Exif Data for Analog Film

One of the great benefits of using Lightroom is the ability to sort photos based off exif data. I can filter by camera or lens pretty easily for digital cameras which automatically attach exif data to each photo. For analog photography, it’s not quite that easy.

I send my film out to get developed and scanned and the metadata that comes back on the files are related to the scanner, not my camera. So I end up with something like:

Camera Model: EZ Controller

For some reason, Lightrooom doesn’t allow you to edit all EXIF fields, you can only change certain parts such as copyright and a few others. However, there is a great utility created by Phil Harvey called exiftool which allows you to alter any metadata field.

The tool works cross-platform so if you’re on Windows, Mac or Linux you can use it. I’m processing all photos on Windows these days because my Mac desktop choices is limited, especially if you want something with power and not a monitor built-in, plus Windows 10 ain’t half bad.

Exiftool works on the command-line, you simply download the tool and put it somewhere easy to reference, I put the binary in c:\bin\exiftool.exe. Open the Command Prompt and change directory to where your files are.

You can alter the exif data using a command like so:

c:\bin\exiftool.exe -Model="Nikon FM3a" -Lens="Nikon 50mm f/1.8" -Make="Kodak Portra" -ISO=400 *.jpg

The Camera Model, Lens and ISO are pretty self-explanatory. There isn’t really a exif tag for Film Type, so I use the “Make” for the film I used because it shows up and is searchable in Lightroom. You can see the giant list of tags you can set.

The command will create a back up of the files called filename.jpg_original

I run exiftool over each batch prior to importing into Lightroom, so I’m now able to search in based on which film or camera I used for both digital and analog.


Download and more documentation at: http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/~phil/exiftool/



There are numerous EXIF editors out there, for free, and most of them have a nice GUI so you can see the photos you are changing the data on, which allows you to add tags also. I am sure your choice of editor is fine, but most of your readers will not know how to use a command line editor…

Thanks so much for this. I’m on mac, and I’ve been unable to find a good mac compatible, gui-based exif editor. Everthing I looked at or tried had poor usability reviews, glaring errors, or a kludgy, difficult interface. I’m not the most comfortable with the command line, but I think I can make this work.

Spelling errors… shame on me.

And one thing to note: if you scan film with a digital camera, don’t change Model or Make. Those both correspond to information in the Maker Notes for RAW files, and changing them will corrupt the files and make them unreadable by your raw convertor of choice (I tried Lightroom and Capture One… I presume everything else will fail too). I scan film with my D7000 and hoped to modify the exif on import and stop relying on keywords. Alas, I haven’t found a way to do that. Someone with more skill might be able to do it, but I don’t know: the Maker Notes tell raw convertors what they’re working with, and Lightroom, for example, doesn’t know how to convert a RAW file from a Nikon FE…

This works fine on jpegs, so you can clean the exif after converting your negative ‘scans’ to positive photographs for sharing purposes, and it’s super fast from the command line.

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