Set proper content type when uploading files on s3 with python-magic

In the open-event-orga-server project, we had been using Amazon s3 storage for a long time now. After some time we encountered an issue that no matter what the file type was, the Content-Type when retrieving this files from the storage solution was application/octet-stream.

An example response when retrieving an image from s3 was as follows:

Accept-Ranges →bytes
Content-Disposition →attachment; filename=HansBakker_111.jpg
Content-Length →56060
Content-Type →application/octet-stream
Date →Fri, 09 Sep 2016 10:51:06 GMT
ETag →"964b1d839a9261fb0b159e960ceb4cf9"
Last-Modified →Tue, 06 Sep 2016 05:06:23 GMT
Server →AmazonS3
x-amz-id-2 →1GnO0Ta1e+qUE96Qgjm5ZyfyuhMetjc7vfX8UWEsE4fkZRBAuGx9gQwozidTroDVO/SU3BusCZs=
x-amz-request-id →ACF274542E950116


As seen above instead of providing image/jpeg as the Content-Type, it provides the Content-Type as application/octet-stream.While uploading the files, we were not providing the content type explicitly, which seemed to be the root of the problem.

It was decided that we would be providing the content type explicitly, so it was time to choose an efficient library to determine the file type based on the content of the file and not the file extension. After researching through the available libraries python-magic seemed to be the obvious choice. python-magic is a python interface to the libmagic file type identification library. libmagic identifies file types by checking their headers according to a predefined list of file types.

Here is an example straight from python-magic‘s readme on its usage:

>>> import magic
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf")
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_buffer(open("testdata/test.pdf").read(1024))
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf", mime=True)


Given below is a code snippet for the s3 upload function in the project:

file_data =
    file_mime = magic.from_buffer(file_data, mime=True)
    size = len(file_data)
    # k is defined as  k = Key(bucket) in previous code
    sent = k.set_contents_from_string(
            'Content-Disposition': 'attachment; filename=%s' % filename,
            'Content-Type': '%s' % file_mime


One thing to note that as python-magic uses libmagic-dev as a dependency and many of the distros do not come with libmagic-dev pre-installed, make sure you install libmagic-dev explicitly. (Installation instructions may vary per distro)

sudo apt-get install libmagic-dev

Voila !! Now when retrieving each and every file you’ll get the proper content type.


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Full Stack Developer at Fossasia | Interested in software design and architecture | An Avid Potterhead <3