Geotagging With Your Phone

Geotagging with your phone

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 using my smartphone 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’m 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.

Before we begin, there is one crucial step that you need to take. It’s something that I do before every shoot and that’s 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 6s Plus, 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 (and iOS) called Gaia GPS. 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.

In a follow-up tutorial, I’ll show you how to import these GPS Tracks waypoints into Adobe Lightroom and add them to your photos.

Ok, let’s begin!

Geotagging with your phone

Step 1 – After launching the app, tap on Start to begin tracking your movement. Put your phone back in your pocket (or wherever you store it) and go about your trek. I always keep my phone in my pants pocket and have never run into any issues with the app keeping tabs on my progress.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 2 – When you’re done with your trek, tap Stop to end the tracking.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 3 – Tap “Stop and Save” to write this current track to a file.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 4 – Give your file a name that’s descriptive and identifiable for future reference.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 5 – Tap on Export.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 6 – Tap on GPX as the desired file format that you want to export your track to.

Geotagging with your phone

Step 7 – While there are several ways to export your newly created GPX file, I prefer using Dropbox. If this is your first time saving to Dropbox, you may be required to authenticate the app, so just follow those procedures accordingly.

One thought on “Geotagging With Your Phone

  1. Thanks for the piece, Brian. I’ve been using an app from followmee.com and it’s associated website – they require you to download the GPX file “report” from their site. And apparently they will start charging a subscription in a year or so, which doesn’t make it any more appealing.

    The biggest issue with the followmee app, though, seems to be an inability to work if you are away from a cell service area (which I often can be in the southwest). This leads to tracking lines that are simply crazy – like when I’ve driven along a highway in the desert that follows a long sweeping turn but the track later shows me as having cut a straight line across – very annoying.

    The point leads me to my question – does the GPS Tracks program work regardless of your connection to the cell network?

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