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I want to change the EXIF orientation tag in my JPEG images but without actual rotating of them. I want to do this to use them as a test case for an application I made.

How I can do that in Linux? Can I do it with exiftool? And if so, how?

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You can retrieve the existing orientation information via exiftool as follows:

exiftool -Orientation -n image.jpg

This will display the internal value of the orientation information held in the MIE tags. You can return the value as an English string by omitting the -n flag. You can find additional information here regarding particular rotation/orientation values.

Changing the orientation data with exiftool can be done as follows:

exiftool -Orientation=1 -n image.jpg

Here, the orientation is set to 1, indicating no rotation. These numbers are defined as per the EXIF specification; you can see what effect different rotation values have in the link above.

(note: you must use the -n argument when setting orientation to indicate that the value is numeric. If you forget, exiftool will interpret the orientation=x number as a string and set the wrong rotation ie. exiftool -orientation=1 image.jpg will actually set the orientation to 3 which is 'Rotate 180')

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