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As a photographer I love to "geotag" my photos when I travel. Not only do I think it's a neat technology, I just like the fact that I'll be able to more easily answer the "where was that photo taken?" question. I've given this tip a number of differnt times during presentations and in other posts, but I thought it was time to update it and give some additional tips. 

The Problem: Your camera doesn't have a built-in or external GPS

If you're shooting with a regular point and shoot or DSLR camera, chances are it doesn't have a built-in GPS chip. Although there are a few cameras out there that do have them, the vast majority do not have them. On the other hand the cameras in your iPhone and WiFi+3G iPad do have actual GPS chips in them. This means that by defualt every picture you take is tagged with Location Information in the metadata of the image. Your various desktop applications like iPhoto, Lightroom, Aperture, Preview, etc. can use this information and display a map pointing out where the photo was taken. The question becomes how do you get this Location information into the shots that you took with a camera that doesn't have a GPS chip in it?


There are a few ways to do it

iPhoto – chances are as a Mac user you already have iPhoto. iPhoto is a photo management tool and whether you use it to manage your photos or not, you can use its easy ability to "copy" location information and "Paste Location" information into other photos. The tip is to simply take at least one iPhone/iPad 2 photo at each location and then go ahead and shoot with your regular camera. When you get back to your computer, import both the iPhone shots and your regular shots into iPhoto. Now just highlight the iPhone shot and choose Copy from the Edit menu. Select all the photos taken at the same location with your other camera and right-click on them and choose Paste Location. iPhoto will add the location information to each of those photos. Aperture can do this too.


HoudahGeo – While the "free" iPhoto option works fine, I actually prefer to do this with HoudahGeo. I don't use iPhoto to manage my photos. i use Lightroom. Importing and exporting the shots into iPhoto adds too many steps to my workflow just to get Location Information into my DSLR shots. HoudahGeo is a stand alone application that can add Location information to your images from a vareity of different sources including other images. This means that I can import images into Lightroom as I always do, then I can drag those same images into HoudahGeo. I can choose one of my iPhone shots and copy and paste the coordinates from the iPhone shoot to all my RAW (DNG) files. Once I go back to Lightroom I just tell Lightroom to update the metadata from the images. Done!

the shot above is being displayed in Lightroom with GPS info. Click the image to see it on the map!

Check out HoudahGeo here


Geotag as you shoot – My favorite method is to simply geotag my photos as i take them. As a Nikon DSLR shooter I have the benefit of having GPS "support" built right in to my Nikon DSLRs. The only thing that's missing is the actual GPS unit. Nikon doesn't build the actual GPS modules into their DSLRs yet. Instead you have to plug in an external module. There are several to choose from and no matter which one you go with, you can then just shoot! Just like with your iPhone, your Nikon DSLR images will be tagged with Location Information as you take them.

Here are some Nikon Compatible GPS units. Here's one that let's you use your iPhone's GPS via Bluetooth and another that uses a separate small GPS unit as you shoot with your DSLR. Pretty Slick!


Once those photos are geotagged now what?

Once you get the Location Information into your photos chances are you'll be ready to display this information. There are several ways to do it. First off and back to iPhoto. iPhoto can display your photos on a Map. That's what the Places feature is. Not only that iPhoto can use this in your slideshows and photo books too. This is also built-in to your iOS devices Photos App too. In Lightroom you can click the little arrow next to the coordinates and it will fire up your browser and show you the location on Google Maps. If you upload the photos to Flickr (and adjust your privacy settings) your photos will automatically be mapped as well. Even the Preview App can show you a map of your photos and show them to you on Google Maps. Those are just a few ways to see where your photos were taken.

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3 Responses to Use your iPhone/iPad 2 to Geotag Photos from your Regular Camera

  1. Hi Terry!

    Have you tried the “Geocode from Reference Photos” feature in HoudahGeo?
    This should save you some copy-pasting.

    Pierre Bernard
    Houdah Software s.à r.l.

  2. Greg says:

    You can also use an EyeFi to geotag your cameras. Just set it up and replace the memory card.

    There are a few other benefits such as wifi photo transfers, but we’re talking Geotag’ing here. 😉