had to copy the maker notes as a block when writing. If the maker notes contain absolute offsets then this could result in corrupted makernote information when writing, but this is very unlikely.

16. "Why doesn't ExifTool rename my AVI files?"

By default, ExifTool only processes writable file types when any tag is being written and a directory name is specified on the command line. To force exiftool to process other files, they must either be listed on the command line by name, or be specified using the -ext or -ext+ option, something like this:
# process AVI files in addition to other writable file types
exiftool -ext+ AVI -d pics/%Y/%m "-directory<dateTimeOriginal" DIR

# process only AVI and JPG files
exiftool -ext AVI -ext JPG -d pics/%Y/%m "-directory<dateTimeOriginal" DIR
When -ext is used, only files with the specified extension(s) are processed, however -ext+ may be used to add to the list of normally processed files (as in the first example above). Multiple -ext or -ext+ options may be used in the same command (as in the second example above) to process any number of different file types, or -ext "*" may be used to process files with any extension (or none at all).
The -listwf option may be used to list the extensions of all writable file types, or see here for a table of supported file types.
This includes "pseudo" tags like FileName, Directory, FileModifyDate and FileCreateDate.

17. "List-type tags do not behave as expected"

Tags indicated by a plus sign (+) in the tag name documentation are list-type tags. Two examples of common list-type tags are IPTC:Keywords and XMP:Subject. These tags may contain multiple items which are combined into a single string when reading. (By default, extracted list items are separated by a comma and a space, but the -sep option may be used to change this.) When writing, separate items are assigned individually. For example, the following command writes three keywords to all writable files in directory DIR, replacing any previously existing keywords:
exiftool -keywords=one -keywords=two -keywords=three DIR
List items are assigned separately as above, NOT all together, because this would represent a single keyword:
exiftool -keywords="one, two, three" test.jpg  (WRONG!)
The -sep option may be used to split values of list-type tags into separate items when writing. For example,
exiftool -sep ", " -keywords="one, two, three" DIR
will store three separate keywords, the same as the first example above. This feature may also be used to split a tag value into separate items if it was originally stored incorrectly as a single string:
exiftool -sep ", " -tagsfromfile @ -keywords test.jpg
However, sometimes it is desirable to have list items which contain a comma, and this is allowed:
exiftool -contributor="Harvey, Phil" -contributor="Marley, Bob" a.jpg
But to distinguish these entries when extracting information, a different list separator or a different output format must be used. For instance, the following command uses "//" to separate list items,
exiftool -contributor -sep "//" a.jpg
and produces an output like this:
Contributor  : Harvey, Phil//Marley, Bob
Alternatively, the -j, -php and -X options use an output format which preserves the structure of a list (if -sep is NOT used).
Note that the writing examples above overwrite any values which already existed in the original file for these tags. Instead, to add or delete items from an existing list, use "+=" or "-=" in place of "=". For example:
exiftool -keywords+="add this" -keywords-="remove this" DIR
With commands like this, new items are added to the list in place of the first deleted item, or at the end of the list if no items were removed.
Note: Using "=" is equivalent to "+=" in any command where the same List-type tag is set with "+=" or "-=" in another assignment. (ie. existing items will be preserved unless specifically deleted with "-=".) [For non List-type tags, "+=" has a different meaning, and is used to increment numerical values or shift dates.]
To prevent duplication when adding new items, specific items can be deleted then added back again in the same command. For example, the following command adds the keywords "one" and "two", ensuring that they are not duplicated if they already existed in the keywords of an image:
exiftool -keywords-=one -keywords+=one -keywords-=two -keywords+=two DIR
When copying list tags using the -tagsFromFile feature, items are copied individually to form proper lists if the tag is copied directly (note that -tagsFromFile @ is implied by the "<" operation in this and the following commands, causing tags to be copied from the original file):
exiftool "-keywords<subject" DIR
However, this is not the case if the tag is interpolated within a format string (ie. has a leading "$" symbol), like this
exiftool "-keywords<$subject" DIR  (WRONG!)
but here the -sep option may be used to split the list back into separate items:
exiftool "-keywords<$subject" -sep "//" DIR
Note there is a complication when copying multiple tags to a single list tag: Here, any assignment to a tag overrides earlier assignments to the same tag in the command. For instance, this command:
exiftool "-keywords<filename" "-keywords<comment" DIR  (WRONG!)
writes only the value from the Comment tag. This may seem strange, but it prevents duplicate items from being added to a list when copying a group of tags from a file containing duplicate information. Alternatively, a leading + may be added to accumulate queued items when copying from multiple tags to a single list:
exiftool "-keywords<filename" "-+keywords<comment" DIR
Note that as with "=" in the first three examples above, the "<" operation of this command overwrites any Keywords that existed previously in the original file. To add to or remove from the existing keywords, use "+<" or "-<".
One final note: In rare cases when copying the contents of two other tags into a single list, the resulting queued list values may contain duplicates that would be written to the target file. There is an API NoDups option which removes duplicates items from list values that are queued for writing. For example,
exiftool -tagsfromfile a.jpg -subject -tagsfromfile b.jpg -+subject -api nodups c.jpg
combines Subject items from a.jpg and b.jpg and writes them without duplicates to c.jpg (overwriting any previous Subject in c.jpg).

