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Easy Photo Geotagging Using Your Smartphone

Geotagging, or the act of applying detailed geographic coordinates, to my photos is exceptionally important to me. I do a lot of traveling and am often photographing in remote areas. So, being able to remember exactly where I took a particular photo has saved my bacon a number of times.

Additionally, it just makes things so much easier if/when I want to return to a particular spot to have another crack at a photo. Finally, when I’m out shooting, it’s important to me that I don’t keep my feet planted in one place. I want to know that I was moving around, trying out different compositions and locations.

By geotagging my photos, I can easily plot all of their locations on a map and see whether I concentrated on one area for too long and, if so, I can determine why. Once I am able to get a GPX file (a file format standard containing geographic data from a track), I can easily import it into Lightroom and automatically sync my photos with their corresponding coordinates. From there, Lightroom’s Map module does a great job of laying out each geotagged photo on a map for me to review.

Let’s Get Geotagging!

Before we begin, there is one crucial step that you need to take. It’s something that I do before every shoot and that is to sync the time reported on your phone with your camera. This is important because the time/date stamp of the track is the single record that will be used to match up against the time/date stamp of each photo. This is something to be especially mindful of when you’re traveling to different time zones.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ve decided to focus on geotagging photos with a device that just about each of you likely already have: a smartphone. Because I own and use an Apple iPhone 6+, the screenshots provided are on the iOS platform. On iOS, I use an app called GPS Tracks.

Fortunately, Google released an equally capable GPS app for Android called My Tracks. The good news is that both apps operate in very similar ways, so you Android users out there should be able to easily replicate this workflow. For the purposes of this walkthrough, I’m going to present each step as an image in the gallery below. Be sure to read the caption of each photo to follow along.

Ok. Let’s begin. Click each image to see the steps.

Let’s Get Syncing!

Ok, now that we’ve recorded and exported our track log, it’s time to sync these coordinates with the photos that we just took. To begin, you should obviously import your photos into your Lightroom Catalog. As before, I’m going to present each step as an image in the gallery below. Click each image to see the steps. Be sure to reach the caption of each post to follow along.

So there you go! I hope this tutorial has inspired you to begin logging your treks so that you can always know exactly where you were when you took your photos.

Some Other Options For Geotagging

Besides your phone, there are tons of ways that one can go about geotagging photos. You can invest in a proprietary handheld GPS device, which will track your path with great detail. One such device that I recommend with extreme gusto is the Garmin Oregon 600. I own one and have friends who do, too. It’s fast, capable, and exceptionally intuitive to use. Your camera may even have a GPS radio built right in, which gives you the option of having your geographic coordinates written to each photo as its exposed. This is SUPER handy but can be taxing on your camera’s battery and not many cameras have GPS built in.

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