It’s not unusual, even less weird that the majority of people use their camera without a clear idea about the parameters that the camera set on its own in accordance with the current situation or the amount of light. What’s more, getting out of the auto mode can be a very stressful, and most often uninteresting and unnecessary excursion into the unknown. But going further into the matter is closely related to the EXIF data since, aside from the informational purpose, this has educational purpose, too. How, by means of what, and how much are some of the key questions at the beginning of a more serious venture into photography, and the EXIF is precisely the one that has all the answers.
My first encounter with the EXIF data dates back to 1987, when a ‘repairman’ left me inside a shop with a manual how to photograph people for their IDs or passports. On the back of one such photo, which had been left as a reminder, it was written with a lead pencil which camera I should use, with which lens, what the aperture should be, at what speed, and where I should switch on the flash. Does it look like today’s EXIF?
But let’s start from the top. With years came progress, so the lead pencil evolved with the APS (Advanced Photo System). At the start of 1991, Canon, Fuji Photo Film Co, Eastman Kodak Company, Minolta Co, and Nikon Corporation (System Developing Companies) got down to work together and focused on the system that, among other things, made it possible that certain information be printed at the back of a photo. The initial info was written on a small area between the captured frame and the edge of the film.
But today, the EXIF is not written with a pencil at the back of a photo and it’s not an addition either, but it’s placed in the same file as the photo, no matter if it’s JPEG or RAW. The camera itself writes it down directly, and it gives incomparably more information than we once used to think it should. Like any thing that has a large capacity, with time it must be standardized, the credit for which took the JEIDA (Japan Electronic Industries Development Association), which on June 12, 1998 put things in order by bringing a document labeled Exif Version 2.1. The EXIF or Exchangeable image file format is not only a privilege of photographers, but it also has to do with audio files, video images, and scanned files.
The EXIF consists of information about the date of creating an image, the equipment that it was made with, the parameters such as the curtain speed, the aperture, the ISO values, the focal length, the metering. Later it’ll provide information about the date of modifying the image, as well as the software you used on that particular occasion. If you have the option of inputting Copyright information inside a digital camera, the EXIF will save them, too, and later show them. As a matter of fact, even the image you see on the LCD screen of your camera has been minimized from the EXIF – embedded JPEG. The EXIF turned out to be useful also in the cases when you wish to prove that you are the author, and that somebody had an unauthorized access to your material. Of course, in this situation you’ve got to have the original RAW file, whose EXIF data can’t be edited. With JPEG images this is possible, but let’s leave that for some other time.
Let’s assume that we view images mostly by means of browsers. Aside from Opera, browsers are incapable of reading EXIF data on their own. If we install Opanda IExif, Internet Explorer will get that option, too. The best and most complete information is provided by FxIF, an add-on for Firefox, which you can see in the example above. With FastStone, ACDSee and other programs aimed at viewing images, this option is more or less visible straight away, but in any case, all have it. Social networks such as Facebook delete EXIF immediately, and services such as Flickr or 500px provide that information below the image.
Today’s cameras have got GPS devices, so with the pin on the map, they can remind you precisely where you were standing when you made the photo. However, this is also a double-edged sword if you shared a captivating selfie from the bathroom. The GPS (Global Positioning System) will tell anyone exactly where you live, which sometimes can be inconvenient. After all, in the last couple of years we’ve read several joyful articles where precisely those data posed great problems to authors. For such situations, there is a metadata removal tool. That this thing is not at all plain and simple is evidenced by the program Xkeyscore, owned by the NSA (National Security Agency), which was in particular discussed by Edward Snowden. This program, apart from e-mails, activities on social networks, data about visited sites, follows EXIF data as well. So, a word of advice: explain to your children to pay attention where they share their photos and what information they unconsciously give along with them. And you’ve got nothing else but to take the best out of EXIF data.
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