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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Geotagging


How to use technology to stay organized and track your photography

Labels: How-To

This Article Features Photo Zoom

geotagging
A white wolf in British Columbia.
Like many photographers, I take a lot of photos and struggle with the organizational aspects of my imaging workflow. While I do my best to tag images when importing them to my PC, I typically rely on the date and my memory to find the photos I’m looking for.
That was before I started using geotagging. Geotagging is a way to add location or GPS data to your photos to help you organize, search, find and share your images. In the past, it was difficult for even the most advanced photographers to geotag images. There was a patchwork of technology that could do it, but it was by no means easy. Recent technology has taken geotagging mainstream, making it accessible to all photographers.

One problem that most outdoor photographers have is staying on top of their photo-tagging. When you’re on the road much of the time, it’s hard to find the time to manually tag each photo you’ve taken from your travels. I look back at photos from a few years ago, and I’m lucky if I can remember the country I was in, let alone the specific location.

To solve this issue, I started carrying a GPS so I had a way to remember where I took my photos. I discovered that with the right combination of cables, I could connect the GPS receiver into my D-SLR, and it would embed the GPS coordinates into the metadata of my images, including RAW files.

geotagging
Photo-sharing sites like Flickr take geotagging a step further by allowing users to put their images on a map and create a visual record of where each shot was taken. After uploading an image, there’s an Additional Information section on the right side of the page where you’ll find an “Add to your map” link. A new map pops up on which you literally can place your photo.
While this ensured my images always would have location data embedded in them, GPS coordinates are just a set of numbers, and the actual location isn’t easily recognized. So, if you take a picture of a white wolf in British Columbia, you don’t get a tag that reads British Columbia, you get one that reads 49°, 22.38 N 123°, 5.88 W. To most people, this information is meaningless. And while I had the essential data I wanted, there were no tools to help me search, organize and share this information online. As I talked to other outdoor photographers about geotagging, I realized a lot of people were struggling with the same issues.

The good news is that today there are new tools for tagging, searching and sharing images with location data. The most accurate and automatic way to geotag your images is to carry a handheld GPS. Certain D-SLR models allow you to connect a GPS directly to the camera, automatically recording the latitude and longitude into the file. But you also can create a track route on your GPS and import the track route to your PC, then extract the GPS coordinates into your images. As the director of Microsoft’s Rich Media Group, I have a preference for Microsoft’s free Pro Photo Tools, which can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/prophoto. Pro Photo Tools allows you to import the track route and automatically tag the images with GPS coordinates, which then convert the coordinates to plain text such as the country, city, state and address. This information is stored in the image file itself, including RAW files.

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