Perhaps the best time to look at your metadata is right after you take an image, to confirm that you chose the settings you intended. I can think of plenty of situations where accessing my metadata would have saved me time and energy—even saved me the trouble of having to repeat an entire shoot. Had I accessed metadata on my camera's LCD screen before returning to my digital darkroom, I might have avoided the following scenarios:
- My depth-of-field—the sharpness from the nearest to the farthest object in the photographic scene—is insufficient. Did I use an aperture that was too large?
- The image's focus/light/color looked fine on my LCD, but proved a disappointment later, when I finally saw it in my raw converter or Photoshop.
- I thought I was using the correct white balance, but my JPEG pictures seem to have an overall color balance that's not what I intended.
- I thought I had selected a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion as I photographed moving subjects. But now that I see the image on my computer's screen, it looks blurry.
- I thought I'd set my camera to the AdobeRGB color space, but once I was back at the computer, I discovered it was still in sRGB mode.
All of these problems could have been easily prevented in my camera's setup menu. Instead, I lost hours of irreplaceable photographing time, and doomed myself to many long sessions in front of Photoshop.
In addition to serving as a diagnostic tool, metadata can also give you a good idea of how to fix a problem. If your metadata tells you that you chose the wrong ISO, for example, it's likely your image will benefit from noise reduction or color correction in Photoshop. If metadata reveals that your white balance was not what it should have been, you'll want to use your Photoshop or Camera Raw white balance tools. If you see a problem in your image, metadata can often tell you what went wrong and, therefore, what to adjust for when you're in front of the computer.