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Geotag Your Digital Camera Photos in Lightroom with a Smartphone GPS

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Geotagging is a process that adds geographical location information to your photos' metadata. For example, if you took a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, a geotagged photo will have the location of where you took the photo near the Golden Gate Bridge. This is great for photo programs such as iPhoto or Lightroom that allows you to sort your photos by location. This is also great info to have if you use photo services such Flickr to share your photos with family and friends. In the image example, using the location data from photos, I can see where I took my various photos. This feature might be of interest to people who travel, pros with large batches of photos from different locations or just someone who wants to know where they took their photos. New cameras with gps or smartphones with gps will usually add this location information into its photos' metadata.

However, older digital cameras or most DSLRs usually do not have a built in GPS unit to add this geographical location information. So if you have a GPS enabled smartphone such as an iPhone or Android phone and desire to add location info to your jpgs or raw images, READ ON!

In a nutshell, in this guide, I will show you how to use your phone's GPS to record your location information then inject that information into your photos. Once you have your equipment setup, this process should not take more than 3 mins in addition to your regular post processing rituals. For this guide, I will use a Mac, Android phone and My Tracks app.

Required Tools:
- A point and shoot digital camera or DSLR
- A computer running Windows or Apple OSX
- Adobe Lightroom 2 or 3 (LR3)
- Geoencoding Plugin for Lightroom, Link: http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/gps
- A GPS enabled smartphone (Android, iPhone, etc)
- Google's My Tracks or another app that allows GPS logging or recording to .gpx file format

For this guide, I will use a Mac, Android phone and My Tracks app.

Prerequisite Skills:
-Working knowledge of your camera and smartphone
-Working knowledge of Adobe Lightroom
 
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Step 1: Preparing Your Camera and Phone

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Before we even start recording our gps information or taking photos, we need to prep all of our tools.

IMPORTANT
If you do not prepare your tools correctly, you will not have accurate or any location information for your photos.

Lets prepare our camera and phone. Go into your camera's settings menu and adjust the date and time so it matches your phone . The purpose of doing this is that the plugin for Lightroom will match the your photos time and date with the time and date of where you were at based on your phone's GPS information. Or in other words, the date and time of our photo will correspond to a date and time to where you were standing. After you adjust the time on your camera, make sure you have an app on your smartphone that allows you to record your GPS data. For this guide, I will use Google's My Tracks. You can download this app on Android's app store.

Step 2: Prepare Your Software

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Next, you have to install Jeffery's GPS plugin into Lightroom. After installing the plugin, check the Lightroom Plugin Manager to confirm the plugin was properly installed. Refer to the plugin's website for installation details. Also check your photo sharing site's settings to allow publishing of location/gps information based on a photo's metadata.

Once your tools are ready, we can go out and start taking photos.

Step 3: Start Your GPS Recording Session

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So you have your phone and camera all set up and ready to go? Good, you are almost ready for your GPS recording and photo session.

2-3 minutes before you start your photo session, turn on the GPS feature on your phone. For the Android phone, start the app My Tracks (or another gps logging app of your choice). Wait for the phone to locate you on the map. Once the phone locates you, you can start recording your session. For My Tracks, press "record track" to start recording the session.

What My Tracks will do now is record your location information as you move around, giving you a history of where you went. You may adjust the various tracking and recording settings to improve accuracy. Remember to keep your phone with you at all time as it is tracking your locations.

This step might be a little bit different if you are using another app besides My Tracks.

Step 4: Take Photos

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Now you can start taking photos with your camera.

In the image examples, I took some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from different locations. While we know from the images that I took photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, one might not know from where I took the photos. This is where the GPS information will come in handy.

Step 5: Stop the GPS Recording Session

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Once you're done with your photo session, you will need to stop the GPS recording session on your phone. In My Tracks, press stop recording. Your recorded session should be a few mins longer than your photo session. The My Tracks will ask you to save the session . Save the session, then email it to yourself as a gpx file . You can also send it over bluetooth to your computer or transfer the gpx file to your computer over USB depending on your app. Save the .gpx file to your computer.

