How Important is Exposure Data in Blog Posts?

by | Aug 10, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Many amateurs who should be reading these words are now engaged in scanning the data list (exposure data) with an eager eye, ‘Here,’ they are saying ‘Is how it was done.’ Could I reach them, I would answer: No kiddies, this is not how it was done. The (exposure) data are the bone and gristle from which all sustaining juices have been boiled away. The data is true in detail but for the person who wants to make pictures they are the least valuable information the book contains.”—William Mortensen, writing in Monsters & Madonnas

You may have noticed that in photographs appearing on some photographer’s blogs that the authors don’t always provide exposure data for the images shown but they usually describe the process and software tools used to make the photograph or picture as Mortensen would have it. I think it’s because these photographers believe, like Mortensen, that even if you were standing in the same place with the same camera/lens combination and exposure as them, your photograph would look different because everyone is different. My friend Rick Sammon often says ‘The camera looks both ways and he believes, and I agree with him, that more often than not, our photographs represent ourselves more than they do of the ostensible subject.

You may notice that I almost always provide exposure data for the photographs being displayed in my posts. My reasons for doing so are more complex and perhaps a bit twisted but here goes:  It may be overly glib of me to say the reason I do it is because that’s the format that (when there were real) photo magazines used since Mortensen wrote the above words in 1936. Closer to the truth is that during the time when I was writing for another photographic blog, its readers kept asking me for exposure data on my images and the gentlemen who ran the blog steadfastly refused to include it. When I started my own blog(s) I decided to include this data because I found that people wanted to know exposure data for a specific image, even if the information may not do them any good, except…

How I Made this Portrait: I photographed Ashley Hannah for the first and only time in my 11×15-foot home studio. The backdrop used was a 5×7-foot Photo Grey Savage Infinity vinyl background.hung from my failing-apart JTL background stands. Lighting used was a Paul C. Buff DigiBee with Plume Ltd Wafer softbox as main light and placed at camera right, an Alien Bee with a 16 x 30-inch Westcott Apollo Strip soft box was at camera left with another Digibee with the 48-inch Dynalite Quad Square black/silver umbrella located in the back of my studio. My camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 45mm and an exposure of 1/125 sec and f/5.6 and ISO 200.

…and you know there was a “but” didn’t you? When I write about studio photography, like my recent post on Flashpoint’s 13-inch Fluorescent Dimmable Ring Light and provide exposure data for the portrait, that information tells you a lot about the output of the light source being used. In this case, the fact that this inexpensive continuous light produced that much power is significant and important, especially for anyone considering purchasing one of these ring lights. The exposure data shown helps readers understand that.

Now as the man once said…you know the rest of the story.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat Joe to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, many thanks.

Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography with new copies available for $21.49 and used copies starting around nine bucks, as I write this. Kindle version price varies depends on whether it’s a purchase or rental. (No, I don’t get that either.)