Why Are Your Photos Upside Down?

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upside down photoWe took some photos during a holiday and my friend requested me to email to him some of his nice photos. He received his photos and asked me, "why are you sending me photos upside down?" I answered, "sorry, but they all look nice on my computer."

If this sounds familiar to you, here is why the photos look upside down and how you can display them properly.

When you use a mobile device and rotate it to take a photo, your device may capture a rotated image and save it in a jpg file with an Exif orientation tag indicating that the photo is rotated.

Either one of these orientation tag values, 1, 8, 3 and 6 is often written to the jpg file when you take a photo by rotating a camera 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees counterclockwise (ccw) respectively. The diagrams here show how an image may be saved using a camera or a smartphone:

Top-left

Normal,
Top-left (1)

Left-bottom

Rotate 90° ccw,
Left-bottom (8)

Bottom-right

Rotate 180° ccw,
Bottom-right (3)

Right-top

Rotate 270° ccw,
Right-top (6)

When you check out the Exif data of an image, it may just tell you the image orientation is "top-left" or otherwise. This is made easy to understand with a red dot in the above diagrams. A red dot represents a point where the first column and the first row of an image intersect, thus it's "top-left" for the first image without rotation, "left-bottom" for the second image rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, and so on.

If you view photos using an app supporting the Exif orientation, the app displays the photos properly by auto rotating them based on their orientation tag. But if you view photos in an application, such as Windows Explorer in Windows 7, that does not support the Exif orientation, you will notice that some photos are turned either upside down or sideways, exactly the way they are saved inside the files regardless of the orientation tag.

Sounds problematic? The good news is you can fix it yourself if you want to make sure your snapped photos are displayed properly in all applications.

Use an application, such as XnView (download here), that allows you to rotate images based on the Exif value and save them back to the normal orientation.

For example, in XnView, browse to a folder containing only the jpg files, click to select a rotated image or if needed, press Ctrl+A to select all files, then click "Tools" on the menu bar, select "JPEG lossless transformations" then "Rotate based on Exif value". The files are then saved with photos rotated to the normal orientation ("top-left") and their orientation value reset to 1, good for viewing in any other applications either they support the Exif orientation or not.

And there you have it, no more upside-down photos.

 

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Comments

A top pick here, Zoner Photo Studio, also has the option to rotate images to match EXIF (Preferences, General) and makes it quite easy to rotate & save if need be.

Windows Photo Viewer does this, at least the version that comes with W7. I'm sure earlier versions could do it too.

@Sid in Extremis, do you mean a manual rotation with a click of its button by the user or an auto rotation by the Photo Viewer based on the Exif data? According to Microsoft Support, "some camera manufacturers set the JPEG EXIF Orientation flag based on an orientation sensor built into the camera. This image attribute is currently not supported by Windows Explorer or the imaging applications that ship with Windows." "Applies to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1"

My mistake, I misread the original post, sorry.

You're welcome Sid in Extremis.

and good old IRFANVIEW has been doing it for years as well. My Fave.

While it is quite possibly one of my favorite freeware programs of all time, IrfanView is a bit clumsy in that regard, alas – "lossless rotation" uses a somewhat awkward plugin. I wish it was simple as ordinary rotation.

No problems here. It has some useful additional options, like removing (some or all) metadata. In fact better than XnView.

I did this but I either see Normal under Orientation or nothing at all. The remaining pictures are blank in that field.

@musicollector, the Orientation tag value can be altered or removed by some image editors. In which case you may see a blank Orientation tag for some jpeg files in Windows Explorer.

Good to know. Thanks. The culprit might be Irfanview, which I have had on my machine for years.

I think it should be Details and not List View in Explorer. Nevertheless, thanks for the informative article Jojo.

You're spot on Joe A.TT. It has not been corrected in the article. Update: Using Explorer to rotate images is found to have inconsistent results in relation to the Exif orientation tag at times. So it's better to do without this method.