Lesson 83: Metadata

Apple has  made iPhoto available for free on mobile devices.  It’s always been included with OS X devices (laptops, desktops).  Interestingly, it actually has more features on your mobile device for editing photos than the OS X version has, like brush tools.

But for today, I thought I would take the opportunity to show you something that you can now see on your mobile device.  In the past, you would have needed to download your photos to iPhoto or another photo organizer/editor on your computer to see what’s called the metadata.

Metadata literally means “data about data.”  It tells us things like when and where a photo was taken (and in iPhoto, even shows us on a map).  It also tells us some interesting facts about the settings the camera chose when you took the photo.

Now, I try not to get very technical in this blog, but I think it’s worth understanding something about what your iPhone camera is doing that the meta data in iPhoto can help you understand.

Let’s take a look at the metadata for this photo:

Notice the row of info right above the map?  It says “f/2.2 1/30 4.1mm — ISO 80.”  Since I promised Gina, the inspiration for this blog, that I wouldn’t get technical on her and here I am getting technical, I’m going to limit myself to talking about only one of these numbers:  1/30.  That’s how long the camera opened its shutter to allow light in to make the image.  1/30 of a second is a pretty long time for a shutter to be open–especially when it’s hard to hold an iPhone still.

But notice this photo was taken in a dimly lit room with very little light.  The iPhone had to keep the shutter open longer to get enough light in this setting.

Now let’s look at the metadata for a different image:

Notice that this one has a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second.  That’s a much faster shutter speed.  What’s different about this image?  Well, it was taken out doors in bright sunlight.  There was plenty of light to be had.

Slower shutter speeds will allow more motion to show in your photos.  Notice how my dog’s tail in the first image is blurred.  In the second image, the tree leaves are very sharp and show no motion even though there was a breeze blowing.

By looking at the metadata in iPhoto and checking what shutter speed the iPhone chose, you can get a good sense of what lighting will make it easier to show motion and what lighting will make it easier to get sharp images.

Your Assignment:  Download iPhoto if you haven’t already.  Open it up and tap the “i” button to check the metadata on a few images.  Compare indoor and daytime outdoor lighting–what shutter speeds do you see in images in each type of lighting?  Look for motion blur.  Can you find examples of slow shutter speeds leading to motion showing in your image?

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