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Tuesday, March 10, 2009


How to use technology to stay organized and track your photography

Labels: How-To

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Major advancements in geotagging technology are making it easier for photographers to pinpoint where they captured their images. Downloading GPS coordinates into a program like Microsoft’s Pro Photo Tools allows you to automatically tag images and get city, state, country and address information. Having this kind of data is useful for searching, organizing and sharing your photo archive. If you don’t want to carry a GPS device, applications like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture include specific fields in the metadata for recording location data.
For outdoor photographers who need the highest level of accuracy, a handheld GPS is a good idea because it’s automatic—you simply have to turn it on and start recording a track route. In addition to popular handheld GPS units, such as Garmin, there are now numerous units designed specifically for geotagging. The biggest limitation is that GPS receivers only work when they have line-of-sight access to the network of GPS satellites, which means they don’t work indoors. A new and innovative geotagging device from Eye-Fi makes use of WiFi location data, rather than GPS data, to geotag images. This has the benefit of working indoors, but only works in locations where WiFi is available.

If you don’t want to carry a GPS, there are several other easy ways to record location data to your images. One simple way is to tag your images with the location where the image was taken. This can be done using any application that supports metadata tagging, including the popular Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture and Microsoft Expression Media. These applications support a variety of metadata formats and include specific fields for location and hierarchical keywords. I recommend applying these tags when you first import or copy images to your computer while the location is still fresh in your mind.

Another fun and exciting way to geotag your images is to use an application that allows you to drag images onto a map. When using this method, you can select one or more images and copy them onto a map, then you can refine the location by dragging the image around. This will get you GPS coordinates as well as the location text.

Several popular photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr or SmugMug, support displaying geotagged images on a map. Simply upload your tagged images to these sites, and you can make a visual record of your locations—visitors easily can see where the image was captured. (Note: You may need to set the preferences in your sharing site to display location data.)

Geotagging also can help you get that award-winning shot. Last year Outdoor Photographer, PCPhoto, Canon and Microsoft put together a pair of programs—the OP and PCPhoto Top 100 Iconic Photo Locations projects. They can be accessed on the OP and PCPhoto (www.pcphotomag.com) websites. There, you can see the GPS coordinates and map locations for some of the world’s best photo subjects.

geotaggingThe Top 100 Iconic Photo Locations project was a joint effort by Outdoor Photographer, PCPhoto, Canon and Microsoft to create a map of the best photo locations around the globe. Powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth, you can click on a geographic region to view the locations, learn more about specific destinations and get photo tips.
Geotagging offers a powerful way to automatically tag your images without spending a lot of time keywording. It’s an important tool for outdoor photographers of all skill levels. By simply carrying a GPS device, you can add a new dimension to your organization that will make finding images much easier and faster—particularly in the distant future.

Josh Weisberg is director of Microsoft’s Rich Media Group and leads a team that’s focused on building better technology for digital photographers. He’s Microsoft’s resident expert on metadata and is the founder and chairman of the Metadata Working Group.


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