18a. "Special characters don't display properly in my Windows console", or
18b. "I'm having problems with special characters on the Windows command line"

The Windows cmd.exe console uses an MS-DOS encoding by default (cp437 or something similar, depending on your region). The exiftool -charset option may be used to encode the exiftool output for a specific Windows code page, which may help display some special characters, but instead it may be better to switch the console to UTF‑8 (the native ExifTool character encoding). This is especially useful if you are using the -lang option to translate exiftool output to another language. To change the Windows console to UTF‑8, follow these steps:
  1. Run "cmd.exe" to open a Windows console (select "Run..." from the Start menu and enter "cmd").
  2. Change the font in the console Properties to any True Type font (eg. "TT Lucida Console").
  3. Type "chcp 65001" then press ENTER at the command prompt.
The console should now be able to display UTF‑8 characters (cp65001). But note that the TT Lucida Console font shipped with Windows, at least my version, may not be very complete, and doesn't seem to contain Japanese or Chinese characters.
To permanently set the font, select "Save properties for future windows" when changing the font Properties. Also, you can automatically run "chcp 65001" every time "cmd.exe" is launched by changing the Windows Registry for the Command Processor: Run "regedit" and put "chcp 65001" into Data field for "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor\Autorun". (Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out how to change the code page for exiftool when launched via the Windows GUI. If anyone can figure out how to do this, please let me know.)
Note that Windows will recode arguments on the command line from the current console code page to the system code page, so the ExifTool -charset should be set to the system code page for command-line arguments. However, this technique may yield unexpected results since not all characters may be represented using the system code page. To get around this limitation, arguments may be read from an ExifTool argument file using the -@ option. UTF‑8 encoding is recommended for the argument file, and with this you would also set -charset filename=utf8 if using special characters in filename arguments within the file.
Also see this StackOverflow answer for another possible solution, but note that this option has the side effect of changing the fonts of some older programs and causing problems with their GUIs, so you'll have to decide whether this is acceptable for you.
Another way to bypass the console/command-line encoding problems for individual tag values is to extract/write to/from a separate text file and use a UTF‑8 aware text editor to view/edit the text. For example:
# extracting...
exiftool image.jpg > out.txt

# writing...
exiftool "-subject<=subject.txt" image.jpg

19. "How do I change the format of an extracted tag value?"

The exiftool application has built-in options which allow you to display numeric values (-n), escape special HTML characters (-E), and change the date/time (-d) and GPS coordinate (-c) formats, but sometimes more control is needed over the formatting of a value...
The -p and -tagsFromFile options provide an advanced translation feature that allows arbitrary Perl expressions to be used to modify tag values. The basic syntax is this:
where TAG is the tag name, and EXPR is a Perl expression acting on the default input variable ($_), which is initially the original value of the tag. For example, the following command sets the FileName from Artist, translating spaces to underlines:
exiftool '-filename<${artist;tr/ /_/}.%e' image.jpg
(Note: Use single quotes as above in Mac/Linux, or double quotes instead in Windows.)
Another technique is to create a user-defined Composite tag to do the reformatting. Here is a basic config file that reformats the Artist tag to provide a new MyArtist tag with the same character translation as the example above:
%Image::ExifTool::UserDefined = (
   'Image::ExifTool::Composite' => {
       MyArtist => {
           Require => 'Artist',
           ValueConv => '$val =~ tr/ /_/; $val',
1; # end
With this config file, an Artist value of "Phil Harvey" yields a corresponding MyArtist value of "Phil_Harvey". The ValueConv string may be any valid Perl expression, and is evaluated to obtain the value for the new tag. In this expression, $val represents the ValueConv value of the Require'd tag.
To activate the config file, it must be named ".ExifTool_config" and placed either in your home directory or in the same directory as the exiftool application. Note that the file name begins with a ".", so if you are in Windows or on a Mac you may need to rename the file from the command line since the GUI might not like file names beginning with a ".". [An alternative is to load the config file with the -config option -- see the application documentation for details.]
User-defined Composite tags have many other features, including the ability to combine the values of multiple tags. See the config file documentation for more details about user-defined tags, and lib/Image/ExifTool/README in the full distribution for a complete description of ValueConv features. Also, a quick search of the ExifTool forum should reveal a number of user-defined tag examples, and there are other good (and often more complex) examples which can be found in the %Image::ExifTool::Exif::Composite hash of the lib/Image/ExifTool/Exif.pm source code.