This step might be a little bit different if you are using another app besides My Tracks.

Step 6: Importing Your Photos Into Lightroom

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Now for the part that we've all been waiting for, adding the location information to your photos! First lets make sure all of our photos are ready for the GPS location data.

1. Start up Lightroom.
2. Import the photos from your photo session into Lightroom as you normally would.
3. After all the photos are done with preview rendering, select all the session photos you want to add location information.
4. Go the "file" menu > "Plug in Extras" and select "Geocode"

Step 7: Geotagging Your Photos

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These are my recommended settings. You can tweak them so they work better with how you recorded your location information. But try these settings first if you're not too sure on how things work.

Settings
1. Select the "Tracklog" tab.
2. Browse your computer and load your .gpx file from your photo session.
3. Make sure your time zone is correct.
4. Adjust your "fuzziness" if you have to. I have mine set to 100 seconds in the image. Increasing the fuzziness will reduce accuracy at times but it allows greater margin of error in adding location information in the event that your phones losses GPS signal while recording. In the photo example, if the plugin was unable to find a location point for the photo that corresponds to the photo's capture time, it will assign the photo with a gps recorded location within 100 seconds of the capture time.
5. You shouldn't need compensate for the camera clock if your camera time was synchronized with your phone.
6. select Add map url if you are interested.
7. select "those without gps data".
8. Select "Geoencode" button.

Step 8: Exporting Photos with the Location Information

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You can now look at the metadata in the Library module in Lightroom and see the location information. There should be longitude and latitude coordinates and an URL to a map. That is it! You're done if you do not plan to share the location with your friends or web services!

Export Settings
Since Lightroom is a non-destructive post processing application, all edits and metadata are only applied to jpg photos upon export. After you are done editing your photos in Lightroom as you would normally do, add the following settings to your jpg export process:
1. Under Post Process Actions in the export settings, select "shadow gps injector'
2. On the right pane for the Shadow GPS Injector, select "enable"

You can save this as a preset so that every time you export, the location information will be added to your photos.

Step 9: Conclusion

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If you haven't done so already, you can upload the geotagged photos to your favorite photo sharing website such as Flickr or Picasa. Those sites should automatically pick up the location information from your photo's metadata and plot the location onto their map. In the image above, Flickr provided a map of the locations of my Golden Gate Bridge photos.

CONGRATULATIONS! You've just learned how to geotag. Once you get the hang of this process. it should not take more than 3-5 mins extra to your whole photography process as all you need to do is tap your phone a few times and click through a menu on your computer.

Thanks for reading, now go take some photos!

Step 10: Final Thoughts

Other Things to Consider
-Besides a gps enabled smartphone, you can use a handheld gps device that will allow you to export .gpx files.
-GPS systems are more accurate outdoors.
-Remember to charge up your phone before your photo session.
-Location of your phone on you might matter. I keep it in my front shirt pocket instead of buried in keys or a bag

Why LR3?
I am sure I'll hear comments suggesting that I can geotag with other programs, but for this guide I will use Lightroom. I am using Lightroom for a few reasons.
1, its great for photo editing in batch.
2, the metadata filters allow faster sorting
3, you can geotag raw files before exporting.
RyanK71 month ago
Does this work if you are moving around as well? For example, if you are shooting at multiple locations, do you start the tracking app once at the beginning and end it only after you are finished at all your locations? Or do you have to start and stop at each location?
AnnahLee4 months ago

I use http://urbanbird.io/editor It is pretty easy to use. I can enter an address or drag and drop a marker on a map and the application figures out the GPS coordinates for me. Love it!

How did you get that Golden Gate Bridge picture looking like that?
ArkusM3 years ago
Thanks for sharing. Will have to give this a try... Cheers