What is EXIF data?
EXIF data refers to information saved using the Exchangeable Image File Format in a photo or video. EXIF data is basically a record of all the camera settings that we're used to take a photo or video. This information is embedded directly into the files the camera records. You can view the EXIF data in-camera or using various tools on your computer.
What does it look like?
Here is the EXIF data for the photograph above:
Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 1/200
F Number: f / 6.3
Exposure Program: Program AE
ISO Speed Ratings: 100
Date Time Original: 2014:02:01 15:45:07
Metering Mode: Center-weighted average
Flash: Off, Did not fire
Focal Length: 50.0 mmmm
White Balance: Manual
LensInfo: 50mm f/?
LensModel: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Lens: EF50mm f/1.4 USM
X Resolution: 240
Y Resolution: 240
Resolution Unit: inches
Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.3 (Macintosh)
Date and Time (Modified): 2014:02:04 12:29:43
Artist: Duncan Rawlinson
Copyright: Duncan Rawlinson
Sensitivity Type: Recommended Exposure Index
Recommended Exposure Index: 100
EXIF Version: 0230
Date and Time (Digitized): 2014:02:01 15:45:07
Exposure Bias: 0
Max Aperture Value: 1.4
Sub Sec Time Original: 00
Sub Sec Time Digitized: 00
Color Space: sRGB
Focal Plane X Resolution: 1600
Focal Plane Y Resolution: 1600
Focal Plane Resolution Unit: cm
Custom Rendered: Normal
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
GPS Version ID: 220.127.116.11
GPS Latitude Ref: North
GPS Latitude: 43 deg 38' 14.01"
GPS Longitude Ref: West
GPS Longitude: 79 deg 23' 18.51"
Compression: JPEG (old-style)
Thumbnail Offset: 1062
Thumbnail Length: 7926
Displayed Units X: inches
Displayed Units Y: inches
Copyright Flag: True
Photoshop Thumbnail: (Binary data 7926 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Coded Character Set: UTF8
: 5D MK III
Digital Creation Date: 2014:02:01
Digital Creation Time: 15:45:07
: Duncan Rawlinson
Province- State: Ontario
Copyright Notice: Duncan Rawlinson
Viewing Cond Illuminant: 19.6445 20.3718 16.8089
Viewing Cond Surround: 3.92889 4.07439 3.36179
Viewing Conditions Illuminant Type: D50
Measurement Observer: CIE 1931
Measurement Backing: 0 0 0
Measurement Geometry: Unknown (0)
Measurement Flare: 0.999%
Measurement Illuminant: D65
XMPToolkit: Adobe XMP Core 5.5-c002 1.148022, 2012/07/15-18:06:45
Creator Tool: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.3 (Macintosh)
Metadata Date: 2014:02:04 12:29:43-05:00
Lens ID: 198
Image Number: 0
Flash Compensation: 0
Document ID: xmp.did:1fb32af1-7e58-4955-a58f-5f79db8e64d7
Original Document ID: 88983B37FAB8270170199280D2C53D42
Instance ID: xmp.iid:1fb32af1-7e58-4955-a58f-5f79db8e64d7
History Action: derived
History Parameters: converted from image/x-canon-cr2 to image/dng, saved to new location
History Instance ID: xmp.iid:368d2e4e-e0be-4eec-ab74-a7d7c4ac66db
History When: 2014:02:02 08:00:52-05:00
History Software Agent: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.3 (Macintosh)
History Changed: /
Derived From Instance ID: xmp.iid:368d2e4e-e0be-4eec-ab74-a7d7c4ac66db
Derived From Document ID: xmp.did:368d2e4e-e0be-4eec-ab74-a7d7c4ac66db
Derived From Original Document ID: 88983B37FAB8270170199280D2C53D42
Creator: Duncan Rawlinson
Rights: Duncan Rawlinson
Subject: 5D MK III
Web Statement: http://Duncan.co
Creator Work Email: email@example.com
Creator Work URL: http://Duncan.co
DCTEncode Version: 100
APP14 Flags0: 
APP14 Flags1: (none)
Color Transform: YCbCr
What EXIF data tools are there?
One cool way to view EXIF data is to use Flickr to view EXIF data. You can just append /meta/ to the end of a Flickr URL and you can see the settings. Not all photographers allow their EXIF data to be viewed on Flickr though.
You can also use a Google Chrome extension like EXIF viewer. This extension puts a tiny camera icon on every photo you browse. When you click the icon it reveals all the EXIF data.
Of course you can also view the EXIF data in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
What can you learn from it?
Looking at the EXIF data is sort of like look at the source code of a program of the html of a webpage. It tells you a great deal about how the photograph was created. It's a great way to learn photography.
What doesn't it tell you?
EXIF data will tell you what settings we're used to create a photograph. Generally speaking it will not tell you all of the work that was done in post processing to retouch or edit a photograph.
How can I use EXIF data to my benefit?
One thing you should do is embed all your information on import. A great thing about EXIF data is that the information lives inside the file itself. That way it moves along with the file. So if an image is taken and reposted online somewhere you can still see the exif data assuming the EXIF hasn't been removed.
Notice in the photo above you can see the URL and email address of the photographer. That was done using Lightroom.
Take a look at this video to see how you can append your own information into the EXIF data of your photographs in import into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
- Learn more about Metadata.
- Learn more about Adobe Lightroom.
- Learn more about Adobe Photoshop.
- Learn more about Photography.