Your camera settings are saved as metadata in photo files

=== by Bob Sutherland ===

Page 2 of 9

This is an introduction to viewing camera settings which are part of the metadata that is automatically saved in a digital photograph file.

When using a film camera a photographer needs to carry around a pencil and notebook to write down the details about the camera and lense settings used for each photograph if the photographer wants to keep a record of such information. When taking digital photographs a pencil and paper is not necessary as all the details are automatically saved in the file created for each photograph.

Smartphones, tablets, webcams, digital point and shoot cameras, digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras all save details about the camera model and its settings in the photograph file they create. Even the scanner on top of your printer saves some details about itself and its settings when capturing an image file during a scan.

Many photo editing programs (even the free ones) can show you the information that was saved when a photo was taken. If you use a photo editing program to make adjustments such as cropping, resizing or rotating a photograph then the name of the program used may be added to the metadata information stored in a photograph file.

The fun part comes in trying to find and view all of these photo details. Look for menu items such as "Information" or "Inspection Tool", or a small letter "i" icon after opening the photograph file with your photo editing program. Terminology such as meta, metadata tags, Exif, JFIF, TIFF, XMP and IPTC may be associated with the display of the information.

From a computer programming perspective the photography industry has created a huge number of categories, called tags, that camera manufacturers can use to record details for each photograph. No camera manufacturer is going to use all of the tags because there are possibly hundreds of tags available with far too much repetition of the content they contain. Therefore each camera manufacturer is going to choose the tags it wants to use to record shutter speed, aperture F-stop, ISO and other details about a photo. Similarly each photo editing software creator is going to choose which tags will be displayed by their program. Hopefully the camera manufacturer and the photo editing software creator will choose the same list of popular tags so you will be able to see all of the recorded details about a photograph. But it is always possible that by trying a few different photo editing programs you may find some new details about a photograph that only one of the photo editing programs displays.

When you upload a digital photograph to Facebook all of the metadata tags with details about the camera and its settings are erased. Facebook does this to reduce the file size a minimal amount. These small reductions in file size add up when you consider that Facebook is storing and transmitting millions or billions of photographs per day. Facebook is assuming that most of its customers are not knowledgeable photographers and therefore will not notice that the camera settings information is missing. If cornered by the press, Facebook's representatives will simply argue that they are trying to protect their customers' privacy and reduce crime by not broadcasting to criminals what type of camera equipment, software, and by association the computer equipment you own.

Photographers often include details about their camera equipment and the settings they used when publishing their photos in books, magazines, websites and discussion groups on the internet where the audience will primarily be other photographers. Often they can reduce the camera settings metadata down to one or two typed lines in an abbreviated format where most of the words have been removed. In contrast, on the next few pages I will intentionally included the photography terminology along with the measurements when displaying camera settings and metadata for some of my photographs.