Want to profit from your mistakes—as well as successes? Digital cameras record your settings in the metadata (also called file info or EXIF data) of each image. You can use this information to take better pictures. Here’s how:

1) Master shutter speed and depth of field.**
Wanted frozen action but ended up with a blurry mess? Check the metadata for shutter speed, then bump it up next time. Wanted to have just your subject in focus, but got too much distracting detail in the background? Check for the f-sto (aperture), open it up, and try again.

2) Figure out white balance and the best time of day.
Daylight is always shifting. If you spend a few hours in one location or come back at a different time, you may enjoy better light. Check the metadata for the white balance (or color temperature) and time of day when you took your favorite shots, and plan your next outing accordingly.

3) Think different. If you feel like you’ve been taking the same kinds of pictures over and over again, it might help to look at your unconscious shooting habits. Many programs such as Adobe Bridge allow you to sort your images by different aspects of the metadata, including aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You might be surprised at the patterns you’ve fallen into—and once you’re aware of what you’re doing, you can start undoing it.

—Kathleen Davis
Assistant Editor