Love Your Metadata

By Roger  (26 Sep 2013)

Every time you take a photograph, your digital camera records the metadata for each file. The what?  Yeah, the term is pretty ambiguous.  It means “data about data,” but, in our photographic context, it is data about your camera settings and the image file.  You may have heard it incorrectly called EXIF data (exchangeable image file format), but, as the last word of the acronym states, EXIF is the format for storing the metadata.

This stuff can be helpful to look at when you get home and start analyzing your photographs, especially if you have some mistakes.  An easy example that comes to mind is an image that is blurred when you didn’t want any blur.  If you look at the metadata, and the shutter speed was 1/6 of a second, you’ll realize that you should have used a higher shutter speed.  OK, maybe a bit too simple since you probably can figure out that solution without delving into your metatdata. 

When you get into your photo management software, it is easy to see your metadata.  If you aren’t using photo management software, you can still find metadata in the “Properties” of the file.  Just right-click the file name; choose “Properties”; and, inside “Properties,” click on the “Details” tab. In Lightroom, you accomplish this in the Library module.

Right-click on the file name, and click "Properties" to see what metadata is in your photo (left ).  Lightroom's Library  module gives you even more metadata. (right)

Right-click on the file name, and click "Properties" to see what metadata is in your photo (left ).  Lightroom's Library  module gives you even more metadata. (right)

Most cameras record the camera model, serial number, lens information, and date in addition to the basic camera settings.  Many cameras will record data beyond these basic settings.  Check your manual for details.  My camera adds copyright information, GPS data (if I’m connected), and even a short voice recording.  This metadata stays with the image file unless it is purposely removed.  If your camera doesn’t have these features, don’t fret.  You can enter additional metadata in Lightroom.

I always enter my contact information; city, state, and country where the photograph was taken; and copyright information.  Using Lightroom, you can enter metadata into scans of your analog photographs.  Prior to Lightroom, I kept some of that metadata on index cards. 

I won't forget that this '57 Chevy was in Sierra Vista, AZ, because I've entered the data into the Metadata  section of Lightroom.

I won't forget that this '57 Chevy was in Sierra Vista, AZ, because I've entered the data into the Metadata  section of Lightroom.

Lightroom will allow you to display many different views of your data.  To the left of the word “Metadata,” you can see a pull-down menu.  You can go through the dozen choices to get the display you prefer.  It’s a sticky menu, so whatever you choose will be there the next time you open the software.  I find the comprehensive view of Exif and IPTC the best for my purposes. 

The metadata can be helpful for analyzing your photos on a technical level.  For example, in the photo below, my settings were 28mm lens; at f10; for 1.3 seconds.  No flash was used.  The photo is sharp, so I was on a tripod.  That’s a pretty easy one. 

 

Lightroom puts the simple copyright notice on the photo by pulling information from the metadata.

Lightroom puts the simple copyright notice on the photo by pulling information from the metadata.

You should spend some time looking at your metadata and adding in information important to you.  This data is searchable, so when you're trying to find that one particular image in your database of thousands of photos, you'll be able to find it.  Metadata is just one more aspect of your photograph and a bridge to better organization. Have some fun with it.

 

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