EXIF Data – Teach yourself young apprentice.

We’ve come a long way in photography at this point and the industry has changed dramatically since the advent of the digital camera.  If you’ve been following my column for any time you have learned a lot about how to set your camera for the desired effects, but there’s so much further you can actually go on your own.  By now you may have already discovered that your camera provides you with some great feedback that can help you take your skills to all new heights.  The feedback I’m referring to is the EXIF information that is saved as a part of your digital images. 

EXIF is a collection of data, commonly referred to as Metadata tags, and a thumbnail image used to identify the image.  The Metadata tags commonly saved with digital camera images might include some or all of the following (among others):

· Date & Time
· Exposure Time / Shutter Speed
· Aperture / f/stop
· Camera Manufacturer
· Camera Model
· Shooting Program / Mode
· Image Resolution
· ISO 
· White Balance
· Exposure Bias
· Metering Mode
· Flash Mode
· Focal Length
· Image Width
· Image Height
· Image Type
· Firmware Version
· Owner Name 

As you can see from this list of information, it’s pretty easy to look at an image and use the EXIF data to see what was right or wrong with the image when you captured it.  The question that many of you may have is; “Where do I find this EXIF data?”  Well in most computer programs where you can view your images, you can also view your EXIF data.  In many cases it’s as simple as pressing the Alt key plus the Enter key on your keyboard (ALT+ENTER) while viewing an image, and the program will display a window with a list of the Metadata that’s been saved with your image.  In some programs you’ll have to go to the menu system and look for “File Info” or “Properties” to find this data.

One of the key points to this data is the ability to see where you had the camera set to get the effect in that image.  From there it’s up to you to chose if the image is what you wanted or not and figure out what to do next time.  I’ve looked at EXIF data many times only to discover that I had my ISO set incorrectly for what I was trying to capture.  It’s not uncommon for a photographer to change the settings on their camera and forget to reset them when they start shooting again.  For that reason I make it a practice to view the histogram on my LCD display when I start shooting again to verify that I’m getting good exposures.  If my exposure appears to be off when I check the histogram I looked more carefully at the settings on the camera before continuing my shoot.  The EXIF data is responsible for displaying information about the image on the LCD screen on the camera, so even if you’ve never intentionally looked at the EXIF data you might be using it quite frequently right now. 

It is important that you check your camera manual and understand how to display various levels of data on the LCD when you’re reviewing images.  The more data you see about the image the more likely you are to spot a potential problem while you’re still in a position to take the shot again.

A sample of EXIF Data

A sample of EXIF Data

By using the information we’ve covered previously and reviewing your EXIF data, you can learn a lot about what functions you’re using correctly, or might need to work on a little.  If you find your subject to be blurred and find that your shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, you might consider changing your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second and try again.  That judgment would be made based upon how severely blurred your subject was, i.e.: if the subject was extremely blurred you might want to jump all the way up to 1/800th of a second.  In the example image you can see that I was shooting at 1/1000th of a second, so if the wakeboard rider was blurred and the rest of the image was not, I would have pushed the shutter speed up faster.  In cases like this you might find it necessary to shoot in Shutter Priority mode and let the camera handle the Aperture for you.  You may also find it necessary to move to a higher ISO setting to achieve the shutter speed desired.

I encourage you to be critical of your images while you’re learning and to invite others to critique them also.  In a sense, anyone can critique your photos for you.  One of the important factors in receiving critiques is to get them from whoever your target audience is.  Having a portrait photographer critique your sports photography might yield a bunch of suggestions that won’t improve your photography for your target audience.  That’s not to say that the portrait photographer won’t have any good advice for you.  It’s just to say that the advice from that source might be best applied to portrait photography.  If you are taking photos for the families and participants of high school baseball, that’s your target audience and whatever is acceptable to them might be a good place to start.  Of course it’s good to get feedback from other photographers, but don’t let them beat you up before you get started.  It’s easy to be your own worst critic, but it’s even easier to be a harsh critic of somebody else’s work when you’re on an anonymous Blog or web forum.  So if you post images to a Blog or forum looking for critique, be sure to take the feedback with a grain of salt.  If the feedback you’re getting is not consistent with what you know to be true or can verify from a known good source, you might want to ignore it.

Learn more by attending one of my Photography Seminars.

© 2009 – Jeff Cowell, jrcowell.com

~ by jrcowell on March 1, 2009.

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