The Exchangable Image File Format (or EXIF for short) is perhaps one of the largest benefits of digital photography. The EXIF metadata is actually kept within the header of your image files – assuming you’re using a compatible format such as JPEG or TIFF – and it contains all sorts of information such as the shutter speed, whether your flash was fired and so on. Such information is incredibly important to the growth of any photographer – regardless of their skill level. Up until EXIF came along, we had to resort to such archaic tools as pencils and papers. Okay, we still do that, but we spend a lot less time as the technical details are already recorded, and we can save those precious lines on the page for things such as sun position, the shot setup or a list of Monty Python Characters that inspired the shot.
Generally speaking, you don’t want to alter the data that’s already contained within your image file. However, there are some essential pieces of information you’ll want to add to it to make it more complete. Such information is beneficial to you if you’re using a photo organizing program, but photos that you upload will also have the data intact and it can be used by search engines or other photographers (if you so choose). At the very least, you should be manually adding the following to your EXIF metadata:
- Your Name – This is no time to be cute – use your real name for credits.
- Copyright Information – Note your licensing. It’s not going to prevent the piracy of your work, but it will help legitimate clients better understand how they can use your works.
- Photo Title – All works should be titled with some sort of unique identification. If your photo doesn’t have a title, list it as “Untitled” and provide a unique number. This is important – someone inquiring about a photo needs to be able to clearly identify the photo.
- Website – Most of us have websites or at least a web page to call home. Link it up – it will help people find you.
- Contact Info - Provide some sort of contact info so people know how to get in touch with you. The only time I feel it is acceptable not to provide contact info directly in the EXIF metadata is when such info is clearly shown on your website and you provide a web link within the metadata.
For those of you using RAW, there’s a similar standard by Adobe called XMP which works similarly, but adds a companion file to each shot. If you already use Adobe products, updating the EXIF Metadata automatically creates this file. If you are using a program such as Adobe Bridge, Lightroom or any other RAW management program – it’s a good idea to fill in your data before you need to edit the file. This information will get carried through your edits and saved with the photos when you’re done. Just note that you will need to save to a supported format – JPEG or TIFF – to see this data as EXIF metadata headers with your works.