alex-i alex-i - 5 months ago 28
Objective-C Question

Save original image data with modified metadata (no re-encoding) on iOS

I want to save an image with some metadata changes in a temp folder, without re-encoding the actual image data.

The only method that I found able to do this is ALAssetsLibrary/writeImageDataToSavedPhotosAlbum:metadata:completionBlock:, however, this one saves the image to the Photo Library. Instead, I want to save the image to a temp folder (for instance to share it by email, without populating the Photo Library).

I've tried using

(CGImageDestinationAddImageFromSource), but it can only be created using a decoded image, which means it's re-encoding it when saved (tested, pixel bytes look different).

Are there any other methods/classes available for iOS that can save image data along with metadata, besides using
? Suggestions for workarounds would also be welcomed.


This is a frustrating problem with the iOS SDK. First, I recommend filing an enhancement request.

Now, here is a potential workaround: IF the ALAsset was created by you (i.e., its editable property is YES) then you can basically read the data, write with metadata, read again, save to disk, and then write with the original metadata.

This approach will avoid creating a duplicate image.

Please read the // comments as I skipped some stuff for brevity (like building a metadata dictionary):

ALAsset* asset; //get your asset, don't use this empty one
if (asset.editable) {

    // get the source data
    ALAssetRepresentation *rep = [asset defaultRepresentation];
    Byte *buffer = (Byte*)malloc(rep.size);
    // add error checking here
    NSUInteger buffered = [rep getBytes:buffer fromOffset:0.0 length:rep.size error:nil];
    NSData *sourceData = [NSData dataWithBytesNoCopy:buffer length:buffered freeWhenDone:YES];

    // make your metadata whatever you want
    // you should use actual metadata, not a blank dictionary
    NSDictionary *metadataDictionary = [NSDictionary dictionary];

    // these are __weak to avoid creating an ARC retain cycle
    NSData __weak *originalData = sourceData;
    NSDictionary __weak *originalMetadata = [rep metadata];

    [asset setImageData:sourceData
        completionBlock:^(NSURL *assetURL, NSError *error) {
            //now get your data and write it to file
            if (!error) {
                //get your data...
                NSString *assetPath = [assetURL path];
                NSData *targetData = [[NSFileManager defaultManager] contentsAtPath:assetPath];

                //...write to file...
                NSArray *searchPaths = NSSearchPathForDirectoriesInDomains(NSDocumentDirectory, NSUserDomainMask, YES);
                NSString *documentPath = [searchPaths lastObject];
                NSURL *fileURL = [NSURL fileURLWithPath:documentPath];
                [targetData writeToURL:fileURL atomically:YES];

                //...and put it back the way it was
                [asset setImageData:originalData metadata:originalMetadata completionBlock:nil];
            } else {
                // handle error on setting data
                NSLog(@"ERROR: %@", [error localizedDescription]);
} else {
    // you'll need to make a new ALAsset which you have permission to edit and then try again


As you can see, if the ALAsset isn't owned by you, you will need to create one, which will add a photo to the user's library, which is exactly what you wanted to avoid. However, as you may have guessed, you cannot delete an ALAsset from the user's photo library, even if your app created it. (Feel free to file another enhancement request for that.)

So, if the photo/image was created in your app, this will work for you.

But if not, it will create an additional copy the user must delete.

The only alternative is to parse the NSData yourself, which would be a pain. There is no open-source library that I am aware of to fill this gap in the iOS SDK.