Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using Metadata To Become An Accomplished Photographer

I was taken to task today by a photographer who viewed my work on a photo sharing website that I post to regularly. He asked me what camera and lens was used for a shot, and suggested that I be more diligent about posting metadata information along with the photographs. As a rule I don't post that information with images that I place anywhere. I may use the information to evaluate the effect the settings had on the final image, but I don't believe that information is of any use to anyone else. 

However I set my camera is dependent upon the situation as it unfolds before me. Unless someone were to be in that exact same situation, with the same subject matter, in the same setting, with the same light and shadows, at the same time of day, in the same position as I was, what possible use could that information have for anyone? I think none. Photographers become obsessive about numbers. Will it really help someone looking at my work to become a better photographer by knowing all that data, without an intimate knowledge of all the other parameters that went into making the image? No!

It would be much more meaningful for a budding shooter to ask me how I get so close to my subjects, or how I deal with the sometimes acerbic reactions from them. How to get candid shots and remain inconspicuous, or how I get such low angle perspectives. I relish the opportunity to share that information with others. But what aperture and shutter speed? What ISO? I can't see that it would help anyone to know that.

Here's two images that bear this out. In both images stating giving the focal length would be meaningless because I cropped both images. The proportions are 3:2, same as a 35mm negative. I could have been in close, shot very wide, and just trimmed the edges, or been far away, shot at 70mm and cropped to a small center. You can't tell which, even if you speculate because of the apparent depth of field. I sometimes use OnOne Softweare's Focal Point 2 plugin to blur backgrounds. The point is that the image works, it fulfills my vision and my story. As for the exposure (shutter speed and aperture) again meaningless info, given the state of modern photoshop/lightroom plugins, if I'm relatively close to a good exposure I can make the image work. What's the point of giving numbers that can't possibly enhance the viewer's appreciation of the image?


  1. Great post Gene. When I started taking pictures I always wondered what settings a person used to take a particular picture. I used it as a tool to test myself in trying to figure out aperture, ISO etc, never to try and duplicate a persons image.

    Thanks for writing this

  2. I agree with you Gene, people pay too much attention to numbers, while i dont mind and post all of my efix data, i dont see how it may help someone.

  3. Gene, my favorite comment is, "beautiful photo, what kind of camera did you use?"

  4. That´s a good point you have here Gene. I don´t normally look at peoples EXIF data. But I think some people watching a photo with a bad composition, could guess that the photographer was ment to do it in that way, if they could see, that it was taking with ex. a Canon D1 MK4. In the other way - maybe they think that the photo was not so good, because the photo was taking with a cheep compact camera, and the photographer is a beginner.
    In the local cameraclub in Viborg, where I am a member, some people are more interesting in talking about the the newest camera or newest lens, than taking photos or dicussing whats inside a photo.
    Thanks Gene for starting a debate about this important subject

  5. hello my friend, indeed, how important are the images, you're absolutely right, the numbers do not matter, is very important to have technical knowledge, if available, downplays the numbers, I liked your article, you're right, the images are fresh and natural, made by a photographer younger than you, hahaha...
    a hug for my friend Gene
    Manuel Tello

  6. If somebody believes he or she will get better pictures by peeping to other peoples EXIF data... why not give them that pleasure, I dont mind posting that information... I do not like to work much on my computer... most of my shots are not very much adapted, I do what I did in the days I used to work in the darkroom, I crop, I darken and lighten up, but always as litlle as possible. The fact I only use one lens, gives somebody maybe some interesting information on how the actual shot was made??? But I agree Gene that it is of very little use to improve ones shooting... but if I am 100% honest.. I look sometimes myself if the info is available... (sory for my bad English) greetings from Belgium and great blog!

  7. ¡Me he leído tus explicaciones y me siento extremadamente identificada con lo que dices!. Lástima que no pueda coincidir también con la calidad de tus imágenes (lo intento, pero cada vez que veo una de tus fotos, las mías me parecen de una mediocridad espantosa).