Prior to the digital age of photography, many photographers used to write down the settings they used for each image as a learning tool. Since they couldn’t see what a photo actually looked like until their film was developed, keeping track of the settings was a time-honored tradition that photographers used to improve their skills. Often they would keep track of exposure, aperture, iso, the time of day the photo was taken and more.
In many ways photography has been simplified through the invention of digital cameras. Instead of writing down settings, all of a photo’s particulars are embedded digitally into a photo. This information is known as EXIF data, or Exchangeable Image File data.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the amount a photographer can learn from this information. EXIF Data includes everything from exposure to f-stop to the orientation of the camera at the time the shot was taken.
Some additional software is required to view EXIF Data. This can mean a robust photo manipulation program like Photoshop or the GIMP, but there are also some simple and free EXIF data reader like EXIF Viewer for Windows. Mac users get off a little easier. Preview, which comes with Mac OSx, has the ability to read EXIF data. Check out how to view EXIF data using Preview here.
Each program has it's own way of doing things, and one program may not show information in the same fashion as another. For example, look at the difference between the two images below. The first is the EXIF data for a photo shown in Photoshop, the other is the EXIF Data for the same photo, but shown in Preview.
Here is EXIF Data shown in Photoshop
Here is EXIF Data for the same photo shown in Preview
Some of things you can learn from EXIF data:
A photo’s time stamp
This is useful information when looking at your own shots or those taken by other photographers. You can look at the EXIF data for most photos in the internet by using services like Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer.
Jeffrey's EXIF Viewer can pull EXIF data from photos on the internet or photos on your computer.
You can use this viewer in one of three ways, you can either copy and paste the URL of a photo into the top box, choose a file off of your computer or by adding the EXIF button located on the right side of the tool to your button bar.
The EXIF Button is an extremely useful tool, just drag it onto your browser's button bar
Once added to your button bar, you can use the EXIF button on any webpage and it will give you the EXIF data for the photo on the page.
EXIF Data is a great way to learn about what your camera can do as well as what works for other photographers.