What is EXIF Data?

Today we’re going to talk about one of the lesser known facets of digital images, called EXIF data. The term EXIF itself stands for “Exchangable Image File” which is a fancy way of saying “image details” that get stored inside your digital photo files.

What is it?

When you take a digital photograph, your camera records not only the image, but a whole plethora of camera information too. Regardless of which shooting mode you are in (ie. Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, etc…) the camera will include information on which settings were used for each image, and embed them into the image file. Things like the camera model, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, and even other pieces of information such as GPS co-ordinates (for those cameras which support it) are recorded along with the photo, and packed into one file – your image!

How is this Useful?

EXIF data is extremely useful when analyzing your own digital photos, or even photos taken by others. It would be impossible for you to remember all of the camera settings you used on every image you’ve ever taken, which is why EXIF data can be so useful. Let’s say you had a beautiful photo which you took several years ago, and you wanted to know what settings you used for whatever purpose (perhaps you wanted to recreate the photo). By viewing the EXIF data of your image, you will be able to see exactly which settings were used.

Another really useful piece of information which gets recorded along inside the EXIF data is the focal length used in the shot. While it won’t tell you exactly which of your lenses you were using, by viewing the focal length and aperture settings used, you should be able to deduce which lens gave you the result you attained in the image you are analyzing.

No doubt, viewing the EXIF data from other photographer’s image can give you a very valuable insight into the settings which were used in their photos. This can reveal a whole lot about how an image was taken, allowing you to experiment with similar settings to practice through your own photography. By looking at things like shutter speeds, you’ll be able to see how a photographer was able to freeze or create a sense of motion in a shot. By reviewing the aperture setting used, you’ll instantly get a good idea of how the depth of field in an image was affected by the aperture.

Note: If you are trying to view the EXIF data of an image found on the web, there is a high possibility that the EXIF data will not be included. Many online gallery sites strip out the EXIF data from low resolution web images to keep the files neat and tiny, and sometimes even for privacy/trademark reasons (but that’s a topic/rant for another post).

Where Can I See the EXIF Data?

Camera: There are a number of places to view EXIF data, starting with right on your own camera. In general, when previewing your images on your camera, pressing the “Info” button will lead to the EXIF data for the photo you are previewing. Each camera may have a slightly different method for viewing the EXIF data, so if you are having trouble the information will be available in your camera’s user manual under EXIF.

On Your Computer: For JPEG and TIFF images, you can right click on the image icon on your hard drive, and scroll to “Properties” (PC) or “Get Info” (Mac). You may have to explore the dialog box which pops up when you select either of these options. For example, in Windows you would click on the Summary Tab, then click on the “Advanced” button.

Post-Processing Software: All of the major image processing software tools have a method for viewing the EXIF data, or file info. In Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, you can view this info under the menu: File > File Info… then navigating to the Camera Settings (or EXIF) tab. In Lightroom, this information can be seen in the Library Module under the Metadata panel on the right hand side of the screen.

That’s EXIF data in a nutshell! It is a useful tool you can use when you need to do a quick analysis of an image to find/remember which settings worked well for your photos and enabling you to practice your photography to the fullest!

About the author

Dave Seeram is the Editor of PhotographyBB Magazine, photographer, Canucks fan, Lostie,  fanboy, Dad, blogger, entrepreneur, and part-time superhero. Dave is the owner of this blog, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the PhotographyBB Magazine and CLARITY: PHOTOGRAPHY BEYOND THE CAMERA
3 Responses
  1. Robert Gomes

    Great article. Clean and to the point.

    However, I thought that some D-SLR EXIF data did indeed include the lens used — but I could be wrong.

    Another handy gadget to view EXIF data online without having you download the image first and then seek the data is to you a web browser add on like this (for Firefox):



  2. Very informative post. I definitely gained all the information I needed about EXIF data from this page. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.


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