Friday, September 3, 2010

Identifying your travel photos when you return home - Part II

GPS device atop a DSLRAs discussed in Part I of this Photo Identification series, one of the most classic problems of the vacation photographer is identifying one's photographs after returning home. Often when you look at your photos weeks after making them, it can be difficult to remember where you took them, and what each image's subject is.

The low-tech identification methods discussed in Part I, such as written journals, marking maps with photo locations, and using identifier photographs work, but many photographers consider them too tedious and time consuming. There are some hi-tech identification methods which are automatic or close to it, but I caution anyone who thinks they are foolproof, to think again.

Each of these hi-tech methods involve GPS (global-positioning system) technology. GPS devices typically identify their position by longitude, latitude, altitude and compass heading, plus date and time.

Today, some digital cameras have built-in GPS units, some cameras are GPS ready, and other cameras can have GPS information added to their photos' exif data, but don't have the capability to embed the information directly themselves. It must be added later, via a computer.

Built-in Camera GPS:

Just a few years ago, no cameras had built-in GPS' and only expensive high-end DSLR cameras had the capability of attaching external GPS units to them. Then smartphones, like Apple's iPhone added GPS capability to their phone's camera, and the GPS digital photo revolution began.
Pushed by smartphone technology, now there are a few point and shoot digital cameras available today which have built-in GPS units, and one DSLR with a built-in GPS, about to be released to the marketplace.
I predict that by the end of the decade all but the most inexpensive, and possibly all cameras then manufactured, will have built-in GPS units.
Quality point and shoot digital cameras, such as the Sony Cyber-shot HX5V/B and the Samsung HZ35W 12MP have built-in GPS units. The new Sony α55V DSLR camera when released in October, will apparently become the first DSLR with a built-in GPS unit.

GPS ready Digital Cameras:

exif data displayed on computerThere are many cameras available today which are GPS ready, meaning you can attach a compatible external GPS to them, which will directly embed GPS location information into the exif data of each photograph you make, at the time you make it.

Camera's such as the Nikon D300 or Nikon D700 can use GPS units designed to be plugged into them. The Nikon GP-1 and the Solmeta Geotagger N2 are compatible GPS units which work with many Nikon DSLR cameras.

Hot Shoe GPS location logging:

Some cameras aren't capable of having a GPS unit connected directly to them, to directly input their location information into the exif data of their photographs, however, many digital cameras with hot shoes, can automatically trigger a GPS unit to record the location information of each image, to be later inputted into their exif data.

Jobo's photoGPS device is hot shoe GPS logger for digital cameras. Each time the camera's shutter release is pressed to capture an image, the Jobo photoGPS, which is mounted on your digital camera’s hot shoe, logs its GPS information in the device.

Software provided with the photoGPS, running on your computer, then matches its location information with your images by comparing the time/date stamp of the log, and each image. Once the data is matched with the images, the location information is written into each image's exif data.

Manual GPS location logging:

There are many “walk-around” GPS “data logger” units in which you can record your location each time you take a photo, simply by pushing a button on the GPS device. Each recorded entry is called a “waypoint.” Photographers want to get the kind of GPS “data logger” which can be connected to a computer through a USB cable or other direct method, so the “waypoint” data can be downloaded.

Third party programs such as RoboGEO can automatically import your “waypoint” data into your computer from compatible GPS “data loggers” for export into the exif data of your images. These programs can also be used to import “waypoint” data from GPX files, as well as other file formats used by GPS “data loggers.”

Smartphone GPS location logging:

Apple iPhone 3GSMany smartphones today have built-in GPS hardware which can be used by a variety of GPS aware applications, including photo location logging apps. For example, using iPhone apps such as PhotoJot, and GPS-Logger, photographers can log the location of their photos and even include a description of the location and a quick phone photo with the data, to further help identify their camera's photos.

Photographers could mark the location for groups of photos, or individual images this way.

In Part III, the conclusion of this series, I will discuss the use of software to input missing GPS data, correct already embedded data, and locate GPS coordinates for input into image exif data, using only manually collected information about one's photo locations, as well as discuss mapping your photos.


Jan said...

So, Ned, great article, but what GPS unit do you use with your camera?

Ned S. Levi said...

Hi Jan,

Thanks, I have the Solmeta Geotagger N2, which I purchased at It is compatible with Nikon DSLR's which use either a 10pin or 8pin connector. It embeds in the exif data of each photo made the camera's latitude, longitude, elevation, UTM time, and
if the camera supports it, the compass heading. It also offers a unique auto "indoor" GPS signal freezing ability which will input the last GPS information available from when you enter the building.



Sam in Portland said...

Hi Ned,

Great article. I have a Nikon D40X, and I can't find the 10 pin connector on my camera to use the Solmeta GPS you wrote about. Can you tell me where it is?


Ned S. Levi said...

Hi Sam,

While the Nikon D40X, like the Nikon D40 is a wonderful DSLR, and is capable of producing excellent photographs, it is an entry level DSLR, and as such, doesn't have all the "bells and whistles" that the prosumer, and pro level DSLRs contain.

As you've discovered, the Nikon D40X has no wired connection available to connect a GPS to the camera. If you want to geotag your photos, you'll have to use another method.

Thanks for your complement and your readership.



David in Philly said...

After reading your series I just purchased a Solmeta GPS from Nikonians for my D300. I'm going to Europe next week and am looking forward to its documenting my locations. Thanks for your great blog.


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