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Computers determine orientation in different ways. It's very likely that your picture is natively upside down!

Recently, I purchased an iPad and now have about ten photos on it that were taken with it. Some pictures were taken at my desk with it propped up in the reading position while others were taken outdoors of buildings with the iPad being hand held. While all display correctly on my iPad, some arrive (the ones that were taken of me at my desk) upside down. I'm looking at things in my Sent folder and the pictures look fine, but not when my correspondents download the pictures. Why is the orientation off at the other end for those taken at my desk? Even the people at Apple can't seem to give me a satisfactory answer to this.

In this excerpt from Answercast #45, I look at ways to get your computer to show you an image positioned correctly before emailing it.

Upside down pictures

My first reaction of course is to say, well, turn the iPad upside down the next time you take a picture and maybe it will come out correctly.

In reality, things are a little bit more complex than that of course.

Photo orientation

Many programs are trying to decide, trying to figure out, what is right side up in a photograph.

  • Photographs can be taken horizontally or what's called Landscape mode (since many landscape photographs are taken in the horizontal mode);

  • Versus Portrait, where you're holding it vertically (presumably at your desk, which is the mode that many people take portraits in). It's the vertical orientation of the rectangle that results in a picture.

Different software interpretation

Now, many different pieces of software will try to interpret what is right-side up.

  • Sometimes, the information might be encoded in the actual resulting file.

  • Sometimes, it's not.

How to check photo orientation

My suggestion in this situation like this is that before you send your pictures to someone, open them up in a photo viewing application. See if the photo viewing application displays them to you in the way that you expect – or upside down, as in the example you're giving us.

If they're showing them upside down, then usually that photo viewing application can rotate the photograph 180 degrees to turn it right side up. The photo viewing application that I'm thinking of, of course, is Fast Stone Image Viewer, which will allow you to do all of that.

But like I said, there's some confusion going on here between:

  • What the iPad is doing with respect to right-side up,

  • What your PC is doing with respect to right-side up (in the image software used in your mail program)

  • And obviously, then, what your recipients' version of right-side up is.

Auto adjustment

Now, my guess is the recipients' version is the correct one.

In other words, I do believe that:

  • The software on your machine is trying to show you the picture as best it can; automatically flipping it over if it looks like it's upside down.

  • The recipient's isn't doing that.

Native orientation

So, that's why I say: fire up an image viewing program, maybe even a couple of different ones.

The more simpler one would be Microsoft Paint that's already installed on your machine. That would be a really good one because I know that it's not going to screw around with orientation. As soon as you open it up, you're going to see whether that picture is natively right-side up or upside down.

Then, you can decide to take corrective action before you send it on to the recipient.

Next from Answercast 45 – Can I read personal documents on my Kindle?

Article C5711 - August 20, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?


Steve Gledhill
August 20, 2012 11:56 AM

I wrote a little about this on my website (
I added some guides for the 'correct way to hold your iPad'! Also, a brief discussion of the impact on the quality of correcting the orientation prior to sending. And the strange case of Photoshop increasing the file size.
However you look at, for the time being, it is best to make sure your device is the 'right' way up before sending.

Bob Trapani
August 21, 2012 1:10 PM

I frequently get pictures sent directly from an iPhone and always have the orientation problem. The default Windows viewing program doesn't seem to have the facility to rotate. I have found that using Picassa to open the file always gives the correct orientation.

August 21, 2012 5:38 PM

I was going to say the reason why the pictures were upside down might be because they were sent from the southern hemisphere until I read the rest of the message.
It may be as Leo said, a photo recognition program doing the damage.

Claude Blanchette
March 14, 2013 12:13 PM

When I send pictures with my iPad4 to PCs, they always arrive upside down, even when I turn them before sending.
I was told by Apple Store that the PCs owners must enter the picture(s) into a FILE and when the pictures are taken out of the FILE, they will be in the good direction.
Still, it's a real pain......

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