Geo Tagging - Is It Worth It?

How often have you sorted through a batch of photographs only to wonder where a particular image was shot? We’ve all done this. Some have tried to keep detailed travel journals - that certainly helps. For others, the location information is simply lost over time. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve found that illustrate our family history but there is no information about where the image was captures - let alone any other identifying information.

It's easy to remember where you shot an image if you've included location information in the metadata.

Some time ago we talked about Metadata and the value of adding it to your images. (See our blog entry “Metadata” dated December 22, 2015) An invaluable addition to the metadata is location information but it is one of the most underutilized pieces of metadata in your files.

Adobe Lightroom Map Module

Adobe added the Map module into Lightroom with version 4.0 which was released in March of 2012. I would venture to guess that most people don’t work a lot in this module - but you should.

For many, the map module is a little ahead of it’s time. With the exception of smartphone cameras, most DSLRs don’t tag images with location information. That’s changing but oh so slowly. Depending upon who you believe, it’s either not a popular feature on cameras or, I think more likely, the feature sucks too much power from the battery. 

You can find built-in GPS encoding on the Canon EOS-1D MII and Nikon’s D5. For those of us with normal bank accounts, you can use a Canon 7D MII, Nikon D500 or the Pentax K-3 II.  And yeah, before you write in and tell me that your favorite camera has built in GPS - I know, the point is it’s not widely available and that will be the case for some time.  

The lack of availability of this information does not lessen its’ value. Especially with travel photography. So, let’s take advantage of the tools and information we do have. 

I catalog all my images in Lightroom and because I shoot a Canon 5D MIII, I don’t have any GPS info already tagged into the files. So, for any images which may benefit from such info, I will add geographic information using batches of photos.  For example, this weekend I shot a little over 300 kids receiving the sacrament of Confirmation at our local church. 

When looking at the Map module in Lightroom, I can tell that, for the folders selected, I shot 1,061 images at the church on the map. I also get a preview of the images that I can scroll through.

Every photo for the entire weekend was shot at the same geographic location. It was easy in Lightroom to select all the images and then tag them with the location information. 

This is great for wedding photographers who could easily track every wedding they shoot. Then, using the Map module in Lightroom you could easily bring up every wedding that was shot at a specific venue. 

To do this, in the Library Module, I simply selected the folder that contained all the photos from the weekend. I selected all images with a Command A shortcut and then clicked on the Map module. 

When the Map module opens you get a map view that’s powered by Google. Zoom into the location where the images were shot and then drag and drop the images from the filmstrip onto the map. Done! It’s that quick and that easy. Because you are using the Google maps, you will need to have an internet connection when using the Map module.

From this Lightroom Map module view, I can tell that, for the folders selected, I have 377 images shot on Santorini, 175 on Folegandros and 199 in Athens. This obviously tells me that I need to plan another trip back to the Greek Islands. Anyone want to join me?

Now, without a camera that will automatically geo tag my images I don’t get to zoom into the map and see in which alleyway in Oia I was standing when I shot a photo. But I can tell you that it was shot on Santorini. If more detail is important to you, then select the batch that was shot in Oia and tag them separately. 

Like all the metadata in your image files, the more images you have, the more valuable the metadata. Take a few moments to learn more about the Map module and spend some time updating the geographic information - it truly is worth it and you’ll appreciate it in the future.