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by Phil Ball

Q. I've been a photographer for decades. In my younger, film days, I kept notes about how I set the camera so if something worked well or didn't work at all, I could use my notes to figure out what happened. Now I'm older and lazier and don't take notes very often because it takes too much time. Is there any way to trace my settings on a digital camera?

A. The short answer is yes. Modern digital cameras have saved you all the work of taking extensive notes. They have something called EXIF information that is recorded by the camera at the time of exposure. You don't have to do anything to make this happen; it is automatic. This info records such things as the camera used, date and time that the photo was taken, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and other data such as the focal length of the lens in use.

Like you, I find it educational to check out this EXIF information to study the data and figure out what went right or wrong with an image. For instance, why did my usually very reliable light meter overexpose this image? An examination of the image, its histogram, and the EXIF data will probably reveal the answer so I can better deal with a similar situation in the future or at least recognize it when I see it.

Most cameras save lot of information and the trick is finding software that reads enough of it. For instance, my camera records what white balance setting I used (I rarely use auto white balance because it doesn't work well for me in odd lighting) and I can read the data about white balance on the camera's screen. However, computer programs that show EXIF information will not tell me about my white balance but they will tell me the other settings. Photoshop Elements will show you EXIF information if you navigate to File>File Info and choose the Camera Data tab. My point is that you may need to check several sources to get the info you need but it is there for you.

Published: Courier 12/1/13 - Page 3C