Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exif Data

Since the beginning of photography, artists have recorded information about their camera, emulsion and exposure. Historically, this was done with pen and paper. I myself have used the archaic method of capturing this 'metadata'.

Indeed there are companies who will sell specialized notebooks just for this purpose. These are very handy and if you like the full analog experience, I highly recommend getting one of these to record your photo details.

For those who shoot digital photos, there is an automatic convenience feature called "exif". This stands for Exchangeable Image File Format. Really, the feature is the "tags" or "metadata" that gets captured and encoded with the image data. These are things like make and model of the camera and lens, focal length, exposure time, iso setting, date/time, etc. In cameras with gps (like smartphones) you even get location data. Now that all seems really cool, but I have to admit that when I shoot digital, I don't care about any of that. I shoot RAW so I have 3 stops of data built in. I can chimp to my heart's delight, so I don't have to accept any bad exposures. There just isn't really any use in my workflow for all of the exif data. On the other hand, when I shoot analog (film) I often want to know which camera I used, what the emulsion was and possibly exposure details. This is because when I go to scan the photos and I have a bad exposure (or a particularly good one), or if I was using an unusual type of film, those details can come in handy for correcting mistakes and not making them again. So how do I get the exif for my film photos? Well, we are in the 21st century after all. There must be "an app for that"... and there is.

I am an Andriod user, and in the Google Play store, there is an app called Exif4Film. Actually it's a pair of apps. One for your phone and one for the computer you use for scanning your film. The phone app allows you to enter your equipment (cameras & lenses). Then you add a roll of film and assign the camera/lens you are using. For each shot you take, you add a shot to the roll in the app. It also records the time/date and location from your phone. You also have the option of taking a 'reference photo' with your phone's camera. At the end of the roll, you upload the data to Drop Box (yes you will need a Drop Box account). Then when you scan the photos, you tell the desktop application which file in your Drop Box location goes with those photos. It lets you match which image file goes with which exif entry. That's it! Now your scans have the exif data you recorded when you took the photo. Cool, huh? Ok, it's a bit more work than pressing a button, but it gets the job done and now you don't need to go try to find the data back in the pages of your notebook. I think it is a very nice app and well worth the price. Oh, did I mention that it's free? Give it a try and see if it fits into your analog workflow.