My Take on Sharing EXIF Data

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(For more information on EXIF information and custom metadata, check out this article.)

Last week Steve posted an article about photographing sunrises and sunsets. I was particularly taken with one of his photos (this one) and wanted to see what lens and camera settings he used to catch the lovely tone of light that he achieved. Lo and behold, when I went to Flickr and clicked on “Actions” above the photo, I discovered that Steve doesn’t share his EXIF data. So I posted a comment under that photo asking him if he’d ever considered sharing his EXIF data.

He responded in an e-mail message a bit later on with, “Why would I?”

Oh ho! Great idea for an article! So here we are. (I like sharing the article backstory sometimes. It provides continuity. Also, it’s a lot of fun to document when Steve and I have differences of opinion.)

His line of thinking (and I’m paraphrasing here, so I’m QUITE sure Steve will correct me if I’m wrong) is that he’d like to keep the details of his photographs private. Photography is a very competitive field, so he didn’t want to give away all of his secrets. Scott Bourne recently published an article about why he doesn’t share his EXIF data, either. His reasons include the fact that conditions will always be changing so no one would be able to use the exact settings he did to achieve the exact results, so there’s no point in sharing the information. He also believes that viewing EXIF data places undue emphasis on the technology of photography, when we should be emphasizing photographic concepts.

All of these are excellent reasons for not sharing EXIF data.

Now, here are the reasons why I choose to share my EXIF data.

  1. I find EXIF data to be a good learning tool. For beginner photographers, EXIF data can provide valuable insights into the exposure triangle. It can also demonstrate the different types of photos that are a result of using different types of lenses. And it can provide insight into techniques that were used to achieve unique and unusual photographs.
  2. I’m often curious about what settings and equipment were used to achieve a shot, especially if the photograph is very unusual or striking and the technique is not immediately obvious. I figure there might be folks out there who share the same curiosity about my own photographs. I know that there are gaps in the information that EXIF data provides, but much of the data provided is useful. In the case of Steve’s photo, I wanted to know if he used his 5D Mark II or his 7D, and which lens he used with it. I know that I wouldn’t be able to exactly duplicate the shot should I happen to be standing in the exact same place at the exact same time of day, but I wanted to know his shutter speed because of the dreamy soft look of the photo.
  3. I like to encourage through sharing. Encourage learning, encourage personal growth, and encourage interest and passion in our photography. Some folks find EXIF data to be useful in the pursuit of their passion and in the honing of their craft, and since I have absolutely no personal reason NOT to share it, I do share it.

So, that’s my take on the subject. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! Do you share your EXIF info? Why or why not? Feel free to leave a comment, or head on over to the Facebook page and share your opinions!

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  • Steve Russell

    I started writing a response and it was so long that I decided to make an article out of it.  Come back on Monday and read my take on EXIF data and why I take the position I do.

  • Rustla

    As a very new amateur photographer (only had my first DSLR a month) I find I can learn a little from the settings used to give me the confidence to get out there use the settings as a starting point for trying to shoot similar.

  • Kris Koeller

    I agree its a great way to learn (Scott and Steve’s points taken into consideration). I’m not sure its divulging your secret sauce, though.  I think your post-processing techniques would be more revealing.  A really great shot is more about being there at the right moment (time and place) that would be impossible to recreate.  So, I’m in the sharing camp (although sometimes my EXIF gets stripped out and I’m not really sure why). 

  • Julie

    I agree with you.  I share my Exif data and learn from those who share theirs. 

  • Julie

    I agree with you.  I share my Exif data and learn from those who share theirs. 

  • Renan Le Caro

    I like to comment pictures on flickr whit constructive criticism, telling beginners why there photo isn’t as perfect as it could be, and looking at the exif infos help me a lot. If someone doesn’t share them, i just think “this picture could have been better” but as i dont know how, i just skip to another one instead of sharing a little tip to the author. So if you are beginner in photography, just share your exifs to get more help and tips.

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  • Liz B.

    I am actually not a huge fan of the new craze of websites sharing exif data and have even gone to lengths trying to strip the data from the pictures. I have to agree with Steve, I have learned that photography is quite a competitive field and I like to keep the mystery to the technical aspects of the photos. I also don’t care for sharing what type of camera I use. It’s not necessarily what the equipment is, but how you use it!