Photo Tip: Geotag Your Photos Using A Smartphone

By | 2016-03-30T13:20:25+00:00 Mar 1st, 2016|

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Geotagging, or the act of applying detailed geographic coordinates, to my photos is exceptionally important to me. I do a lot of traveling and am often photographing in remote areas. So, being able to remember exactly where I took a particular photo using my smartphone has saved my bacon a number of times.

Additionally, it just makes things so much easier if/when I want to return to a particular spot to have another crack at a photo. Finally, when I’m out shooting, it’s important to me that I don’t keep my feet planted in one place. I want to know that I was moving around, trying out different compositions and locations.

By geotagging my photos, I can easily plot all of their locations on a map and see whether I concentrated on one area for too long and, if so, I can determine why. Once I am able to get a GPX file (a file format standard containing geographic data from a track), I can easily import it into Lightroom and automatically sync my photos with their corresponding coordinates. From there, Lightroom’s Map module does a great job of laying out each geotagged photo on a map for me to review.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]Let’s get geotagging![/x_custom_headline][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Before we begin, there is one crucial step that you need to take. It’s something that I do before every shoot and that is to sync the time reported on your phone with your camera. This is important because the time/date stamp of the track is the single record that will be used to match up against the time/date stamp of each photo. This is something to be especially mindful of when you’re traveling to different time zones.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ve decided to focus on geotagging photos with a device that just about each of you likely already have: a smartphone. Because I own and use an Apple iPhone 6s Plus, the screenshots provided are on the iOS platform. On iOS, I use an app called GPS Tracks.

Fortunately, Google released an equally capable GPS app for Android (and iOS) called Gaia GPS. The good news is that both apps operate in very similar ways, so you Android users out there should be able to easily replicate this workflow. For the purposes of this walkthrough, I’m going to present each step as an image in the gallery below. Be sure to read the caption of each photo to follow along.

Ok. Let’s begin. Click each image to see the steps.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]

Step 01 – After launching the app, tap on Start to begin tracking your movement. Put your phone back in your pocket (or wherever you store it) and go about your trek. I always keep my phone in my pants pocket and have never run into any issues with the app keeping tabs on my progress.

Step 01 – After launching the app, tap on Start to begin tracking your movement. Put your phone back in your pocket (or wherever you store it) and go about your trek. I always keep my phone in my pants pocket and have never run into any issues with the app keeping tabs on my progress.

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Step 02 – When you’re done with your trek, tap Stop to end the tracking.

Step 02 – When you’re done with your trek, tap Stop to end the tracking.

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Step 03 – Tap “Stop and Save” to write this current track to a file.

Step 03 – Tap “Stop and Save” to write this current track to a file.

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Step 04 – Give your file a name that is descriptive and identifiable for future reference.

Step 04 – Give your file a name that is descriptive and identifiable for future reference.

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Step 05 – Tap on the History button on the bottom toolbar to bring up all the tracks that you’ve saved (including this most recent one).

Step 05 – Tap on the History button on the bottom toolbar to bring up all the tracks that you’ve saved (including this most recent one).

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Step 06 – Tap on the track that you want to export. This is where keeping descriptive file names can come in handy!

Step 06 – Tap on the track that you want to export. This is where keeping descriptive file names can come in handy!

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Step 07 – Tap on the hamburger menu button on the top right of the screen to bring up the Sharing Intent Menu.

Step 07 – Tap on the hamburger menu button on the top right of the screen to bring up the Sharing Intent Menu.

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Step 08 – Tap on Export

Step 08 – Tap on Export

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Step 09 – Tap on GPX as the desired file format that you want to export your track to.

Step 09 – Tap on GPX as the desired file format that you want to export your track to.

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Step 10 – While there are several ways to export your newly created GPX file, I prefer using Dropbox. If this is your first time saving to Dropbox, you may be required to authenticate the app, so just follow those procedures accordingly.

Step 10 – While there are several ways to export your newly created GPX file, I prefer using Dropbox. If this is your first time saving to Dropbox, you may be required to authenticate the app, so just follow those procedures accordingly.

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Step 11 – Tap on the big blue button on the bottom of the screen that reads “Save to [Folder Name]”. In other words, DO NOT tap on “Done” on the top right. Doing so will abandon your export and you’ll have to start back at Step 07.

Step 11 – Tap on the big blue button on the bottom of the screen that reads “Save to [Folder Name]”. In other words, DO NOT tap on “Done” on the top right. Doing so will abandon your export and you’ll have to start back at Step 07.

