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EXIF Data explained

Robert Armitage Robert Armitage 370 posts

What EXIF Photo Data Is, How to Find It & How to Understand It

Pretty much every digital camera available today records EXIF data within each image you take. This data is then useful for improving your photography, so if you’re interested in learning from your mistakes, discovering a bit more about your photos and love technical details then it’s probably about time you learned to read your EXIF data.

The EXIF Format
EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File, and the data provided can be stored to JPEG, RAW and TIFF image file formats. If you’re a digital SLR owner and you use the RAW image format, you’ll probably notice your manufacturer has their own file extension (for Nikon it’s .NEF, Canon have .CRW etc…) – these files all store EXIF data along with the exposure.

The data itself can reveal some pretty interesting stuff about your photos. As well as the exact time and date you pressed the shutter (provided your camera time and date was correct, of course), a lot of technical information regarding the photograph is captured as well. This includes focal length, shutter speed, white balance settings, whether the flash fired and in-depth information about your camera and the exposure.

Newer mobile phones and cameras with geotagging ability (using GPS to record the exact location of the image) now store this information within a file’s EXIF data. Web services such as Flickr can then create a map of photographs tagged in this manner.

How To Find It
In Windows you can use Explorer itself to reveal the data to you. Simply find your image, right click and choose Properties then the Summary tab. You might also be interested in either using your existing image editor (Adobe’s Bridge and Photoshop and The GIMP both have support for EXIF data).

Many photographers use EXIF data to help improve technique and to compare images that work, with images that don’t. If you’re perplexed as to why one shot looks better than the other then the EXIF data can reveal why.
If you’re new to the technical aspects of photography EXIF data can also teach you a lot, such as the relationship between aperture and depth of field and how badly your camera’s high ISO settings affect image grain.
As well as your technique you can also critique your gear and optics. The recorded data can help you determine your next purchase, and whether you’ve got the spare cash for more kit. I’ll admit I do suffer from bad gas frequently [Gear Acquisition Syndrome].

The time and date information stored in each photo can also help you piece together a collection, providing an almost diary-like representation of your shooting habits.

Regardless of how you use it, there’s no arguing that EXIF data makes up one of the many benefits digital photography has over 35mm film and other formats. It’s an educational tool that can help you visualise your cameras settings against a photo you’ve already taken.
With GPS becoming commonplace within many of today’s photo-capturing devices, EXIF data is becoming more widely used. There’s plenty of ways it can help you, from beginner to pro.

Happy reading

kalaryder kalaryder 22693 posts

Thanks Robert, that is very helpful info

wolftinz wolftinz 2551 posts

Well written, Robert! If anyone is wondering it works the same on Mac’s … just right click on the image and select Get info.

autumnwind autumnwind 12749 posts

Welcome Robert, thank you and best of luck here. Thank you Wolf as I am a bit confused and have a Mac. I hope it is as easy as clicking on the image info in my iPhoto, or perhaps as you wrote above right clicking on the image here on RB and then clicking on the ‘get info’. Maybe it is both? Will be asking someone at home for help before I bother anyone here. Have a good weekend all.

Margaret Stevens Margaret Stevens 2824 posts

Thanks Robert. I have basic photography skills and knowledge……so much to learn, so little time! Thanks for the info. I do use EXIFF data
at times and it is helpful.

Photography  by Mathilde Photography b... 3950 posts

Welcome Robert and thank you for the info – like Margaret (comment above) I have basic skills and experience but always willing to learn so your information is very useful – thank you

Jamie  Green Jamie Green 449 posts

Very concise and helpful.Cheers Robert.

Bill Wetmore Bill Wetmore 935 posts

Robert… Nice thorough description! As a host of other groups, I’ll direct photographers to this post on occasion!

