About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

I’m not sure what to think of PixelPeeper.io

I’m not sure what to think of PixelPeeper.io

If you follow photography news at all, you’ve probably read about this new site called pixelpeeper.io (not to be confused with Pixelpeeper.com). It’s a web application that lets you see what Lightroom edits were done to an image, just by uploading a Jpeg to it. Now, on top of that they’ve added the ability to see what Lightroom preset was used on an image (if it was something like one of the VSCO presets), again just from uploading a Jpeg. I have mixed feelings on whether or not this is a good idea, and I’ve gone back and forth in my mind as to whether I agree with what they’re doing or not.

First of all, it’s impressive that someone figured this out. However, it’s less impressive that Adobe was embedding this information in the first place. While you have the ability to strip metadata from a Jpeg when exporting from Lightroom, it had never occurred to me that this information would be embedded in a Jpeg file. While the option is there in Lightroom to strip this out, it’s so confusingly worded that it never occurred to me that this is what the software was doing. I’m sure someone will say that I’m stupid for not looking into it, but I’m guessing a lot of people never knew that Lightroom was doing this in a way that could be read by a third party.

The bigger issue is the question of morality, and more importantly, copyright. If you’re a professional, how you edit your images is part of your work, and I think many photographers wouldn’t want their clients or competitors picking apart their edits. I’m sure some people won’t see it this way, but I think that this is a copyright issue.

You can argue that if you don’t want your edits known, then you just need to remove the metadata, and it’s up to the photographer to protect their work, but again, I get back to the first point about not knowing that Lightroom was doing this in the first place. I have hundreds if not thousands of image files online and in various services and clients, and many probably have this data embedded. And while there is certainly an educational purpose in seeing how someone processed an image, that’s fine of the person wants to share that information with you. Otherwise, it is in some ways akin to seeing a company’s trade secrets.

Just to be clear, I don’t think the creators of this site have done anything wrong, and they are particularly clever for figuring this out. If you’re using it on your own images, perhaps to remember how you edited something, then that’s fine. The terms of the service are interesting though. In one of the points:

In no event, shall the author of this site be liable for any claim, damages or other liability, arising from, out of or in connection with the software or the use or other other dealings in the software.

Given that clause, I’m sure the creator realises that this is a legal grey area. Unfortunately, I don’t think including that in the terms of service will stand up as any kind of protection should this end up becoming an issue at some point.

I’m sure you probably think I’m being overly dramatic here, but I can imagine that in high profile photographers and with high profile clients, this can become an issue. While you may not learn a huge amount from the information about what Lightroom settings were used, it’s the principle of the matter, and I’d be very surprised if some photographers weren’t a bit concerned about this. Personally, I don’t really care a huge amount, although It does bother me a little. I don’t have anything that sensitive out there, but I would be concerned if I was doing more work directly with clients. It’s an interesting conundrum, and if nothing else, you need to be more careful when exporting images to make sure you strip out the metadata.

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