Data Entry

December 12, 2010

A couple posts back I mentioned that I carry a notebook around with me to record data on photos that were shot with film. I got a few questions about it and figured a post might be helpful for anyone else who may want to do something similar.

For me, it’s really helpful to get a roll of film developed and be able to look back on the data I recorded for each frame. If a shot was successful, I’ll know what I did right. And if a frame blows, I’ll have at least some idea of what may’ve gone wrong.

At first, I started out with really good intentions, as pictured above. My first few rolls were meticulously gridded out and I made sure to pen everything in neatly.

Then, things sort of went downhill. I got lazy. I’d be scribbling stuff down while Chris or others waited on me. Or on a train. Or, as evidenced by my impatiently huge letters, at the beach not wanting to worry about being tidy. :)

Still, no matter if I write it down nicely or in my natural styling of chickenscratch, I’ll always be sure to document the following information:

  1. Camera & Lens, if applicable.
  2. Film
  3. Date Loaded / Finished. Not hugely necessary as I also write down the date each frame was taken, but it’s helpful when flipping through in a hurry.
  4. Frame #
  5. Subject – A small description, usually just a few words like “Sunglasses bench” or “Felix bathroom rug.”
  6. Date / Time. Usually the time is an approximation, but if I want to return to a scene and get the same or similar lighting it’s a big help.
  7. Shutter / Aperture settings, if applicable.
  8. Light Quality, if outdoors it’s usually just a note about the weather. “Sunny,” “Overcast no shadows,” “Sunset,” etc. Indoors will read “Natural,” “Morning,” “Magic Window,” “Incandescent,” etc.
  9. Never Eat Shredded Wheat. Every great once in awhile I’ll note what direction I was facing when I clicked the shutter. I don’t dedicate a whole column to it – I’ll just draw a circle with an N, S, E or W inside.

This is a roll I’m yet to finish. My film shooting sort of came to a dead halt once winter rolled into town, which is nice because when I do shoot I have time to be neat and tidy yet again.

And if for some reason I don’t have my notebook with me when I shoot a frame, I’ll write the info down on a scrap of paper, receipt or in my phone and transfer it over.

Yep… I’m that anal. :)


Since writing this post I collaborated with my best friend to create a custom exposure log, which he now sells here. It’s bigger than the pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks, but the layouts help me when I’m frantically scribbling information down.


[…] — the anticipation kills me, in a good way, to the point where I end up thumbing through my photo log every day, re-visiting each entry with giddiness and […]

[…] — the anticipation kills me, in a good way, to the point where I end up thumbing through my photo log every day, re-visiting each entry with giddiness and […]

I do this too! I have a small moleskine that I carry around for recording my exposures and subject matter when I go out shooting with my TLR’s. I have multiple cameras so I like to know which one I shot on that day etc, also because I just love making lists.

At first I thought I was just really crazy/anal for doing this but it’s cool to know I’m not the only one :)

Your notebook is way cleaner/more organized then mine though. If you don’t mind me asking what kind/brand of notebook do you use? I really like the layout of it

Thanks! It’s a moleskine, too, just those skinny little brown ones that come in a 3-pack. I put the grids in there by hand when I can be bothered.

And YAY! We’re not alone :D

What a terrific idea, particularly when it comes to film. I can see myself doing this now and don’t think it’s anal at all:-)

wow this is intense! i wish i had the discipline to carry through with this. maybe someday…

I keep a moleskin that used to have information when I did b&w prints…and then it turned into an idea for photo series journal…then it turned into information pertaining to photojournalism captions…then it turned into rough sketches and notes of what i needed the subject to do….now, it’s just sitting there until I start experimenting with the medium format camera that my friend is letting me borrow! I always like looking back in it to see what I was thinking at a certain time or how bad an idea was. haha.

Thanks for sharing this Kim. I’m going to have to try this, I think it’ll help me with my film photography. I’m still clueless about aperture and shutter speed, this should teach me well!

I love this Kim. I don’t document my film but I document my printing in this little red journal I have. I sketch the image, write the aperture, contrast filter and amount of seconds for developing. Then I write the same thing if I burn because I always open more when I burn. I also make little arrows pointing to areas that I should take more notice in and finish with cross hatching of the burned and blackened areas. I also use an asterisk to indicate my whitest spot. :)

I need to start doing something like this. My Rollei has a built-in light meter but I’m not really sure how accurate it is. And who knows what it’s really metering for. The lighting conditions column is a good idea.