Is there a way to find out if a picture (once taken) was taken in Manual vs. Auto mode? My daughter is in a photography class and we both have taken images with the same camera. I sometimes put it back into auto mode and she isn't sure about a few of the photos now.

Her instructor says they have to be turned in only in Manual mode, so is there a way that I can determine which images were captured in Manual mode?

  • 1
    Are you using a digital camera or a film camera?
    – dpollitt
    Dec 4 '13 at 4:04
  • 1
    If you are trying to determine this after downloading the pictures to a computer - it would be useful to know what operating system you are using and whether you already have photo viewing/editing software installed - as you may simply need pointing in the direction of the correct menu option. Sharing your camera model may also determine what EXIF data is available.
    – dav1dsm1th
    Dec 4 '13 at 10:54
  • Is this question primarily concerned with Auto versus Manual focus, as the original tags placed by the OP indicated, or with Auto versus Manual exposure as edited by one of the users who answered this question?
    – Michael C
    Dec 4 '13 at 22:03
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    @MichaelClark - The terms were used interchangeably in the original question. I think it is a safe assumption that it was about a vs m mode and not a vs m AF, but as you can see I couldn't even get clarification on digital vs film so I wouldn't expect to get much more in the way of clarification for your question.
    – dpollitt
    Dec 5 '13 at 4:03
  • I disagree. If the OP tagged it With Autofocus and Manual-Focus I think it is pretty obvious what she meant.
    – Michael C
    Dec 5 '13 at 10:27

For an image taken with a digital camera this information is stored and very easily accessible. What mode the camera was in such as Auto, Manual, Program, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority and more information can be found using the EXIF data that is stored along with the image. It is all included in the image file such as a .JPEG file in what we call metadata.

What exactly is stored in the EXIF data is outlined well already here:

The easiest way to view the EXIF data is actually an online tool: Jeffrey's Exif Viewer

Downloadable software is also available in many forms to view EXIF data if you are going to be doing it more often, such as EXIF Tool, or essentially any quality photo editing software.

  • Adobe products tend to ignore the Maker Note section of the EXIF data, so not exactly any quality photo editing software allow you to view the focus mode since it is in the Maker Note section if the manufacturer chooses to include it at all. That is assuming you consider CS/PS/LR to be quality photo editing software.
    – Michael C
    Dec 16 '13 at 2:14

Most digital cameras include the shooting mode, the metering mode, and even the focus mode in the EXIF information. The EXIF information can be viewed with most photo processing applications such as Adobe Lightroom or the software that came with the camera. Not all applications will display every field of the EXIF data, so you may need to try more than one. If you need a free application that can open a variety of file formats and displays a fairly comprehensive list of EXIF information, give Irfanview a try.

Here's a screen grab from the EXIF information for a photo I recently took with a Canon 7D as viewed using Canon's Digital Photo Professional that is included with Canon DSLRs.

EXIF screen grab DPP

Below is the same information from the same photo when displayed using Irfanview. Notice that the focus information is in the 'Maker Note' section, which is a place for manufacturers to include non-standardized information in the EXIF info. This means it can and does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer how or even if the information is included. Adobe products tend to ignore most parts of the 'Maker Note' section of the EXIF data. Observe that Irfanview properly identified the focus mode as AI Focus, but failed to properly describe other fields in the 'Maker Note' section such as the sharpness setting indicated by Canon's code '-32769' or the ISO value indicated by a '32767' code. In the standardized section of the EXIF not visible in this screen grab, the ISO used is properly identified as ISO 2500.

EXIF screen grab Irfanview

  • My Pentax K-x sets no AF related information in the Maker Note section :/
    – Sébastien
    Jun 8 '16 at 7:40
  • Some makes/models of cameras store the focus mode, but many don't. Its much less common than recording the exposure mode etc.
    – vclaw
    Jun 9 '16 at 0:32

Besides usually being its own item in the EXIF, as others have pointed out, some cameras have stepless shutter speeds or apertures when using the non-manual modes. This can result in shutter speeds or apertures that are not selectable in manual mode which also gives it away.

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