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Why is my picture turned sideways?

Rating: 94 votes, 5.00 average.
Ever wonder why some images uploaded to the web appear sideways, clearly not as intended? That picture of the instrument you wanted to sell, you were so proud of the photo and it looked great and suddenly it's on the Classifieds or the Forum, or on Facebook or elsewhere and... "wait, that's not right! That's not the way my picture is supposed to look! Who rotated it?"

Example from our Classifieds:

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	imagerotation.jpg 
Views:	2098 
Size:	92.0 KB 
ID:	107730

Here's the problem: it's the web browser. No, not YOUR web browser, web browsers in general. Mine included.

Meet the culprit: EXIF. Exchangeable Image File Format.

That's as geeky as we'll get. EXIF is a standard for storing information in image files... like how the image is supposed to be rotated. Most newer digital cameras and smart phones observe EXIF. Some don't, and when you see images rotated incorrectly it means the photo was taken with a device that doesn't (or someone just had their camera upside down... anything is possible).

To boil this down in simple terms: if you take a photo with a device that doesn't use EXIF, when it gets uploaded to the web and appears in a web document it may not display as intended.

Your old digital camera probably doesn't have it. Your new iPhone or Android does. Open any image and save it in a program like Photoshop and it'll display properly as saved because Photoshop observes EXIF (image orientation).

An almost daily task: I look at the Classifieds and see an image rotated incorrectly. Most times I save the image locally to my personal computer. When it's sitting on the desktop it's already displayed in the fashion it should be because operating systems (PC/Mac) understand orientation. Web browsers pretty much don't. This is how I know the image was taken with a camera that doesn't observe EXIF. I open in Photoshop, save (no rotation), upload it to the existing ad and it now displays correctly. Photoshop embeds EXIF information so it displays as saved.

There are free programs out there that will embed the orientation information (EXIF). I have not personally tried these but don't doubt they work. Picasa, XnView, or FastStone Image Viewer are listed by as three. As always, exercise caution when downloading free software from the internet. We use for safe downloads.

Now we'll get a little more geeky. May be a good time to bail.

Want more proof how weird this is? Check out the photo below of the Classified ad in question. It's displayed incorrectly inside the HTML document, but if viewed in some browsers at the top level, meaning not inside the document (by itself) it will display differently depending upon what type of browser you're using.

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	69778.jpg 
Views:	3373 
Size:	74.1 KB 
ID:	107737

Test your browser: click on the image, and then in your browser ask it to display the image by itself (as in, not inside of an HTML document). On PC you can simply right-click and selection View Image. Macintosh, Ctrl + click and select Open Image (in new tab or window... depends upon what kind of browser). In Chrome and Safari it will display correctly. FireFox still cannot at this time. Couldn't find info on Internet Explorer but you get the idea.

Bottom line: if they're rotated differently than you wish then your camera doesn't support EXIF (that information that instructs how it was intended to be viewed). Saving in Photoshop or one of the free programs mentioned above before uploading to the web will resolve this issue.

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Updated Oct-07-2013 at 8:53am by Scott Tichenor

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  1. evanreilly's Avatar
    I was just bothering myself about that issue!!!!!
    Updated Oct-07-2013 at 2:14pm by Scott Tichenor (correcting a BB code error.)
  2. fatt-dad's Avatar
    that's the trick that worked for me!

  3. dubblestop's Avatar
    Why does the image then appear "compressed"? Can that be fixed as well?
  4. Scott Tichenor's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dubblestop
    Why does the image then appear "compressed"? Can that be fixed as well?
    That is all the same issue and is also caused by a combination of the device that took the photo and what you're viewing with. In particular, iPhones have trouble with this is my experience.
  5. Rob Zamites's Avatar
    Well, I give up. I tried Picasa and the chromebook built in gallery editor and still anything I took with my modern Android phone and saved to Google drive, when uploaded here is sideways. I'm tired of fighting it.
  6. journeybear's Avatar
    I wasn't sure what you meant by "saving in Photoshop," but I opened a problematic photo with PhotoShop, used the Rotate Canvas function, saved the image, and that solved the problem. I'm going to call this "saving with PhotoShop," if anyone asks me again, but it worked just fine and it's really easy. Thanks!

    An odd side note: my new-ish lap top displays sideways images with the correct orientation in the folder; my ancient desktop displays them in the folder as they really are - ie, sideways if they are. I guess the new-and-improved device has some self-adjusting feature. I'd rather know what's going on with the files before I post them so I don't get caught unaware and have to scramble to correct them afterward.