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TechTV's Cat Schwartz Exposed: Is Photoshop To Blame?

By July 26, 2003

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If you're not careful, your digital photos could reveal things to other people that you didn't intend for them to see. But is Photoshop to blame? I'm not sure.

TechTV's Cat Schwartz posted cropped photos of herself on her blog that turned out to include embedded thumbnail previews which showed the original, uncropped pictures where she had posed topless. Here's how this mishap is explained:
"Photoshop generates small preview images for the pics it produces and hides them in the original image. If you change the image drastically, the preview thumbnail is changed too. But if you don't make a major change, and instead just crop the picture and resave it under the original file name, the preview thumbnail stays the same and reflects not what your image currently looks like but instead what the original looked like." [Link] Warning: PG-13 content
For the record, the author of this page is likely mistaken about at least one thing. It was probably the digital camera, not Photoshop, that embedded the thumbnail preview in the image.

Thumbnail previews are part of the EXIF metadata that all digital cameras embed into JPEG files. Incidentally, EXIF information and metadata is increasingly becoming a concern for professional photographers working in digital because it can potentially expose information (such as shooting conditions, or ...ahem... other things) that the photographer does not want to be revealed. However, using EXIF editing software, it's possible to strip out this embedded information. Photoshop's Save for Web command also strips out extra metadata and thumbnail previews automatically.

In addition, I was not able to reproduce this behavior in Photoshop 7 using my own digital camera photos. The site quoted above does not mention what version of Photoshop was used to crop these images (in fact, it's unclear whether Photoshop was actually used for the cropping), but it appears that this quirk has been corrected, at least in Photoshop 7.01. If you know what versions of Photoshop can reproduce this behavior, please use the discussion link below to post in the forum. I'm interested to know.

EXIF Information

Also See: Too Much Information about hidden metadata in Microsoft Word documents from About Desktop Publishing.

[link via alphaChannel]
October 23, 2008 at 8:38 am
(1) Jim says:

For more on the Cat story, visit the page that kindly provided a link to this page:


March 25, 2009 at 3:05 am
(2) Vigorousjammer says:

Well, if you simply crop a picture using Windows picture viewer, it doesn’t get rid of the exef data… I know from experience…
nothing bad ever happened to me like this, though…

May 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm
(3) Jeff says:

On my Canon DSLR I have put my name and post code. This becomes part of the EXIF data. This data is displayed in Flickr as well as other photo sharing sites. It is not that I mind this information being displayed but I guess that someone could use it against me.

May 28, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(4) Sue Chastain says:

@Jeff: You can remove that data if you don’t want it displayed. When you use Photoshop’s save for web it should remove it automatically, and there are many tools for editing or removing EXIF data.

Whatever photo processing software you currently use may already have something to strip out EXIF data or select what you want to retain.

July 9, 2009 at 12:28 am
(5) anon says:

I’d rather leave my EXIF data intact.
as in my COPYRIGHT notice EXIF data. I do not appreciate facebook or myspace (or similar sites) removing it.

September 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm
(6) Fred says:

Once you upload your photos to those sites you loose copyright status. So if you don’t want to lose your copyright, don’t upload it to a public site such as the ones you have listed.

September 17, 2010 at 9:21 am
(7) The_Corrector_of_Misinformation says:

No, you do not lose copyright just because you publish your photograph on the web. The notion that simply making your work public automatically removes copyright protection is ridiculous.

Copyright is a matter of law, not popular opinion.

September 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm
(8) Douglas2 says:

Agreed: “you do not lose copyright just because you publish your photograph on the web”

You do not lose copyright JUST because you publish your photograph on the web.

But before you think you retain copyright on what you have uploaded, check the terms-of-service that you agreed to with Myspace/Facebook/Flickr or whatever. Have you granted them a perpetual license to distribute and exploit the photo however they see fit?

After all, copyright is a matter of law and contract.

April 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm
(9) John says:

Someone please re-post the image! the shackspace link is gone!!!

August 18, 2012 at 10:32 am
(10) Joyce says:

Vigorousjammer are you still here? If not, can anyone else here help me?

You posted the following comment below in 2009:

“Well, if you simply crop a picture using Windows picture viewer, it doesn’t get rid of the exef data… I know from experience…
nothing bad ever happened to me like this, though…”

I was hoping you could maybe help me. I cropped a picture with the Microsoft 2010 picture viewer and was wondering if I had a chance of recovering the original uncropped picture as I accidentally saved and lost the original.

Thanks to anyone out there that may be able to help me with this.

April 2, 2014 at 8:12 pm
(11) Pedant says:

Douglas2, giving someone a license doesn’t take away your copyright. You still “retain copyright” even if you give Facebook a “perpetual license”.

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