[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”] [/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]Let’s get syncing![/x_custom_headline][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Ok, now that we’ve recorded and exported our track log, it’s time to sync these coordinates with the photos that we just took. To begin, you should obviously import your photos into your Lightroom Catalog. As before, I’m going to present each step as an image in the gallery below. Click each image to see the steps. Be sure to read the caption of each post to follow along.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]
Step 01 – With your photos imported into Lightroom, press ‘G’ to enter the Grid view. Next, select all the photos that you want to have synced against your GPX Track Log file. In most cases for me, I simply select all the files in the folder for syncing.

Step 01 – With your photos imported into Lightroom, press ‘G’ to enter the Grid view. Next, select all the photos that you want to have synced against your GPX Track Log file. In most cases for me, I simply select all the files in the folder for syncing.

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Step 02 – Press the ‘Map’ module on the top right of the Module Selector to enter the Map view. Next, Tap on the ‘GPS Tracklogs’ button on the bottom toolbar (it looks like a squiggly line) and select “Load Tracklog…”

Step 02 – Press the ‘Map’ module on the top right of the Module Selector to enter the Map view. Next, Tap on the ‘GPS Tracklogs’ button on the bottom toolbar (it looks like a squiggly line) and select “Load Tracklog…”

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Step 03 – Navigate to the folder containing the GPX file that you exported from your GPS app. In this case, I pointed it to the folder that I had created on Dropbox. Select the file and then press “Choose”

Step 03 – Navigate to the folder containing the GPX file that you exported from your GPS app. In this case, I pointed it to the folder that I had created on Dropbox. Select the file and then press “Choose”

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 Step 04 – You will now see a blue line overlaid on top of the map. This is your track log.


Step 04 – You will now see a blue line overlaid on top of the map. This is your track log.

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Step 05 – Now it’s time to sync your selected photos with this track log. To do so, click on the “GPS Tracklogs” button again and select “Auto-Tag # Selected Photos” to begin the syncing process.

Step 05 – Now it’s time to sync your selected photos with this track log. To do so, click on the “GPS Tracklogs” button again and select “Auto-Tag # Selected Photos” to begin the syncing process.

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Step 06 – Upon completion, you will now see your photos displayed along the blue Track Log line. The photos will be represented as little pins. If there is a concentration of photos taken in a specific region, they will be clustered together and the number of photos in that cluster will be displayed. Tapping on a pin will display a small thumbnail of the photo(s) taken at that location.

Step 06 – Upon completion, you will now see your photos displayed along the blue Track Log line. The photos will be represented as little pins. If there is a concentration of photos taken in a specific region, they will be clustered together and the number of photos in that cluster will be displayed. Tapping on a pin will display a small thumbnail of the photo(s) taken at that location.

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Step 07 – When you return to the Grid view, you will now see a small icon on the bottom right of each thumbnail that has a geotag associated with it. This icon looks like a little pin. Clicking on it will automatically open up the Map module and show you exactly where on the map the image was tagged to.

Step 07 – When you return to the Grid view, you will now see a small icon on the bottom right of each thumbnail that has a geotag associated with it. This icon looks like a little pin. Clicking on it will automatically open up the Map module and show you exactly where on the map the image was tagged to.

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Step 08 – Additionally, when viewing the EXIF information of a geotagged photo, you will see the detailed Latitudinal and Longitudinal coordinates along with the recorded altitude (assuming your phone’s sensors can measure that).

Step 08 – Additionally, when viewing the EXIF information of a geotagged photo, you will see the detailed Latitudinal and Longitudinal coordinates along with the recorded altitude (assuming your phone’s sensors can measure that).

[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”] [/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]So there you go! I hope this tutorial has inspired you to begin logging your treks so that you can always know exactly where you were when you took your photos.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 1px 0px 2px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true” class=”cs-ta-left”]Other Geotagging Options[/x_custom_headline][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 2px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Besides your phone, there are tons of ways that one can go about geotagging photos. You can invest in a proprietary handheld GPS device, which will track your path with great detail. Recently, I invested in the Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Smartwatch and absolutely love it. It’s fast, capable, and exceptionally intuitive to use. Plus, it also tells you the time! :) Your camera may even have a GPS radio built right in, which gives you the option of having your geographic coordinates written to each photo as its exposed. This is SUPER handy but can be taxing on your camera’s battery and not many cameras have GPS built in.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]

One Comment

  1. Wes Gibson March 11, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Great article Brian. I tried this for the first time while hiking some wetlands in Illinois today. It worked flawlessly. Only a couple of small glitches, all operator error. Like forgetting to sync the time on my cameras to my cell phone. Main camera was good, but secondary camera was an hour ahead. Also, forgot to start the Geo Tracking program until a quarter of the way into the hike. Thanks for the tutorial.

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