Why Your iPhone Photos are Upside Down

Why Your iPhone Photos are Upside Down


If you’re a Windows user, you’ve probably noticed that some of your iPhone photos and videos are upside down when you save them to your computer. Even if your never leave Apple ecosystem, your photos will usually be upside down when you email them to friends who have Windows operating system.

Most people first noticed this issue when iOS 5 was released. This was the first time when you could take a photo using the volume up button. This is an awesome feature and I use it all the time. The only problem is that when you hold your camera with the volume buttons up, your photos will be upside down on most Windows machines.

How could Apple make such a silly mistake?

Let’s step back for a second. If you rotate your iPhone, the camera sensor won’t know about it. It will simply record the image and save it to a file, letting the software of your phone do the rest. To make sure that your photos are displayed correctly, your iPhone adds information about the correct rotation of the photo to the properties of each image, which are specified in EXIF tags.

Your iPhone doesn’t convert any images to correct orientation because that would keep it busy for a few seconds. Instead it simply saves all photos as they were recorded and adds information about their correct orientation to EXIF tags. This means that your iPhone is ready to shoot another photo within a fraction of a second, which is just awesome.

The only problem is that some software developers, including Microsoft, ignore the information that’s stored in EXIF tags. There’s a huge debate about who’s right and who’s wrong in this situation, but I bet you don’t really care about that. What you really want to know is…

How to Solve This Problem

You can prevent any rotation issues in the future by taking your iPhone photos and videos with the volume buttons down. However, it’s not as convenient as holding your iPhone with the volume buttons up, especially if you use those buttons to take photos. That’s why I almost always prefer to keep the volume buttons up and deal with possible problems later.

You can also use a dedicated camera app such as Camera+ for all your photo needs. Unlike the standard iPhone camera app, Camera+ actually recodes all your photos into the correct orientation. Unfortunately this takes a bit more time (and more battery), so you have to wait a little while your photos are being saved to camera roll. Unfortunately Camera+ can’t help you with shooting videos.

If you already have a lot of photos that are shot upside down, it’s best to use software that knows how to deal with EXIF correctly. All Apple software falls into this category, so if you’re a Mac user, you probably haven’t even noticed this issue. On Windows I recommend Picasa for managing photos and iTunes for dealing with videos. You can also use QuickTime for video playback.

If you want to fix the orientation of your entire library at once, it’s best to do it in Picasa. Simply select all the photos you want to rotate (Ctrl+A to select all) and choose to save changes (Ctrl+S). Depending on the size of your library this may take a few minutes, but once you’re done, all your photos will be in the correct orientation forever.

Unfortunately it’s harder to do the same with videos. If you don’t have any professional video editing software, it’s probably best to purchase QuickTime Pro from Apple. This software isn’t free, but it provides a quick one-click solution for rotating your iPhone videos.

If you have to upload photos and videos to the internet, it’s best to do this from your iPhone directly. When you upload your media to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other similar sites, your iPhone will take care of all the necessary conversions for you.

For sending email to Windows users I recommend a free app called SnapBot. After your photos have gone through this app, you can be sure that whoever receives your email will see them in the correct orientation.

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