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What is Exif Support Hosting?

Exif stands for Exchangeable Image File Format, a simple and useful standard for storing information in images taken by digital cameras. Exif can also be used in Waveform File Format (WAV) audio files. Exif is essentially an industry standard for collecting and storing meta data related to certain kinds of raw digital content.

Collecting and using meta data

Exif uses a variety of meta data tags to attach detailed technical information to the files.

In the case of digital images, this can include the make and model of the camera used to take the photo, the date and time at which the photo was taken, the resolution and the compression type of the photo, usually Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG).

However, it also includes more detailed information such as exposure time, exposure bias, aperture setting, image sensor sensitivity, focal length, metering mode, flash, pixel dimension, file source, and even the geolocation of the image in question.

'Geotagging' is becoming increasingly relevant as more and more people start using smartphones as their primary cameras. Also, an increasing number of compact cameras now ship with GPS, WiFi and some models even run Android.

In the case of audio files, Exif data can reveal the artist, creation date, copyright, sample rate, bytes per second, number of channels, and more.

Why Exif is relevant for sites

So, how does this pertain to your website and hosting plan?

It all depends on whether or not the inclusion of technical information on your image and audio files is important to you or your clients and readers. If your website is related to photography or music in any way, making sure that Exif data is available can provide your site’s visitors with a wealth of useful knowledge.

For example, if your site published photography tutorials, Exif data is a must, as it allows readers to view and replicate settings with relative ease. Writers do not need to waste time listing the shutter speed, aperture or ISO setting - Exif will take care of that in a clean and unobtrusive way.

Even if your site isn’t photography or music related, you might want to provide Exif data just in case any of your users should want or need it. Geo tags are a good example of an Exif use case beyond hobby photography - they have numerous potential applications in business, social networking and a range of other niches.

What makes Exif data disappear

If you would like your files’ Exif data to remain intact, you can check with your Web hosting provider and content management system (i.e. WordPress or Squarespace) to ensure that, in the process of uploading your files to your website, the data won’t be corrupted or modified, either by the nature of the script used on your website’s server or by any plugins used to edit your image.

The trouble with many image hosting sites, content management systems and forum platforms is that they remove Exif data in certain situations. For example, if you upload a full-resolution photo taken by your smartphone or SLR camera, it is bound to be resized for preview.

Even if you take lower resolution shots specifically to avoid long uploads or roaming charger when syncing (e.g. smartphone photos on a trip to Rome), chances are the CMS will still have to resize or crop them to match the resolution and/or aspect ratio.

In many cases, Exif data is lost in the process.

Enabling Exif on your server

Many hosts offer hassle free support for Exif meta data, but even in case your current host does not, there are a few things you could try on your own.

For example you can extract it with a bit of PHP tweaking, using the exif_read_data() function.

If Exif is not enabled in cPanel, this should not be an issue, either. The module is there and all you need to do is enable it, which adds '--enable-exif' to PHP configuration options.

In any case, should you need to enable Exif support or extract Exif data, there are plenty of online resources that will help you do it on various different platforms, but the process tends to be relatively straightforward.

As for supporting Exif in the first place, even if you don't see much of a need for image meta data on your site, Exif just includes the bare basics, snippets of data that may come in handy sometime in the future - so there is really no point in losing it along the way.

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