Tagging photos with a GPS

First, the good news: the note attached to your photos called EXIF, which contains stuff like the time your photo was shot, can also contain location info. Cool.

The bad news: unless you have a high-end Nikon attached to a GPS, your camera is clueless about location.

You could buy a Ricoh with GPS card like I did, but it sucks. The GPS card goes where the memory card normally goes, so you’re left with 8 MB of built-in memory. Not many photos… And it isn’t a good camera but costs a lot.

However! You can buy Robogeo to sychronize the time stamps between your GPS log and photos. If the GPS says you were on the Golden Gate Bridge at 8:13 PM and you took a photo around that time….you get the idea.

Some camera phones have GPS and you can get a GPS card for a Treo 650, which has a decent camera. But I haven’t figured out whether they embed the location info into the EXIF. Anyone know?

Sometimes the location reported by your GPS is not what you want in your photo. If you stand on the Brooklyn Bridge and shoot the Empire State Building, you might prefer to have the location be the Empire State Building.

For those exceptions, you can look up latitude and longitude using Google Maps: find the spot on the map and double-click it. The map centers. Now click the Link to this page link. An URL will appear in your browser address bar. The first two numbers you see in it, reading from left to right, is the latitude and longitude. Copy and paste them to Robogeo and you’re set.

Easier by far is to use Smugmug’s Edit Geography tool. You find the location and it fills in latitude and longitude for you. But it does not yet burn it into the EXIF of your photo.

What’s your experience?

Published by

Chris MacAskill

co-founder of SmugMug

41 thoughts on “Tagging photos with a GPS”

  1. I use the iView cataloging system for my photos and assign captions and keywords there. You pick up that information when I upload to my Smugmug Albums.
    Would it be possible to either create a custom field(s) in iView or select some standard field like “location” and load the GPS information into that field with iView and have you pick it up automatically?
    Thanks,
    Bob

  2. This is very cool and in many cases, I would be happy with a map location that is just “close.” E.g., if I visit a state park and take a whole album full of pictures, I’d like to quickly mark all photos in the album with the location of the park. Right now, it looks like I have to tag each photo individually. Even with the link to Google maps, that’s way too much trouble.

    — Art Z.

  3. i needed to put lat/long in a whole mess of photos, fast… i tried a program called robogeo, at the suggestion of – ahem – a close friend (!!!) and let me tell you, the program got the job done but not without a sledgehammer. i think the code was written on a commodore 64 no joke.

    anyhow, avoid, if you can, robogeo.

  4. I’m using Google Earth to lookup the lat/lon for the pictures i took, by placing location marks (Ctrl+N) and moving the marks around. Google Earth works great and allows me to zoom in to any level.

    I would like, however, smugmug to have a bulk ‘Edit Geography’ tool, like ‘Edit Captions (bulk)’. This will save me quite some time when adding GPS data to my pics.

  5. Thanks to Jose Oliver (above), I tried out the WWPX Location Stamper program, and it seems to work great! It lets you search for a location, find it on a map (or TerraServer photo), and stamp the exif fields with the latitude and longitude. It even lets you stamp a batch of photos if they’re all in the same location! Just select the photos, and drag them to the location on the map.

    Anyway, I’m quite satisfied with it. If you don’t need anything fancy – just the coordinate stamping, you may want to give it a shot.

    http://wwmx.org/Download.aspx

  6. I like the wwwx tool mentioned since it puts the GPS info in the JPG directly, but can I make a GPX file out of that? It seems to import into Google Earth u need a GPX file? Help, thanks!

  7. Tried TopoFusion also, still doesn’t seem like any way to import the tagged JPG file I already have into it or anything else?! Arrgh, so close!

  8. @Alek: I use a German tool called NH-TopTrans50. This tool converts all file formats used in relation to maps I’ve ever heard off and a lot more (e.g. gpx, nmea, google earth-files, ozi explorer etc.) into other formats. I use it to convert the nmea-files from my gps into gpx-files for wwmx.
    The tool is in German only, but for basic stuff pretty self explanatory – if you need any help in understanding something, just drop me a mail (address on my homepage).
    Here the link to the page: http://www.norberthein.de/navigation/naviidx.htm
    the downloadlink is at the very end of the really long page – there’s a big red ‘DOWNLOAD’ just before the link called: NH-Top50Trans v. 3.6 (ca. 6,5 MB)
    I don’t want to hotlink it, so if you don’t find it – mail me.

    Hope this helps,
    Sebastian

  9. GPS is the future for all new application , Mobile networks now support these technology and we are capable to search for any nearest gas stations through our mobile.

    Thanks God , Thanks Technology.

  10. Yourmap is a free program that can add GPS EXIF to any JPG. From there, you can use Flickr, Geosnapper, or other Web sites that support EXIF GPS. You can also use Yourmap to display your Geocoded JPGs, Links, or other files. Geocoding can be done off-line with some basic maps or hand entry of coordinates. Online, Topo Maps, Street Maps, Aerial photos, etc. can be used to find your location. No GPS is required.

