Keeping track of where you’ve taken photos is not as easy as you might think. Your iPhone automatically geotags images, but most digital cameras aren’t GPS-enabled. Apple’s own iPhoto has a manual process that doesn’t make it very easy to add the data after the fact. With the help of Dirk Stichling’s myTracks for iPhone, iPad and Mac, the task of geo-tagging photos becomes much, much easier.
Collecting GPS information
Two important pieces of info are required for adding GPS data to your photos. The first is the latitude and longitude where the photo was taken. The second, equally critical piece of information, is the date and time the camera was at that location. This is the key to automatically matching up the GPS data with photos.
When it comes to figuring out where a shot was taken, there are three main sources that myTracks can use:
1. GPS data logger. One way to collect this information is to invest in a GPS data logger. There are several Mac-friendly GPS data loggers on the market to choose from. These standalone units will keep track of where you and your camera have been without draining your other device batteries. myTracks can then import the location information directly from the logger itself, or indirectly through GPX or KML files. Under the hood, myTracks uses the open-source library LoadMyTracks to support a wide range of GPS devices. If you find that your device is not supported, you may need to use a utility like HoudahGPS to convert the data to a format that myTracks supports.
2. iPhone sync. If you have an iPhone, then you already have a basic GPS logger. In fact, I’ve found the tracking capabilities of the iOS version of myTracks to be great, and it offers a built-in sync feature that will allow you to transfer location information directly from your iPhone to the Mac version of myTracks. If you prefer using a different GPS tracking app, then you’ll need to export the data and import it into myTracks using either the GPX or KML file format.
3. Track from photos. The simplest way to collect the location information you need is to take a series of reference photos along the way with the default camera app that came with your iPhone. Provided you are adding location information to your photos on your iPhone, myTracks can create a track from your iPhone’s library. From the Tools menu in myTracks, select “Create track from photos…” and select the photos you want to create a track from.
Adding GPS Information to your photos
Now that you have your track loaded into myTracks, the first thing you will want to do is ensure that your camera’s clock is in sync with your GPS data, as well as any of the other cameras you may use. Once you’ve made any time adjustments to your photos, you’re ready to add the GPS info. MyTracks supports adding GPS location information to photos in iPhoto, Aperture and Adobe Lightroom as well as any folder of images on your Mac. The following steps are for iPhoto ’11, since that’s the program most will likely use:
- After importing tracks into myTracks, select the track that has the GPS information you want to sync.
- Open iPhoto and select the photos you want to add the GPS information to.
- Drag the photos from iPhoto onto myTracks.
- Make any final adjustments in myTracks’s Pool of Photos to align the GPS track info with the photo time stamp.
- Click Start in myTracks Pool of Photos and select the GeoTag option.
- In iPhoto, select the photos you tagged, and from the Photo menu, “Rescan for Location.”
Reviewing and sharing your mapped photos
Once you have added the GPS information, using it to help illustrate your life’s adventures is much easier. You can sync your track and photos to the iPad version of myTracks, or post the images to one of the many online photo sharing sites that support geotagged photos, including Flickr.