20a. "ExifTool won't write an image due to errors", or
20b. "How do I repair corrupted EXIF?"

Minor errors may be ignored using the -m option (FAQ 15 discusses this with respect to MakerNote errors), but sometimes there are more serious errors which can't be ignored. ExifTool may be used to fix metadata problems in JPEG images by deleting all metadata and rebuilding it from scratch. The command looks like this:
exiftool -all= -tagsfromfile @ -all:all -unsafe -icc_profile bad.jpg
where "bad.jpg" is the name of the image that requires fixing. This command deletes all metadata then copies all writable tags that can be extracted from the original image to the same locations in the updated image. The "Unsafe" tag is a shortcut for unsafe EXIF tags in JPEG images which are not normally copied. JPEG images may also contain an ICC color profile which should be preserved. The "ICC_Profile" tag is also marked as unsafe, but is not part of the EXIF so it isn't covered by the "Unsafe" shortcut and must be specified separately.
After repairing an image like this you should be able to write to it without errors, but note that some metadata from the original image may have been lost in the process.
Note: ExifTool will not modify the JPEG image data, so if the image itself is corrupted (eg. if you get a message saying "Not a valid JPEG"), then ExifTool can not be used to repair the image. Also, ExifTool may not be used like this to repair TIFF-based files or RAW files -- the risk of image corruption is too great because the image is stored in the same IFD as the metadata in these files.
If there are also MakerNote problems in the file, you may want to add the -F option to the command. See FAQ 15 for details. For example, to rebuild the EXIF only and fix the MakerNote offsets you could do this:
exiftool -exif:all= -tagsfromfile @ -exif:all -unsafe -thumbnailimage -F bad.jpg
Advanced: The byte order of the newly created EXIF is set by the value of the ExifByteOrder tag. Since this tag does not belong to the EXIF group, it is not copied with -exif:all above (but would be copied with -all:all as in the first example). If ExifByteOrder is not set then the byte order is determined by the ordering of the MakerNotes if they are copied, otherwise big-endian ("MM") byte order is used by default. ExifByteOrder may be set to a specific value to force a particular byte order when creating new EXIF (eg. "-ExifByteOrder=II" for little-endian).

21. "How do I read/write values containing newline characters?"

When reading, by default exiftool converts all control characters to "." to avoid messing up the output formatting, so newlines will appear as a "." in the output. The -b option may be used to bypass all output formatting (except that a line-feed character is inserted between items in a list), but this may not be appropriate when the values of many tags must be extracted. In this case, the formatted output (-p), JSON (-j), XML (-X) and PHP (-php) options provide alternative output formats which preserve newlines in values.
Alternatively, the API Filter option may be used to apply an arbitrary filter to all extracted values. For example, the following command changes newlines to "\n":
exiftool -api filter="s/\n/\\n/g" FILE
When writing, there are a number of options:
  1. In many shells, a newline may be inserted directly in the command line:

    Bourne shells (press RETURN inside a quoted string)

    exiftool -comment="line 1
    line 2" image.jpg

    (Also, in Bourne shells the character sequence $'\n' may be used for a newline.)

    C shells (press "\" then RETURN inside a quoted string)

    exiftool -comment="line 1\
    line 2" image.jpg
    [Unfortunately the Windows cmd shell provides no method to get a newline (CR/LF in Windows) into the command line. A linefeed (LF) may be inserted with CTRL-T, but I have found no way to insert a carriage return (CR).]