  11. Sub: Need a “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature

    I have uploaded over a 100 images to http://photos.suchit.in/gallery/1533014
    All the images were shot in a Hotel and so the Lat/Lon data of the location is the same. How do I select the folder or select all the images and mark the same Lat/Lon data for them to show up in my Maps?

    There is an Edit Captions (Bulk) so can we have an “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature?

    That way one doesn’t have to go an add the Lat/Lon to each image manually.

    ~ Suchit

  12. For GPS tagged photos I use Nikon D200. That is equipped with Redhen Systems D2X GPS adapter (for Nikon only). This adapter connects to flash shoe. The GPS unit is Garmin Geko 201.

    The setup (camera + adapter + GPS) – in my opinion – is way too expensive, to get more people interested of it.. And if you want to use cable release at this setup, adapter has to be disconnected from the camera.

    But pro’s of this system is very easy and simple recording of the time & position where the photo was taken. And the Garmin Geko 201 is quite a small.

    I bought this equipment because interested in photographing the different atmospherical phenomenon, like halos, rainbows etc. There location and GPS time is needed, especially if something rare phenomenon is seen on the sky. The “display” can be re-created with the aid software simulation. This is where the GPS coordinates and time are needed. Another application is of course the “alternative” method of presenting your pictures by location.

    Timo Kuhmonen
    Espoo, Finland

  13. I’ve been tagging some of my photos manually with the “edit geography” tool and am impressed with the results. However, I want to know if it’s possible to manually add the time and date the photo was taken on the EXIF? I had taken some of the pictures before enabling the time/date function on my camera and now the timeline is all messed up. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  14. I purchased one of the HP 6915 camera phones with GPS in July and just completed a trip with it though central Europe. The 1.3 megapixel camera is not bad resolution and to the question in the blog the built in camera software records the Lat and Long (but not the Alt) on each photo. I used it to augment my main digital SLR, so would snap on GPS’ed camera phone photo then move over to main camera. It is very easy to upload a GPS’ed picture to mobile blog site after you snap a shot. I hope to find a mobile blog site that adding mapping, this will be a nice way to write about and track trips.

    Over all if you are a ‘early adopter’ it is a pretty amazing device. Phone works. I think you are seeing the leading edge of some pretty need location based stuff in this phone.

    Positives:
    Pictures upload to Smugmug just find and GPS data is stored in Smugmug attributes just fine. Mapping options works great.
    It is working fine as my primary mobile, replacing a Treo 650. Much better reception here in the US than I got with Treo. Work fine both for voice and data on trip in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey.
    As stated above camera is a decent 1.3 mp and it records the GPS info.
    I have a 2 gigabyte miniSD card, amazing amount of storage. I have no idea what to do with it all.
    I used two ‘extend’ batteries on the trip. I could get a full day of capturing about 10 to 20 pictures with GPS, some calls and be down to about 25% of first extended battery by end of day. Carry a second if want to make sure you can make phone calls.
    WiFi works, browser is not much, but the WiFi connected in a couple places my Mac notebook did not.
    Negatives:
    GPS is a battery hog, and slow to start up. You need to plan on starting camera on the order of 1 to 5 minutes before you want to take a GPS’ed picture for the GPS to get its position. The more you move from the last position of coordinate capture the longer the GPS takes to acquire.
    Camera in general is slow to save the image, the picture is captured relative fast, but the compression and saving of up to 1 megabyte of data on a ‘phone’ running windows is slow. Even slower if you save to the miniSD card. If you save to main memory, you will be limited on the number pictures depending on the amount of other programs, mail and other data you save to main memory. Windows Mobile does a better job of allowing thing to save and run to miniSD card, but you still have only either 64 or 96 megabytes in main memory (I’m not sure how much 6915 comes with). Takes some ‘learning’ to power on GPS and Camera and snap a useful picture.
    Window CE 2005 is Sloowwww, you adapt after a while, but Palm OS is much more snappy.
    Windows UI is not as clean as Palm, it clearly gives the ability to do much more, but at the cost of it being less smooth to operated.
    Extended Battery adds bulk to size of phone, still not much bigger than Treo, but it is a much better feel with ‘regular’ battery.
    Note that the battery cover for ‘third party’ extend battery is different shape than HP OEM extend battery.
    As I said, the camera software does not seem to record the altitude. I am guessing this is bug in early HP software. I bought the unit in UK the first week it came out, so hopefully will be fixed. Not that it really adds much.
    WiFi is a power drainer.

  15. Okay, I am using Photoshop Elements 5.0 and I have all GPS and tag info written to about 5000 files; however, SmugMug does not show this when I upload. What’s the deal? Anyone have a clue as to the problem here? And why is there not a bulk edit feature for this?

  16. Ouch, MathemAddicts, I’m sorry you’ve run into this. We are looking at this problem and it’s being discussed on our forum at http://www.dgrin.com, but PSE5 is not writing the info in the EXIF, which is where we look for it. We’re talking to Adobe about what to do.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  17. Like many of you here in this forum, I’ve wished for a ‘Edit Geography Bulk’ function in Smugmug. But since it’s not there, I was trying to find some workaround and I hit on a good one ! Of course this’ll only work for those of you who haven’t uploaded the photos yet or for those of you who have already done it, it’ll work for the albums you’re going to create in the future.