Also, I noticed that you had asked a film Photographer for his EXIF data. I’d like to add a note that would be helpful to analog camera users! You see, with the exception of only a handful of the last generation of Canon and Nikon 35mm cameras that actually could record some data (although compatible interfaces to get that data presents a problem unless you’re into vintage operating systems), keeping track of photo details is a mostly manual process when shooting film. Throughout the history of photography, photographers have written down details of their photos in an effort to advance their craft through the knowledge of what works best over time. Being able to share the details of a photo later can be educational for other artists. A nice example of this is the book “The Making of 40 Photographs” by Ansel Adams- it was actually the April book of the Month in the group I host here- FilmShutterbugs (click to see)

It involves a bit of effort to remember to keep track of a photos’ details, and it can be a challenge of organization skills to match that data up later after processing and digitizing your images. To further confuse matters for film photographers in the digital workflow age, there usually is actual EXIF data put on our files by the scanners or cameras used to digitize our negatives, slides, or prints… And that data has nothing to do with the actual photograph!

However, there are some tools, both traditional and modern, that can help with the task. Personally, I use an iPhone app called Film Rolls which allows me to preset details of my cameras and lenses. It even records the gps coordinates and allows me to keep track of filters and other accessories used such as flash, extension tubes, tilt/shift, etc. I find it to be particularly valuable when using a new emulsion that I haven’t shot with before, to go back later and learn the limits and strengths of the film. This works well for me because my iPhone is also my light meter, at least for my older large format cameras, so I usually have it with me. My backup, and most photographers preference, is to use a log book. One such book was featured also in FilmShutterbugs in May… Analog Book. (click to see)

There is a nice little video put out by the makers of Analog Book that gives some wonderful insights into the process and value of recording data about your photos. See it on Vimeo here.

I hope you’ve found this to be helpful!


Robert Armitage Robert Armitage 370 posts
I must confess when I wrote the article I didn’t facor in users of film, transparencies and mobile phones !!, so thanks for that timely reminder.
kalaryder kalaryder 22693 posts

Well well, I have just managed to find the information, using the properties search as outlined above – never moved far enough down the little box of information – learn something new everyday !!!!

lrblom lrblom 3358 posts

Well thank you to Robert & Welcome! also thank you to Bill. My first digital camera Olympus Compact SP- 500 UZ bought in 2009 gave me full details on every pic. I must try what you propose on my two Panasonic and my Canon Power Shot all compact. I couldn’t afford SLR and with a torn shoulder cuff four years ago find I can use the compacts without worrying it. I have always longed for a big camera with big lens but do enjoy what I do with the compacts. I will try out the right click now.

Poete100 Poete100 3043 posts

I already know how to do most of what you explained here Robert….I use data or should I say Camera Settings and Images info for most of my posts and have been doing this since I started following Michael Cummings and saw what he did in his posts…I enjoy doing it and it has been rare that anyone commented on that…except for a few who told my they liked the idea and they proceeded to do the same….For some people it’s difficult to figure that but I learned it on my own few years ago and I will continue doing this with almost all my image posts!!!! It’s nice that you brought it up to everyone’s attention!

Wolf Sverak Wolf Sverak 197 posts

Hi Robert,
it’s the “other Wolf” of the group (ausigreybear, Wolf Sverak Photography). I am familiar with EXIF data, but have learned NOT to talk about it as it only produces “eye rolling” and “yawning” in the people I normally get to talk about photography. Most of the meta data can be viewed through Windows Explorer – Properties – Details (it doesn’t show Camera and Lens make, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to remember). We might need the occasional reminder to include it because I am sure will forget it.

Jane Neill-Hancock Jane Neill-Han... 5540 posts

thanks Robert – I am adding this information to my images I added to the group as you have requested.

lrblom lrblom 3358 posts

Although I am short of time to take pics and be active on RB I have done as you suggested Robert & yes it is certainly very helpful. I wonder how much info you want us to include with an upload. I have just started using it so if you come across one of mine & it isn’t what you had in mind please enlighten me! I will do my best to understand & learn how to improve my photos.

Clare Colins Clare Colins 774 posts

I appreciate your time writing this article on metadata Robert but you often ask for it in your comments on my work even when it is there.
I don’t understand why.

aussiedi aussiedi 1654 posts

Well written Robert..I have known about posting the data pretty much since being on RB, I used to always add it, but got a bit lazy I guess..will getback on board..LOL.

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