Don’t buy a photographers field notebook until you have read this. Before you buy a photographers notebook to use out in the field, you need to consider how you will use the notebook and what makes a good field notebook.

Why should I use a photography journal?

There is so much to learn when taking photographs and a lot of the fun is trying different things and seeing the results. There are so many photograph variables that you can change out in the field such as

  1. Lighting – whether its playing with the natural light and taking photos at different times of day, or using artificial lights to enhance the scene, there are infinite possibilities to try. Using different lighting can change everything about your photo and you’ll want to record the experiments in your field notebook.
  2. Lenses – even the most basic amateur photographer can uses different lenses on an iPhone to get Macro and super wide shots. The latest phones indeed already have multiple lenses built in, but you can add extra accessories to a phone camera out in the field. Advanced professional cameras of course have detachable lenses and you’ll want to record which lens you used for you photo.
  3. Filters – Similar to lenses, you can use multiple filters to change the temperature of a photo. Journaling these is critical to recall how the shot was setup.
  4. Location – where a photograph was taken may seem obvious at the time, but later on those shots, especially macro ones, will be fairly anonymous! A leaf, a flower or a rock – you could have taken that photo anywhere. While phones have GPS tagging, not all professional cameras do.
  5. Camera – lets not forget this one… some of us have multiple cameras in use or even different firmware on the go. Its helpful to know which hardware you were using at the time.

By logging all of this information in your journal, you have a reference to look back and when you want to recreate those photos or achieve a similar effect.

What about EXIF data?

Hold on – what about EXIF data? Why do I need a photography field notebook to journal the settings when I have EXIF data? The EXIF data will not record everything and what it records varies by camera. Phones for example will geo-tag each photo with GPS data, but not all professional cameras can do this. The EXIF data will not log the weather, what filter you used or what you were thinking and trying to achieve. There is so much more to taking a photograph than what the EXIF data can record.

What to look for in a photography field notebook

A good photography field notebook will cater for all of the data discussed above and more. There are many personal choice in what to look for in your notebook, but here are some things to consider:

  • Pages – does the journal have enough pages to last you for your project or a decent time? You ideally won’t need multiple books for a project but neither do you want something too thick and heavy to carry in your camera bag out in the field.
  • An index! Yes surprising as it may seem, many photography journals don’t have an index. We think this is vital for quickly finding that shoot or that particular photo.
  • Size – how big do you want it to be? Our ideal size is A5, it fits in most bags and is a comfortable size to use without sacrificing page size for recording information.
  • Price – your notebook shouldn’t break the bank, camera equipment is expensive enough as it is!
  • Layout – do the pages in the notebook have an obvious layout which is easy to follow? Choose a photography notebook you like the style of.

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