How to Ensure Correct Orientation of Digital Photos

Fix improperly rotated photos with the Photos app

Photo editor working on computer at desk in office
Westend61 / Getty Images

Most modern cameras feature a rotation sensor that writes an orientation EXIF tag into the file to tell your software how to turn the photo for display. Problems with this tag, or with your viewing environment, may result in your photos looking "sideways."

Why Your Digital Photo Looks Sideways

A handful of situations prompt your computer to display a photo with incorrect orientation, including:

  • Your program or operating system can't read the EXIF tag: Some programs, particularly older freeware apps, don't contain the technology to read the EXIF tag, so they display the image as captured instead of as intended.
  • The photo wasn't stored with an EXIF tag: Older or less-advanced cameras may not record the EXIF tag, may record it improperly, or may have been configured to not record it at all. Without the tag, the image displays as captured instead of as intended.
  • Windows Explorer ignores the EXIF tag: To ease processing speed, Windows Explorer does not automatically scan the EXIF tag when it creates thumbnails to display in a folder view.

How to Fix a Sideways Photo

In the absence of a properly formed EXIF tag, your best bet is to manually reorient the image.

In Photos — the default image-viewing app for Windows 10 — you merely need to open the photo and click the rotate icon in the top menu bar. Each click of the icon rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise. After you've re-oriented the image, save it by right-clicking the image and selecting Save As.

Photos app open to an improperly oriented cat photo

Manually saving the image won't "fix" an EXIF tag. Instead, it changes the photo.