What most photographers who’re starting out (any many who aren’t) concentrate on the most are those elements in the Exif Data that spell out how the shot was taken, specifically the exposure settings spelt out above. It is not surprising that this is so, Exif Data can be a source of learning, giving the photographer an insight into what they did right – or wrong – that led to a shot turning out the way it did.
As, for example, you may look at an image you made a sports event and see that the elements are blurred. A quick look at the Exif Data may reveal that your shutter speed was let’s say 1/200th of a second. This should tell you that a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second is too slow to be capturing elements of that particular sporting event, that in the future it’d serve you well to choose a faster shutter speed. Lesson learned. Well, hopefully, anyway.
It’s not surprising hence that many a photography forum practically bursts at the seams when it comes to photographs being posted along with Exif Data. Some forums actually make it mandatory that if you post an image, you do so with the Exif Data. And of course, if the rules don’t state it, there’ll always be someone – nay, many people – asking for the Exif Data (shutter speed, ISO, aperture) , in the hope that they’ll learn just exactly how that photo was made, so that they can do so for themselves.
And therein lies the problem: in thinking that in knowing the aperture value, shutter speed, ISO and other exposure related Exif Data you can really learn how that great photograph was made. Because the secret to that great photograph does not really lie in the exposure details portion of the Exif Data, but elsewhere. Somewhere in the Exif Data are hidden gems that are what really went into that photograph, and that’s what people miss.
And that’s what this post is about: Hidden Gems in Exif Data that you didn’t know about. And I’m going to show them to you, but before that a few pictures. I don’t know, but I’ve been told they’re really good, so I’m putting them up here and then we’ll have a look at the Hidden Gems in them.
Not bad – those shots above – I’ve been told. Some even say they’re pretty good. I don’t know, I just photograph whatever catches my eye. That being said, it’s time we moved on to the Exif Data within those images. Not the standard exposure related ones as I said earlier, but rather the ones which really matter in helping you how the shot was made – “Hidden Gems”as I call them.
The Hidden Gems gems subset of Exif Data consist of the following fields: Fw field, UbW field, LbW field, U field, H field, FH field, F field and the WRM field. A description of each of these fields is given in the table below. Click the “+” sign on the right of the rows below to see a description of the field and its contents.
The Fw field stores details about the Footwear the photographer had on at the time the shot was taken. Common values include Boots, shoes, loafers, sandals, chappals (slippers) etc. A proposal to include “barefeet” in the Fw field is rumored to be under consideration. In my case, the Fw field is usually populated with either “shoes” or “chappals”
The LbW field contains details on the Lower-body Wear that the photographer had on when the shot was made. Most of my shots have this field reading as “Jeans, well fitting”. This field can be quite helpful in telling what made your shot go wrong, especially if it reads “loose, needs to be pulled up frequently”, or “tight at the crotch”.
The Upper Body Wear field contains data about the clothing above the hips. Mine usually reads “Tee-shirt”. Of course, different shooting conditions call for different UbW; you know what you’re doing wrong if this field reads “fur coat”, especially if the Date field indicated summer and the location was the Sahara or Thar Desert.
The U field contains Underwear related data, rated on a comfort level of 1 to 10. If this field reads below 7, you’re pretty much sure of why you weren’t able to get the shot you wanted. A level of 10 indicates a state of “having gone commando” – not having any underwear on.
The H field
The H field of the Exif Data contains details about the hair on the photographer’s scalp. In conjunction with the G field (Gender field) this can give valuable insights into what went wrong – or – right – in making a shot. As, for example, bald males are more likely to get good portraits of women (since research shows that women find bald men sexy). Dandruff and / or unwashed hair spoils a shot… you get the picture. My H field used to read “long flowing locks, occasionally tied back in a ponytail” till around twenty years back, of late it reads “receding, parted from left to right, slightly tousled.”
The FH field
The FH field contains details about the facial hair of the photographer. What’s important is it does not read “itchy – to self”. Mine usually reads “stubble, a few days old”.
The F field
The F field contains a simple “Yes” or “No”, and indicates whether the photographer flashed or not when taking the shot. It is highly improper to flash, trust me you’re not likely to get good shots if you flash. Unless of course you’re looking for genuine expressions of shock and disgust.
WARNING: Flashing can get you arrested. You may even be set upon by a mob that may beat you to within an inch of death / lynch you . NOT RECOMMENDED.
Regarding the F field reading in my shots: It reads “No”. I don’t flash, I’m not a pervert.
And lastly the WRM field and what this post is all about.
The WRM stands for “What Really Matters”. It usually – quite mysteriously – contains a “?”. The field populates itself when the photographer has “got what the game is all about”. That it’s not about f-stops or anything. That while Exif Data can be a good initial starting point to understand exposure and depth of field, it stops there. That Exif Data will not give you a clue – beyond exposure – of just why beautiful photographs are not just snapshots but living, breathing things. When the “photographer” gets this – the WRM field fills itself with What Really Matters…
WRM – Eyes that see, Mind that thinks, Heart that feels. That’s what breathes life into an image.
Moral of the story: There’s Life – and a World – waiting to be discovered beyond Exif. Grow up!