Geotagging My Images

One of the benefits of digital photography over film is the ability to tag the location of where the image was taken into the file.  I’ve been geotagging my images now for several years, especially since my iPhone tags the images automatically.

Up until recently, I’ve had to add the geolocation information into my images after the fact.  My 7D Mark II has GPS built-in, as well as my iPhone.  For any images captured with any other camera, as well as scanned images, I’ve had to add the location later on.

There are three different ways I’ve used to gather the location information and then embed the info to the image file.

  • Use iPhone app to save to GPX file
    • I’ve used an app called GPX Master, which has not been updated in several years, to create a log of where I’ve been at a particular moment.  As long as the time on my camera matches the time on my iPhone, when I load the tracklog into Lightroom, the proper images will get tagged with the correct location.
  • Use iPhone to take an image from the same location and then copy the coordinates to images
    • If I don’t want to turn on the GPS in my 7D Mark II nor use my iPhone to log my location (perhaps due to low battery), I can take photos using my iPhone and then copy the coordinates to the images from the 7DII inside Lightroom.
  • Manually add the coordinates
    • For all of my old images, including old film prints which I scanned into my computer to preserve, I’ve had to manually add the coordinates.  Before I used Lightroom, I would add the GPS information using Google Earth.  It’s similar to the map module inside of Lightroom.  One downside is trying to remember where I was years before.  Another downside is that I may not remember where I was standing but know what I was taking a picture of, so I would geotag the location of the subject, not where I was located.  This makes it hard for me to return to the same spot in the future.

Another option, which I’ve never used, is an external GPS receiver.  These are separate devices which attach to the camera, either with a wire or wirelessly, and embed the GPS information into the image as you’re shooting.  They typically run about $250 so I chose to go with the cheap/free method instead.

Apps I Use

Over the years, I’ve come across several applications, both desktop and mobile, which I found to be beneficial when it comes to my photography.

When I want to know where the sun or moon are going to be at a particular time, I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris (iOS|Android|Desktop).  It helps plan outdoor photography shoots in natural light, particularly landscape and urban scenes. It’s a map-centric sun and moon calculator which helps me see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.

Another app I find indispensable is PhotoPills (iOS|Android).  While it has a lot of the same functionality as TPE, it has some features I find useful.  It has a depth-of-field (DoF) calculator, where you enter the camera, focal length, aperture, distance to the subject and whether you’re using a teleconverter; and it tells you the hyperfocal distance, DoF near/far limits, and total DoF.  It also takes advantage of augmented reality and uses your phone’s camera to help show you the positions and paths of the sun, moon and the Milky Way.

The next app I use, which does have limited functionality but I still find useful, is the Lee Stopper app.  I use the Lee Little Stopper (6-stop) and Big Stopper (10-stop) neutral density filters when I want long exposures.  This app lets me enter the shutter speed for a regular exposure and then gives me to corresponding shutter speed for the Stopper I want to use.  It also has a timer so if I need more than 30 seconds and have to put my camera into bulb mode, it will let me know when to close the shutter.

I use several weather apps, mostly because I’ve found that while one app will report there won’t be rain, another app may report rain, and I’d rather be prepared.  For regular weather forecasts, I use the built-in weather app on my iPhone, AccuWeather, The Weather Channel’s app, Yahoo! Weather, WeatherBug and Weather Underground.  For cloud cover and wind movement, I use MyRadar.  For trying to capture lightning strikes, I use an app called Storm.