  2. Use the -ec or -E option to allow C-style escape sequences or HTML character entities (Note: In Windows a newline is "\r\n" or "&#xd;&#xa;" instead of just "\n" or "&#xa;"). For example, using C-style escape sequences:
    exiftool -ec "-comment=line 1\nline 2" image.jpg
    or using HTML character entities:
    exiftool -E "-comment=line 1&#xa;line 2" image.jpg
  3. Write the tag from the contents of a separate text file:
    exiftool "-comment<=file.txt" image.jpg
  4. Use $/ in a redirection expression: (Note: Single quotes must be used in Mac/Linux shells around arguments containing a dollar sign, but double quotes are used instead in Windows. Also note that this technique is slower since the implied -tagsFromFile adds an extra unnecessary processing pass to read tags from the file, but most of this delay may be avoided with the -fast3 option.)
    exiftool '-comment<line 1$/line 2' image.jpg
  5. Use the "#[CSTR]" feature to allow C-style escape sequences for a specific line in a -@ argfile. For example, this command:
    exiftool -@ test.args image.jpg
    with this "test.args" file:
    #[CSTR]-comment=line 1\nline 2

22. "In what order are command-line assignments applied when writing?"

When writing, tag assignments on the command line are queued and applied together as each target file is processed. In general, assignments later on the command line override earlier assignments (ie. they are evaluated left-to-right), but there are exceptions:
  1. When writing list-type tags (eg. -keywords=one), new values are accumulated rather than overriding earlier assignments.
  2. When copying values to list-type tags (eg. "-keywords<filename"), subsequent copies to the same tag override earlier operations with the exception that new values may be added to the queued list if a leading + is added to the target tag name (eg. "-+keywords<filename").
  3. Tags copied with the -tagsFromFile option are assigned in order, and all together at the point in the command line where the -tagsFromFile option is located, regardless of whether these tags are specified immediately after the -tagsFromFile option or later on the command line. Remember that "-tagsFromFile @" is implied unless another file is specified when redirecting information with arguments like "-DSTTAG<SRCTAG".
Note: When copying tag values, adding to lists, or shifting date/time values, the source value is always the original value found in the file, regardless of any previous assignments. For example, the following command sets Subject to the original value of Title in the file (NOT to "test"):
exiftool -title=test "-subject<title" a.jpg

23a. "Why do I get '0 image files updated' when writing?", or
23b. "ExifTool doesn't write some tags to a file"

There are a few reasons why this may happen:
  1. The value of the tag is not being set correctly.
This may be due to a tag value which can't be converted, in which case you should warning like this (note: you may need to use the -v3 option to see the warning if other same-named tags are being set properly by the same assignment):
Warning: Can't convert IFD0:Orientation (not in PrintConv)
You get this warning if you write an invalid value to a tag which accepts only specific values. See the "Values" column in the appropriate table of the tag name documentation for a list of valid values for these types of tags. The value conversion may also be bypassed with the -n option, allowing numerical values to be written directly. See FAQ number 6 for more details.
  1. The information type isn't supported by the format of the target file.
Warnings are NOT generated when a tag isn't written because it is normal that many tags can't be written when copying between files of different formats.
Tags are not written if the format of the target file doesn't support the specific type of meta information. For example, CRW images do not support EXIF or IPTC metadata. See the Supported File Types table for an indication of the tags supported by your file. If the tags aren't supported for your file type, then a metadata sidecar file is an alternative.
Also note that MakerNotes tags can not be created or deleted individually, so they can only be written if they already exist in a file. The entire MakerNotes must be created or deleted as a block (see FAQ number 8 for details).
  1. A time value is being shifted but the specified tag doesn't exist.
For example, -datetimeoriginal+=1 will have no effect unless the DateTimeOriginal tag exists in the image.

