Often in films about the FBI, we see that from a photo it's possible know:

  • Name and surname of the photographer
  • City where the photo was taken
  • Latitude and Longitude of where the photo was taken

Is it just fantasy or can be possible get all this from a photo? What can you get from a photo (if it's possible get anything else)?

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    I think you need to research the "metadata" of photos. You will find that there is a lot of information that is attached to photos in general. – schroeder Jun 26 '16 at 13:33
  • fotoforensics.com/tutorial-meta.php do you think this is a good tutorial? – Blind Jun 26 '16 at 13:34
  • anyway, on the web I've found many tool for metadata of photos, but I would know the theory and how to works! – Blind Jun 26 '16 at 13:36
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    You want to understand how metadata works? I'm not sure how to explain metadata ... – schroeder Jun 26 '16 at 13:38
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    It works in the same way with, say, mp3 files. The title of the song, author, album, year of release etc. etc. is all meta data store in an ID3(v2) tag (usually, but there are more types) inside the mp3 file. the mp3 data is actually only audio-related. In any case, information like latitude and longitude are only available if the camera used has an incorporated GPS system (note that a smartphone may provide such information!) – Bakuriu Jun 26 '16 at 20:41

You're talking about a photo's EXIF data. It's metadata embedded into photographs by the device taking the pictures. Often it includes:

  • Device information (model, sometimes serial number)
  • Photograph information (Resolution, aperture, focal length, size, etc)
  • GPS Information (Lat, Long)

There are tools out there to strip EXIF data from pictures if you're concerned about it. See these Google Results for more info.

EDIT -- How Metadata Works Metadata is simply additional information about the file. All (I guess I should say most) files have some sort of metadata associated with them, including create date, modified date, metadata change date, and last access date (research tools like IMG_CAT, FLS, and iStat for more info on obtaining metadata).

Basically, a file is nothing more than a sum of binary data (1s and 0s), so metadata is additional binary added to the binary that makes up the image. It's located in a specific area of the file (known as the offset, usually represented in hex i.e., 0xLOCATION) and can be observed with the tools mentioned above or by opening the image in a hex editor given that you know where to look for it. This illustration may help understand how metadata is packaged into the file.


Like it has been said, you saw what's called EXIF data.
I would like to add that what you said is possible to get from those data, but actually you can get a lot more. Check about EXIF's article on wikipedia, or this website listing every possible EXIF tags, including the GPS coordinates, and a lot more.

This is amazingly enormous, and you can access all this data very quickly, using simple tools or just by clicking Get Info on a picture under OSX.

  • Thanks! Can I do it with Linux (Elementary OS)? – Blind Jun 26 '16 at 13:53
  • Yes of course, you can do this using the imagemagick package (sudo apt-get install imagemagick in your case) and extract the EXIF data with this command: identify -verbose image.jpg | grep "exif:"(read from this article but I guess there is a lot of different ways to perform this) – mgul Jun 26 '16 at 13:57
  • Thanks! Like test I have tried with this foto (cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0225/7463/products/…) and I've this info for now with Photos: Date, Time, Size and software! – Blind Jun 26 '16 at 14:03
  • You're welcome! But be aware about the fact that not every picture have the same EXIF fields, some won't have GPS coordinates for example, generally this kind of info depends on the preferences of the user who takes the picture. – mgul Jun 26 '16 at 14:06

It very much depends on the device used to take the photograph.

For a smartphone or similar it is common for a photograph, especially if uploaded to a social media site to include information about the time and place it was taken as well as the obvious link to an individual's account. even is this data is not published it may still be fairly easy to obtain. Often this isn't even metadata as such as the image and the associated other information is bundled together and published as a package.

A file take directly from a stand alone camera will include quite a lot of technical information such as camera settings and time and date which is used by photographers to assist in processing and cataloging images. It is possible to remove a lot of this information by converting it to a different file format which doesn't support this level of data or by actively removing it. For example taking a screenshot or a second photograph of the image would remove all of this original data, although there may of course be new meta data associated with this new file.

Camera image files may also include the serial number of the camera which took the image but this may not necessarily be trivial to trace to its owner, especially if it is used, stolen or bought with cash.

There are also plausible forensic techniques which may allow investigators to deduce information from the image itself, albeit with some time and effort.

For example :

  • recognizable landmarks : as well as trivial example like public buildings and monuments, things like car registration plates, advertisements, street signs, flora and fauna (if there is a palm tree in the background the photo probably wasn't taken in Norway).
  • Lighting conditions such as the position of the sun and length of shadows can give an indication of season, time of day and latitude, especially if there are multiple clues eg if you know the photo was taken on the 21st of June at midday shadow length will give you some idea of the latitude.
  • The angle at which the photo was taken can give a clue to the height of the photographer.

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