The hardest part of geotagging photos is collecting accurate data without wasting much time. Done manually it’s a time-consuming process, but the right tools make it possible to quickly and efficiently gather coordinates.
The manual method is remembering where you were, navigating to that place in Google Earth, and using a program to attach those coordinates to your image. This gets the job done, but it’s terribly inefficient:
The efficient method of geotagging photos is to synchronize your entire memory card dump with a tracklog, which is a data file containing timestamped coordinates. You set an app or GPS device to record your position at timed intervals, photograph away, then later you can automatically geotag hundreds or thousands of image files in the time it previously took to do one manually.
Some cameras like the Canon 6D have built-in GPS. I have a point & shoot with onboard tracking, but recording a log drains the battery quickly so I keep that feature disabled. Instead I have two go-to methods of recording a tracklog:
Both of these options give me an accurate recording of where I was over the course of my day in a format that’s compatible with Google Earth.
Recording a tracklog makes your data portable, which is another great time saver. The coordinates of your photo walk are stored in a reusable plain text file instead of a photo sharing site’s database. Send the file to a friend, retag your photos, plot the coordinates in Google Earth. The data is yours, and it’s readily available.
The key to syncing photos up to GPS data in Lightroom is Jeffrey’s Geoencoding Plugin. Here’s my geotagging process from start to finish:
All Jeffrey’s Lightroom plugins are available as “Donationware”, which means you set the price. He does an excellent job so make sure to give a generous tip whenever you download one.
The GP-E2 receiver I mentioned earlier is only compatible with a few Canon DSLRs: the 1DX, 5D III, 7D, 6D, T4i, and EOS M. Nikon makes a similar hot-shoe GPS for their DSLRs, and Garmin & Amod manufactur generic loggers that write a tracklog file (but don’t attach directly to a camera). I haven’t used any of those devices though, so I’ll leave that research up to you.