Hello there, welcome to this blog. Today I’m going to explain some possibilities to ‘geotag’ your landscape photos inside of Lightroom (Adobe).
What is geotagging?
Geotagging is the process of adding geographical information to the metadata of your landscape photos. These data usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, distance, place names, and a timestamp. In layman’s language: you add the location to your landscape photo.
Geotagging allows you to select a location on your computer in Lightroom and find images near to that location. Or it will help you to remember, years later, where you took your pictures. I found it to be very annoying that I forgot city names or places where I took amazing landscape photos some time ago.
Does your landscape photo have location information?
The answer is probably no, but your smartphone probably records for each photo the exact GPS location of your pictures. Most cameras, even the very sophisticated ones do not have a GPS onboard. For some cameras, you can add an expensive hot-shoe mounted GPS unit.
When you load pictures with location information into Lightroom in the map’s module (you will find this next to the library and develop modules at the right-top of your screen), you can see immediately and automatically on the map where and when the picture was taken.
Myself, like many of you, I do not have a GPS in or on my camera and consequently, my photos do not have location information. But do not despair, there are several ways to work around this handicap.
How to track your landscape photo hike?
There are many different ways to do this. You can use several apps on your Smartphone, to record a GPS log while you’re hiking. However, there is one important drawback, because it tends to drain the battery of your phone within a couple of hours. So, if you use your phone as a GPS and most of them do an excellent job, do not forget to bring a power bank and the right cable with you. Otherwise, you will be disappointed with a dead phone in the middle of nowhere soon. Another trick to save a little bit of battery life is to put your cell phone in flight modus, it will still receive the GPS-signals
If you are a keen hiker you might consider looking for a handheld GPS. Like always there are very expensive and cheaper versions on the market. If you want to see a map on your GPS it will be more costly. For recording purposes of your track, a simple GPS will suffice.
In more recent years sports watches became available and some of them are also capable to log your track with GPS coordinates.
All types of GPS (phone, handheld GPS, sports watch etc) will be able to store the data of your track in GPX files, which is a standard to record GPS-data and is interchangeable between different systems and brands.
Your smartphone, or your handheld GPS or even your sports watch will also give you the benefit of being able to track you back to your car. After turning around and around in the forest or landscape, especially if you go to newer unknown areas, this will track you within a couple of meters wherever you are in a given time. If you are scouting for specific locations, your GPS will also allow you to set waypoints that can be found back again later easily.
I find the sports watch being very convenient and it does exactly what I need it to do. I can charge this and it’ll last a day or even a couple of days before it needs a new charge. And this watch is on me at all times. So, you don’t have to worry about, forgetting your GPS or about the battery life of the phone. All you have to do is hit start and it acquires satellites pretty quickly when you are outside. If you are moving from indoor to outdoor it might take a few minutes. When you get back to your car you can stop it and save the track for later as a GPS file or a GPS log (GPX-format). So, you can record an entire day’s worth of photo hiking as one GPX log.
In order not to drain too much of the batteries of my GPS, I do stop it after finishing shooting photos in a certain area. Then I would drive to the next location and start a new track there. So, I just do for each separate location, and then I will sync them up separately.
Which Apps to use for your landscape photo trips?
There are several apps around to record the track of your hike or walk on your phone. I tend to use “Wikiloc” or “Outdooractive” (both available for iOS or Android). They have both more or less the same functionalities and you can also download an existing track of interesting walks to your devices. Both have a free and a paid version with more functionalities like for example the possibility to download offline maps. And depending on the area you want to go to, the one or the other app might have more recorded tracks available for your use. There are ways around to send tracks from one App to another because they all use the uniform GPX-format. Both apps also have the possibility to take photos with your phone and display them automatically in the right place on the map of your track. You can also upload your track for later use by other hikers. When you will be synchronizing your tracks and photos try to use the original track of your device. When uploading and downloading tracks later, some part of the information might be lost like the correct timestamps.