    It’s like this. First download and install Google Earth and Picasa – both from Google and free !. Once Picasa finds all the pictures on your computer, click on the folder you wish to ‘geotag’, select all the pictures and then choose Tools / Geotag / Geotag with Google Earth. This will open Google Earth and a floating Picasa window on top of it. Use the crosshairs to point to your location and then select ‘Geotag All’. Picasa takes the geotag info and actually updates the EXIF info for all the pictures. And then upload all the photos to Smugmug and Smugmug auitomatically recognizes the geotagging. Beautiful and Simple !

    Let me know your experiences.

  18. I posted this earlier. Now I use WWMX (http://wwmx.org/) to Geotag my images but I still think a Edit Geography (BULK) would be a nice feature. Often photographers shoot in a Hotel or a single location and so it can’t be very difficult to modify the existing feature to add a BULK feature to it:

    Suchit Nanda Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 1:11 am

    Sub: Need a “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature

    I have uploaded over a 100 images to http://photos.suchit.in/gallery/1533014
    All the images were shot in a Hotel and so the Lat/Lon data of the location is the same. How do I select the folder or select all the images and mark the same Lat/Lon data for them to show up in my Maps?

    There is an Edit Captions (Bulk) so can we have an “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature?

    That way one doesn’t have to go an add the Lat/Lon to each image manually.

    ~ Suchit

  19. I use Picasa to organise and browse photos on my laptop, and it’s utterly trivial to geotag photos. It allows you to use Google Earth to do the geotagging, and the integration of Picasa and Google Earth makes it a snap.

  20. I have found that Redhen Systems now offers a small Bluetooth GPS interface unit, to be used at Nikon Pro SLR’s, like D2Xs, D200 etc.
    https://ecommerce.redhensystems.com/pc-47-2-blue2can.aspx

    Good point in here is the Bluetooth connection replaces loose cables, since it’s promised to work with standard Bluetooth GPS units. Too bad, but this unit -based on the product images- does not seem to allow (?) the simultaneeous use of the MC-36 electric shutter release (or similar model).

  21. Its nearly a year since I suggested a simple feature – BULK GEO DATA.
    That way when shooting in a single location we can add the Geo data to the images uploaded to SmugMug without having to do that manually to each image.

    Any chance of this happening?

    Suchit Nanda Says:

    April 13th, 2007 at 11:29 pm
    I posted this earlier. Now I use WWMX (http://wwmx.org/) to Geotag my images but I still think a Edit Geography (BULK) would be a nice feature. Often photographers shoot in a Hotel or a single location and so it can’t be very difficult to modify the existing feature to add a BULK feature to it:

    Suchit Nanda Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 1:11 am

    Sub: Need a “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature

    I have uploaded over a 100 images to http://photos.suchit.in/gallery/1533014
    All the images were shot in a Hotel and so the Lat/Lon data of the location is the same. How do I select the folder or select all the images and mark the same Lat/Lon data for them to show up in my Maps?

    There is an Edit Captions (Bulk) so can we have an “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature?

    That way one doesn’t have to go an add the Lat/Lon to each image manually.

    ~ Suchit

  22. Guys,

    More than TWO YEARS ago (June 2006 to be precise!) I wrote about a feature request which I think should be trivial to include.

    I know my other friends on SmugMug that feel the same and here Bob to agrees.

    Is there any chance?

    See my earlier message:

    Suchit Nanda Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 1:11 am

    Sub: Need a “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature

    I have uploaded over a 100 images to http://photos.suchit.in/gallery/1533014
    All the images were shot in a Hotel and so the Lat/Lon data of the location is the same. How do I select the folder or select all the images and mark the same Lat/Lon data for them to show up in my Maps?

    There is an Edit Captions (Bulk) so can we have an “Edit Geography (Bulk)” feature?

    That way one doesn’t have to go an add the Lat/Lon to each image manually.

    ~ Suchit

  23. None of the automatic geotagging seems to happen on the iPhone… a real shame, since that’s what Smugshot claims to do.

    Is this happening for everyone? (ie– using “Always Geotag” in iPhone “Settings” but not seeing any geotag info on the uploaded photos?)

  24. Maperture for Apple’s Aperture is the best I’ve come across.

    Just for interest – Galileo, the European alternative to GPS, is due to come on-stream in five years time. It promises to give positions that are considerably more precise than GPS.

  25. How about during the import process from Lightroom 3.2? If the image is already geo-encoded on the LR side can it be ported over to SmugMug with that info to be used in the SM Google Maps feature?
    Thanks.

  26. iPhone owners should take a look at my GeoLogTag app. I added native support for SmugMug, making it an all-in-one geotagging solution for SmugMuggers.
    GeoLogTag tracks your location while you take photos (with whatever digital camera) and after you uploaded your photos to SmugMug, GeoLogTag adds the location information to all photos at once with just a few taps.
    There is a free version available to try it out first.

    Website: http://www.galarina.eu/GeoLogTag/Home.html
    App Store: http://www.itunes.com/apps/galarina

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