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Photography

How to Add Geospatial Data to Your Images With Geotag Photos Pro

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Global positioning data is added by almost all smartphones, and even some modern mirrorless cameras, to the pictures they create.  Most DSLR cameras, however, don’t have the same ability. The major camera manufacturers sell GPS hardware add-ons for their cameras, but these devices cost several hundred dollars.

In my tutorial on 15 Essential Apps for Photographers I mentioned geotagging apps. These apps use your smartphones GPS capabilities to track your location while you are on a photo shoot. You can then export this information from the phone and add it to your images. In this tutorial I’ll show you just how to do it.

1. Set Up the Geotag Photos Pro App

First things first: download the Geotag Photos Pro app for your smartphone. It is available for $4.99 (at the time of publication) on both iOS and Android. When you are ready to go shooting, open the app on your phone.

Now open the Settings menu, select Setup Time On Camera. Find the time on your camera and sync your camera’s clock to your phone’s. Tap Done.

When you are ready to photograph, select New Trip. Enter a name for your trip and tap Done. Then tap the Record button to begin logging your location.

Variable Settings

You can change how the app logs your location. By default it’s set to every 30 seconds. If you are not moving quickly you can reduce the frequency to conserve battery life.

geotag mobile app
The Geotag Photos Pro mobile app on iOS. Image by the author.

2. Photograph as Usual

Put your phone in your pocket and go to work. In the background, your phone will continue to log your location during your shoot.

When you’ve finished shooting, tap the Stop button.

3. Export the GPX File

There are a few ways to export the GPX file from Geotag Photos Pro to your computer. 

Upload to Geotag Photos Pro Account

Alternatively, you can sign up for a Geotag Photos Pro account from the app. This is the best method if you plan to use the Geotag Photos Pro desktop app. When you’re finished shooting, select Upload Trip to upload the GPX file to your account. On your computer you can log in to your account and download the GPX file.

geotag site
The Geotag Photos Pro web interface. Image by the author.

Upload to Dropbox

If you plan to use Adobe Lightroom, the simplest method is to link Geotag Photos Pro to your Dropbox account and allow the app to automatically upload files. With this method the GPX file gets uploaded to your Dropbox’s Apps folder as soon as you stop a trip. This is my preferred method.

Export to Email

Finally, you can email the GPX file to yourself by selecting the trip from the Trips History tab and choosing Export to Email from the Share menu.

Whichever method you choose, ensure that the trip’s GPX file is accessible on your computer.

4. Add Geospatial Data to Your Images

Method 1: With Geotag Photos Pro Desktop Application

First transfer your images from your camera to your computer using your normal method.

Next download the free Geotag Photos Pro desktop app available for OS X, Windows and Linux. When you first open it you may be prompted to download and install the free ExifTool. This program allows image metadata to be edited. You need a Geotag Photos Pro account to best use the desktop app; you created an account using the mobile app so log in with the same details.

Click Open and navigate to where you saved your images. Geotag Photos Pro will load the images and automatically detect what trip you took them on. Click Start Geotagging to write the location information into the images’s metadata.

geotag desktop
The Geotag Photos Pro desktop app on OS X. Image by the author.

Method 2: With Adobe Lightroom

Import the images from your shoot into Lightroom as normal. Once they’ve been added, navigate to Lightroom’s Map module.

From the Map menu, select Tracklog > Load Tracklog… and navigate to the GPX file created by Geotag Photos Pro. Select it and click Open. Lightroom will load the path you took onto the map overlay.

lightroom load tracklog
Adding the GPX file to Lightroom. Image by the author.

To add the location information to your images, select all the images you took on the trip, then from the Map menu, select Tracklog > Auto-Tag Photos. Lightroom will use the capture time and the location time from the GPX file to match your images to the location you were when you took them.

geotagged images
Lightroom's map of my trip with the image locations added. Image by the author.

5. Fix Time Offsets

If you forget to sync your camera and phone’s time when you started the shoot all is not lost. Both Geotag Photos Pro and Lightroom allow you to account for a difference between the two times. First, work out how out of sync the phone and camera time are. For example, if your phone time says 18.50.33 and your camera time says 17.40.09 your camera is 1 hour, 10 minutes and 24 seconds behind.

In GeoTag Photos Pro click Edit. Using the dialogue box, enter the difference between the camera time and the phone time and click Save.

edit tracklog geotag
Accounting for a time difference in the Geotag Photos Pro app. Image by the author.

In Lightroom, you need to adjust the images’s capture time before you add the GPS data. Select all the photos that you need to change the capture time for in Lightroom’s Library module. Select Edit Capture Time… from the Metadata menu.

In the dialogue box that appears, select Adjust to a specified date and time and change the Corrected Time by the amount necessary to bring your camera and phone clocks into sync. Click Change All and Lightroom will use the same amount of adjustment for all the photos you have selected.

lightroom edit capture time
Editing capture time in Lightroom. Image by the author.

Once you have done this, continue adding the GPS data as before.

Conclusion

In this tutorial I’ve shown you how to use the Geotag Photos Pro mobile app to track your location while you shoot, and then to add that data to your photos using the desktop app, or Lightroom. All the major camera manufacturers offer GPS add-ons for their cameras that cost hundreds of dollars. With the information in this tutorial, you’ll be able to get the same results using your smartphone and a five dollar app. 

Just remember to start the app before you go out shooting!

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