24. "When I write a file the date/time gets reset to today's date"

You should be aware of the difference between date/time values stored in the metadata of the file itself and date/time values stored in the filesystem (ie. in the disk directory information). A command like this may be used to extract all date/time information with an indication of where it is stored:
exiftool -time:all -a -G0:1 -s c:\images\test.jpg
and should give an output something like this:
[File:System]   FileModifyDate                  : 2009:10:05 20:40:36-04:00
[File:System]   FileAccessDate                  : 2009:10:07 09:22:12-04:00
[File:System]   FileCreateDate                  : 2009:10:05 20:40:36-04:00
[EXIF:IFD0]     ModifyDate                      : 2003:10:31 15:44:19
[EXIF:ExifIFD]  DateTimeOriginal                : 2003:10:31 15:44:19
[EXIF:ExifIFD]  CreateDate                      : 2003:10:31 15:44:19
The -G0:1 option causes the family 0 and 1 group names to be reported in square brackets for each tag. Tags labelled "File:System" are "pseudo" tags stored in the filesystem, while the others are real tags stored in the metadata of the file.
ExifTool's default behaviour is to set all filesystem times to the current date/time when any "real" tag is written, but the -P option may be used to preserve the original FileModifyDate. FileAccessDate represents the time the file was last accessed, and is set to the current date/time whenever any software (including ExifTool) accesses the file.
On systems where a filesystem creation date is maintained, ExifTool also sets this to the current date/time when the file is edited. On Windows the creation date is readable/writable through the FileCreateDate tag (see the Extra Tags documentation), and is preserved with the -P option. On MacOS, FileCreateDate is available but extracted only if specified explicitly, and is writable only if "setfile" is available. The -P option does not preserve the creation date when editing a file on Mac systems, but the -overwrite_original_in_place option may be used to preserve all Finder information including the creation date, or the FileCreateDate may be copied back specifically (ie. -tagsfromfile @ -FileCreateDate). On Linux, the file creation date is not stored.
For example, commands like this act on common metadata tags, setting the filesystem modification date/time to the current date/time:
# common metadata date/time tags are incremented by 1 hour, while
# FileModifyDate is set to the current date/time
exiftool -alldates+=1 c:\images
[The AllDates tag is a shortcut which represents the 3 common metadata date/time tags: DateTimeOriginal, CreateDate and ModifyDate.]
However, FileModifyDate may be preserved with the -P option:
# FileModifyDate is not changed
exiftool -alldates+=1 -P c:\images
ExifTool also allows FileModifyDate to be written, which provides full control over the filesystem modification date/time when writing:
# FileModifyDate is incremented by 1 hour
exiftool -alldates+=1 -filemodifydate+=1 c:\images

# FileModifyDate is set from the value of DateTimeOriginal
# (before DateTimeOriginal is incremented by 1 hour)
exiftool -alldates+=1 "-filemodifydate<datetimeoriginal" c:\images

25. "Can ExifTool be used as an image validator?"

ExifTool is not designed as an image validator but it does have a -validate feature which enables extra validation checks, mainly for JPEG and TIFF-format images (officially released in version 10.97, May 2018, but continually being improved). Here is an example command to apply these validation checks to a JPEG image:
exiftool -validate -warning -error -a test.jpg
Note there are other packages specifically designed for file validation, for example: JHOVE.

26. "How do I import information from a database?"

[See FAQ number 12 for help with the reverse -- exporting metadata to a database.]
ExifTool has the ability to import metadata from CSV and JSON format database files for writing to output image files. For example, the following commands use imported metadata to write to all image files in a directory.
# import from CSV file
exiftool -csv="c:\Users\Phil\test.csv" "c:\Users\Phil\Images"

# import from JSON file
exiftool -json="c:\Users\Phil\test.json" "c:\Users\Phil\Images"
For the above commands, the input CSV or JSON file must have the same format as the output from these commands:
# export to CSV file
exiftool -csv "c:\Users\Phil\Images" > "c:\Users\Phil\test.csv"

# export to JSON file
exiftool -json "c:\Users\Phil\Images" > "c:\Users\Phil\test.json"
Specifically, the first row of the CSV file must contain the tag names. The first column must be a special "SourceFile" column, containing the names of the associated image files, with paths specified in the same way as on the command line. The JSON file contains similar entries, but is not structured in row/column format.
For each image file specified on the command line, all tags for the database entry with the corresponding SourceFile name are written (with the exception of the FileName and Directory tags, which are ignored). A special SourceFile name of "*" may be used to match any image file. A warning is issued and nothing is written if a specified file does not match any SourceFile entry in the database.
Tag names may be prefixed by a group name to write to a specific group (using the same format as when -G or -G1 is added to the export command). To delete a tag, set the tag value to "-" (or the MissingTagValue if this API option was used) and use the -f option when importing. Tags with an empty value are ignored in a CSV import, or set to an empty string in a JSON import (unless -f is used and the API MissingTagValue option is set to an empty string, in which case the tag is deleted).
See the -csv or -j option in the application documentation for more details.

