How to Find Photos with Metadata
PixelPeeper.io can reverse-engineer edits from photos, but it needs JPG files with metadata — and these aren‘t always easy to find.
Here are some tips & tricks you can use to increase your chances. Although they are not guaranteed to work, they are always worth trying.
- What You Need to Know
- How to Get Original Files
- How to Get Original Files for WordPress Websites
- How to Get Original Files for Squarespace Websites
- How to Get Original Files from Unsplash
- How to Get Original Files from Any Website
- How to Open Files for Websites that Block Right-click
- How to Use Google Image Search to Find Original Files
What You Need to Know
PixelPeeper can only read metadata for files exported from Adobe Lightroom. It means that if the photographer used other type of software, you won‘t be able to recover edits from their photos.
Another important condition: Lightroom has an option to strip metadata from images on export — if the author used it, there‘s no way to recover edits from the file.
How to Get Original Files
Your best chance of finding photos with metadata is getting a hold of the original file. That usually means going to the photographer's website/blog.
Original JPG files uploaded by the author can be quite large, so they are usually resized and optimized by the website software – and the optimized versions won‘t include metadata (at least most of the time).
However, you can try to get the original file — it takes a bit of tampering with image URLs.
How to Get Original Files for WordPress Websites
WordPress is the most popular blog software, powering 39% of the web (as they claim). Many photography blogs are based on WordPress and thankfully, getting original files for WP-based websites is quite easy.
Note: blogs using WordPress will usually have /wp-content in the image URL.
Sometimes WordPress serves original files by default — and sometimes it will serve resized versions. It all depends on how the particular website was set up.
If you visit a WordPress-based website and find an image you want to inspect, right-click on it to open it in a new tab.
If the URL contains dimensions before the .jpg part, you‘re getting a resized version without metadata:
In the URL above, you‘ll have to remove -1080x1620 to get the original image:
How to Get Original Files for Squarespace Websites
Squarespace is another popular option. They don‘t strip metadata by default, but they have an option to block right-click to make it harder to download images. See the section at the bottom for tips on how to work around it.
Note: blogs using Squarespace will usually have images.squarespace-cdn.com in the image URL.
If the image doesn‘t have metadata, you can try removing the ?format=XXXX part from the end of the URL. This doesn‘t guarantee anything, but it‘s worth trying.
How to Get Original Files from Unsplash
Unsplash strips metadata from images and files you download by clicking on the "Download free" button will not include edits.
To get the original image, right-click on the photo, open it in a new tab and remove everything after ? from the URL:
So that you get:
This is the original file that might contain Exif and XMP metadata.
(These are example URLs used to illustrate the method, but they don‘t lead to an actual photo)
How to Get Original Files from Any Website
The method illustrated above can work on any website that uses resizing in a way that can lead you to the original file. You‘ll need a bit of trial and error to make it work and there‘s always a chance it won‘t work.
But the general method is: open image in a new tab, look at the URL in the address bar and see if you can remove some parts modifying it (as in the examples above).
How to Open Files on Websites that Block Right-click
Some websites will block right-click or hide images to prevent you from downloading them.
You can work around it, but it takes a bit of technical knowledge.
The images are always there, but they can be buried in the source code.
You‘ll need Chrome DevTools. If you‘re using Chrome, this tool is built-in and you don‘t need to install anything.
Open the website in Chrome, hover your mouse cursor over the image you‘d like to download and hit
CMD+Option+C (macOS) or
Control+Shift+C (Windows, Linux, Chrome OS) to open DevTools.
Click on the image to highlight the HTML element in DevTools.
It will show you the HTML tag (for example
<img>) that includes image URL. Sometimes the image URL will be in the
style= attribute, for example:
<div ... style="background-image: url(https://example.com/this-is-your-image-url.jpg)"
Copy the URL and open it in a new tab.
IMPORTANT NOTE: many websites will use overlay elements to hide the original image, so when you use the method described above, DevTools will show you the overlay element, not the actual image.
The image is still there, but you‘ll have to click through the source code using DevTools to find the right HTML element.
How to Use Google Image Search to Find Original Files
Another trick worth trying is to use Google Image Search to find different versions of the photo you want to check. This is a great way to find all websites where the photo is published. There's a chance one of them contains the original file, with metadata included (not guaranteed, though).
How to do it?
When you're on instagram website (or any other website), download the photo you want to check (the link is hidden in the source code), or take a screenshot of it and save it on your desktop.
Next, go to Google Image Search, click on "Search by Image" icon and upload the file.
Click on "Search by Image" and Google will show you different websites where this (or similar) photo is published. Follow the links and check the images you find on PixelPeeper.