You may not realise it, but every photo you take with your digital camera has extra information saved along with the image.
It’s called EXIF (short for Exchangeable Image File) data and it records such things as the date and time the photo was taken, the shutter speed and exposure settings, whether or not a flash was used, and so on. Some cameras even store GPS data with the photos they take, so you can easily map a snap to a particular place.
EXIF data isn’t normally seen — or needed — by the person taking the photos, but it is read by some image-editing applications in order to best display the image on-screen. If you’re interested to see what EXIF data is stored on your digital photos, you can view it using various online tools.
The Flickr online photo sharing service also records the EXIF data for any photos that are uploaded, which allows photos to found based on, for example, the make and model of camera that took them.
Interestingly, a photo’s EXIF data also contains a unique serial number that ties it to its camera and some clever snapper has put this particular piece of information to an interesting use.
If your digital camera should lost or stolen, StolenCameraFinder.com lets you upload one if its photos and then the site will then use its EXIF data to search the internet for photos that have the same serial number in their EXIF data. In other words, it will find photos that were also taken with your camera once it left your possession.
This obviously relies upon the finder or thief being dim enough to upload photos to the internet from a camera that doesn’t belong to them, but stranger things have happened.
Whether or not the police are then interested in going to the trouble of tracing someone based on a photo they posted online, of course, is another matter, but the service is free to use and has to be worth a try.