27. "My ExifTool command doesn't work from a Windows .BAT file"

In a Windows .BAT file the "%" character is significant, so all "%" characters in ExifTool commands must be changed to "%%". For example, this command line:
exiftool "-FileName<CreateDate" -d "%Y%m%d_%H%M%S.%%e" image.jpg
must be changed to this in a .BAT file:
exiftool "-FileName<CreateDate" -d "%%Y%%m%%d_%%H%%M%%S.%%%%e" image.jpg

28. "How do I copy a shifted date/time value?"

The -TAG+= and -TAG-= arguments always act on the existing tag value, so they can not be used to shift a new tag value without running a second command. For example, this is wrong because the copy operation is superseded by the shift, and the result is that the existing DateTimeOriginal is shifted back by two hours:
exiftool "-datetimeoriginal<filemodifydate" -datetimeoriginal-=2 image.jpg  (WRONG!)
The -globalTimeShift option fills this niche -- it shifts all date/time tags by the specified amount when reading or copying, allowing a shifted date/time value to be copied to another tag. So this is the proper technique for shifting a date/time value when copying:
exiftool "-datetimeoriginal<filemodifydate" -globaltimeshift -2 image.jpg
An alternative is to use the ShiftTime function of the advanced formatting feature:
exiftool '-datetimeoriginal<${filemodifydate;ShiftTime("-2")}' image.jpg
(Note: Swap the single and double quotes when running this command under Windows.)
Programmers: Here are the equivalent ExifTool API function calls:
# using the GlobalTimeShift option
$exiftool->Options(GlobalTimeShift => '-2');
$exifTool->SetNewValuesFromFile($src, 'datetimeoriginal<filemodifydate');

# using ShiftTime in an advanced formatting expression
$exifTool->SetNewValuesFromFile($src, 'datetimeoriginal<${filemodifydate;ShiftTime("-2")}');

29. "My options don't work in a -@ ARGFILE"

The ExifTool application has the ability to read options from an ARGFILE using the -@ option. The parsing of these arguments is different from the command line. Arguments in this file are separated by newline characters instead of spaces. Also, arguments should not be quoted. For example, on the command line you may have:
-d "%Y:%m:%d %H:%M:%S"
but in an ARGFILE, this should be
%Y:%m:%d %H:%M:%S

30. "How do I extract absolutely all metadata from a file?"

By default, duplicate tags, unknown tags, embedded tags, and System tags that require external utilities are not extracted. The main reason for this is performance; extracting these tags will significantly increase processing time for some files. The following command extracts everything possible with ExifTool:
exiftool -ee3 -U -G3:1 -api requestall=3 -api largefilesupport FILE
(The -G3:1 option is included in the above command only to give an indication of where the metadata was stored.)

31. "Why does ExifTool rewrite the entire file when I am only changing one small thing?"

Generally it is possible in theory to edit existing fixed-length tags without having to rewrite an entire file, but ExifTool doesn't do this for 3 reasons:
  1. The algorithm to do this would be completely different than the more general and powerful case where you want to be able to add/delete tags and/or write values with different lengths. Plus, implementing this feature would be a lot of work, and it would only be useful in certain situations.
  2. Some file formats (like MP4) allow metadata to be written at the beginning or the end of a file. Writing it at the end of the file could avoid the need to rewrite the entire starting section, but metadata is more useful at the start of a file because then other programs (especially ones that stream the file over the internet) don't have to read through the entire file to find the metadata. Also, some software won't read metadata that comes at the end of a file (probably for this reason).
  3. ExifTool is designed to allow files to be read/written via pipes, which are not seekable, so in-place editing is not possible with these files and again, like 1, two completely different algorithms would be required.

32. "How do I safely delete all metadata from a file?"

First of all, all metadata shouldn't be removed from some file types (such as RAW images) because this information is necessary for display of the image. JPEG is the most popular image format and most suited to erasing all metadata because the image and metadata are well separated in this format. However, even with JPEG images care should be taken because the metadata may contain color space information which should be maintained to preserve the color rendition.
Here is a command that may be used to safely delete all metadata from .JPG images in a directory:
exiftool -ext jpg -all= --icc_profile:all -tagsfromfile @ -colorspacetags DIR
This command deletes all metadata except the ICC Profile if it exists, then copies back any EXIF color space tags (adding any mandatory EXIF tags using default values if necessary).

Last revised Feb 23, 2024

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