How to bring all information into Lightroom?
It’s a pretty cool and relatively easy process, and it’s something that you will do after you’ve uploaded your photos to your computer and imported them into Lightroom.
Your GPS log has a start and finishing point with the track in between. When you sync it up into Lightroom, it just takes the timestamp on your photo and syncs it up to whatever time is on your GPS. It takes the coordinates of the place that you were at that specific time on your GPS track and adds it to whatever time stamp is on your photo. The best advice I can give is to make sure that the GPS and your camera are put on at the same time. If you forgot to do that after traveling from a different time zone, nothing is lost, you can work around that, as I will explain in a minute.
I hope that all of this makes sense to you up to now.
Let’s move now into Lightroom and hop over to the map module (top right corner of the screen next to de develop module). The map module is where you can either sync your photos up to a GPS file, or you can just view all of your geotagged photos.
How do we go about geotagging the whole set of photos with your GPS information? Well, the first thing to do is to import the GPS file. To do that, you have to go down on your screen in the map’s module to that little squiggly line which is like a symbol for terrain, and you pull it down, and then you say load, tracklog.
The best thing to do beforehand is to save the GPS-track to your computer in a specific folder. So, after you’ve downloaded and stored the GPS file on your computer. Then you go inside that folder and find the track. You just highlight that one and hit choose. And then, as you can hopefully see it’ll automatically take you to the exact location on the map in Lightroom. The track will show on the map on your screen as a coloured line.
Linking GPS-information to your landscape photos
You have the photos and the track now in Lightroom, but you don’t have any pictures linked to that track yet. That will be the next step. To do that, we’re going to use “Control A” (command A on Apple) to highlight and select all pictures taken on that trip during that timestamp. Or you can select them manually.
The next thing to do is, go back to the terrain symbol at the bottom. At this point you can check whether, your timestamps of the camera and the GPS are synced up (set at the same time). There might be a difference if your GPS unit was for example on London time, and your camera was in Paris time or something like that. If that is the case you can correct here. You would just go to set time zone offset under the terrain button. And from there, you would just adjust the offset, and go up or down.
From there, the next step is to go back once again to the terrain drop down-button. Then select “auto tag (number) selected photos”. From there on Lightroom will do its job and add them in. This might take some time if it is about many photos. So, relax and let the computer do the work for you.
Easy isn’t it?
After completion of the synch, you will see now on the track, yellow tags of the locations where your landscape photos were taken. The figure on the tag indicates the number of photos. When you hover with the cursor over the tag a thumbnail of the photo(s) will show.
The selected photos that are out of the time frame of the GPX file will not be shown on the map. You can repeat the process for other GPS-tracks.
You will also see on the thumbnail of your photos in Lightroom the symbol (like a place name sign) that indicates that they are geotagged.
Even if you do not have a GPS, a Smartphone or a sports watch you can just manually geotag your landscape pictures in Lightroom in the Map module. If you have a photo down here and go up to the search bar, type in a place, and then drop a pin there for that photo. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? This method works but is less precise and if you need to do that for hundreds of photos you will hate it after a while. And admit, do you remember exactly where each photo was taken at the end of the day or even after a few days?
With the help of smartphone pictures
When all of this, still sounds too complicated for you, there is a simple alternative. When taking landscape pictures in the field with your camera, do not forget to take, now and then, a picture with your smartphone (remember your phone will save the location information). Repeat this preferably on each location of your shoot. Then import your files from your camera and also those from your smartphone into the same folder and sort them according to time. Your smartphone pictures with the geo-information will come in between your other pictures and then you will still be able to know where your shots were taken, even if this geo-location information is missing on your camera files. And of course, in order for this method to work correctly, it is essential that you synchronize the time on your camera with your smartphone.
I hope that this blog was instructive and useful to you. Once you have tried it in practice, you will get used to the drill, and I am sure you will love it.
Thanks for reading this blog and please leave a comment or question below.