In this post I tell you why you see your photo metadata in Facebook, how it got there from your computer, how to control that in future uploads, and how to change or remove the metadata you see next to a photo on Facebook.
Update: (May 2013) The information in this post is no longer true. Facebook has removed this feature. I received a report that metadata was no longer being transferred to Facebook fields as described below, and sure enough, it now fails when I try it. However, I have no idea why it changed. Facebook and other online services often make changes without announcing them. There has been no official word.
Update: (June 2013) Still not working. A question was posted in the Facebook Help Center about this, with a long list of concerned replies from photographers. It looks like Facebook has not responded. You can vote up the question and add your own comment: Metadata on Photos (Facebook Help Center question)
Update: (September 2013) Is it back? I just uploaded an album to Facebook and the metadata described in this post did appear in Facebook again. Facebook may have restored this feature; feel free to comment if you have seen Facebook include or not include this metadata lately.
Why are you seeing photo metadata in Facebook?
It used to be that when you uploaded a photo to Facebook, all of the EXIF and IPTC metadata embedded in the photo was ignored. Facebook would strip out information such as the caption, the copyright notice, and keywords (such as names of people) you might have entered using your photo editor or digital asset manager.
Fortunately, Facebook has improved how it treats image metadata, and it’s now slightly friendlier to content owners like you and me. If you filled in a photo’s caption before uploading, Facebook now displays that as its default Description for the photo, so you don’t have to enter the caption again. Facebook now pulls in the Copyright field too. It adds the copyright information to the end of the Description, which is a little strange. No other image metadata is recognized that I know of so far. (Update: After I wrote this post, I found out that if there is text in a photo’s Title field, Facebook takes that too, and inserts it at the beginning of the caption.)
In the example below, I entered text into the Description (caption) and Copyright fields in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom before uploading the image to Facebook. The example shows how the photo and its metadata appear in the image lightbox view in Facebook immediately after uploading. (The example shown is from a basic export-and-upload; I haven’t tried this yet with the Facebook Publish Service in Lightroom. Also, metadata display doesn’t seem to work with photos you post on your wall, only to albums.)
Given the controversies about Facebook and content ownership, the prominence that Facebook now gives to the original embedded copyright notice is encouraging, particularly when taken together with Facebook’s revised Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook…”). It would be nice, though, if Facebook handled copyright information as other photo-sharing sites do, by displaying the copyright notice in its own area instead of cramming it into the caption field.
Be aware that even though Facebook copies the caption and copyright information into the Description, Facebook still strips all that metadata from the image itself—you can’t recover that info by downloading the image you uploaded. Put another way, if someone clicks the Download link for a photo you uploaded to Facebook, the image Facebook provides will have none of the metadata you originally uploaded, even if that information is seen next to the photo on Facebook. After Facebook brings in the image and its metadata, it keeps the image and displays the caption and copyright, but still throws out the actual metadata. If you’re concerned about keeping copyright information attached to your photos even after being downloaded from Facebook, you may want to add a visible watermark to your photos.
If you don’t want to display the copyright notice in the Facebook caption field (maybe you already watermarked the image itself, or they’re just personal snapshots where a copyright notice in every caption seems excessively formal), you can edit the album right after uploading it to Facebook and the caption field of every uploaded photo; or you can remove unwanted metadata before you upload, as described below.
Where do you enter a copyright notice and description/caption on a computer, before uploading to Facebook?
You can embed descriptive information into photos by using photo organizing software. Basic software, like the kind that comes with your computer, may let you embed a caption and possibly keywords (tags) such as the names of people. In comparison, professional photo-organizing software lets you embed a much longer list of metadata types including copyright and licensing information.
In Photoshop, choose File > File Info to inspect and alter the metadata for an image.
Using File Info in Photoshop is not an efficient way to edit metadata for multiple images because you have to open and edit each image individually. For bulk changes, it’s much easier to browse to the images in Adobe Bridge (which comes with Photoshop), select multiple images, and enter your metadata using the Metadata panel. That will update all selected images instantly. In Lightroom, use the Metadata panel in the Library module to edit the metadata of many selected images at once. Using software like Bridge or Lightroom, you can prep the metadata for an entire Facebook photo album very quickly.
Adobe Photo Downloader (which comes with Photoshop and is launched from Bridge) and Lightroom also let you set a default metadata preset to apply to images as they come in from the card in the first place. By automatically setting metadata fields your way as you import images from any card, you can greatly reduce the amount of time you need to bulk-edit the metadata later.
Editing info added by your camera
Some cameras insert something in the caption of every photo. The classic example is that there are thousands of photos across the Internet that have an automatic caption saying “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA”. If your camera is always adding information you’d like to change, first try editing it in the camera. For example, many cameras have a menu setting that lets you enter the name of the creator (you) or a copyright notice.
Below is an example of how the Canon EOS 7D camera lets you control what information the camera embeds into every photo you take. It’s embedded as standard IPTC metadata that you can see and edit in the software mentioned above.
If you own a 7D and want to know where this is, press the Menu button on the back of the camera, go to the third yellow menu and scroll down to Copyright Information, the fourth command down.
If you can’t change metadata added by the camera, after you transfer photos to your computer you can use a program like Lightroom or Bridge to edit the metadata fields. In those applications, you can also make a preset that empties fields you want to prevent from being uploaded to a web site like Facebook, or fills the fields with whatever data you want. If you erase any fields, it’s best to do that to the JPEG copies you export for upload to Facebook, not to originals where you want to keep all the metadata you meticulously entered.
How can you stop Facebook from displaying metadata embedded in photos?
Facebook doesn’t seem to have any options that control how photo metadata is imported when you upload images. If you don’t want certain metadata to show up on Facebook with your photos, you have to remove the unwanted metadata from those image files before you upload them to Facebook.
In Photoshop, the File > Save for Web dialog box provides a convenient Metadata menu that lets you include different levels of metadata in an exported image and exclude the rest. Choose None if you want to suppress all metadata, or one of the Copyright options if you want those to show up on Facebook.
Lightroom 4 has a similar option in its File > Export dialog box. (In Lightroom 3, the option is called “Minimize Embedded Metadata“.) As with Save for Web, choose “None” if you don’t want the copyright notice and caption to appear in Facebook.
On the other hand, if you entered a caption for a photo and it isn’t showing up on Facebook, make sure you selected one of the last two “All…” options in the metadata menus shown above.
If you want more detailed control over including or excluding specific metadata items with an exported image, take a look at Jeffrey’s Metadata Wrangler, a plug-in for Lightroom.
How can you remove or change the metadata already uploaded with a Facebook photo?
As I mentioned earlier, photos displayed on Facebook seem to have metadata removed from the photo file itself; it’s just displayed in the Facebook description (caption) field. So while there’s nothing left to remove in the photo file, you can edit whatever Facebook displays in the photo’s description.
A lot of people don’t know how to do that because there’s nothing labeled “description” on a single Facebook photo, so here’s how. To edit a Facebook description for a single photo, click the Edit text next to a photo (where it says “Like • Comment • Share • Edit”). That opens the field where you can change or remove the description, tags, and location, as shown in the first picture in this article.
You’ll often find it more convenient to edit descriptions of all photos on a single page. To do this, when you’re viewing the album, click Edit Album, then click Edit Photos to open the page where you can edit the metadata for multiple photos at once.
Note: Thanks to your comments, I revised this article to cover more about how to control photo metadata on Facebook.