Exif Data – Discover How Any Photograph Was Made

You are probably familiar with the term Exif data – apparently it’s short for Exchangeable Image File format, for our purposes it’s basically a bunch of meta data that’s recorded into an image file when it’s captured by a digital camera.

This is how applications like Lightroom can organise your photo’s, and how you can tell what settings you were using when you took the picture, this is very, very useful when you’re learning surf photography, or any other kind of photography too.

What you might not realise is that it’s actually pretty common for photographs that have been uploaded to the internet to retain that Exif data, and there are some excellent, free tools you can use to find out the Exif data of a photo that you’re looking at on the web.

Exif data from one of My photo's viewed in Jeffrey's Exif Viewer
Exif data from one of My photo’s viewed in Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer

There’as a fantastic tool made by Jeffrey Friedl called Jeffrey’s Exif viewer: http://regex.info/exif.cgi

You can upload a photo, or paste a URL of the image, or you can just drag the bookmarklet to your favourites toolbar in Firefox and then just click the button on a web page with a photo on it and you get a full page of all the Exif data you could ever want (provided it’s in the file to begin with).

Here’s a link to the page which appears in the image above: http://regex.info/exif.cgi?b=3&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flickr.com%2Fphotos%2Fbgarthp%2F8338727447%2Fsizes%2Fo%2Fin%2Fset-72157632413762725%2F&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm9.staticflickr.com%2F8223%2F8338727447_5d8230c136_o_d.jpg

Here’s the photo, it’s Ben Poole at Spot-M from last year.

Ben Poole, by Ben Pascoe
Ben Poole, by Ben Pascoe

Of course, looking at your own photo’s is no fun, you can do that with your image editing software yourself, it’s other people’s photo’s that can really be revealing about the settings and even post processing that went into making the photo.


There’s the camera body, lens, exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focal length used, all useful stuff for anyone wanting to try and re-create a photograph, I’ve been asked a few times about which settings I use for a specific style of shot and my stock response is that it depends on a lot of factors, trial and error have led me to use a few standard options for certain conditions and types of shot, but you can use this type of Exif data from other people’s examples to help with your own trial and error process.

In Depth

If you scroll down the page you can see the XML data, this shows you how the image was edited including what software was used, useful if you like the look of the photo and want to re-create it in your own software, at least it will give you an idea of the processing that went into the final image.



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