MacInTouch Reader Reports

Photography: Geotagging

Feb. 21, 2009
Feb. 23, 2009
Feb. 24, 2009
Feb. 25, 2009
Feb. 26, 2009
Feb. 27, 2009
Feb. 28, 2009
Mar. 2, 2009
Mar. 3, 2009
Apr. 29, 2009
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May. 1, 2009
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May. 21, 2009
Feb. 12, 2010
Oct. 27, 2010
Oct. 28, 2010
Oct. 29, 2010
Oct. 30, 2010
Nov. 1, 2010
Nov. 10, 2010
Nov. 11, 2010
Dec. 6, 2010
Dec. 9, 2010

Newer entries...
Feb. 21, 2009


Joe F

It seems that geotagging photos is becoming more accessible as suggested by the new location features in iPhoto. But manually tagging photos seems cumbersome and I primarily use Aperture and don't expect it to get iPhoto's new features any time soon. So I'm wondering if any readers have experience or recommendations for easily tagging photos?

It seems the best way if your camera doesn't have GPS capabilities is a GPS logger that constantly records your location. Then you'd use an application which matches the timestamp on your photos with the location log to add coordinates to the metadata of your photos. But the reviews I've read so far suggest the hardware isn't all that reliable and I'd have serious reservations about using some of them (for example, one of them updates your photos while they are still on the memory card which I'd consider risky at best!).

What are good GPS logger devices (accuracy, sensitivity, battery life, etc)? What software is available for Macs to match up the photos with coordinates (esp apps that work well with Aperture)? What are good workflow practices to ensure easy of use and the safety of your photos?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Feb. 23, 2009


MacInTouch Reader

Here's the $35.00 answer to your question about Geotagging quick and easy: Buy a copy of Graphic Converter 6.2 or higher and use it alongside Google Earth. Open a Graphic Converter browser window to display those photos you wish to geotag. Open another window in Google Earth and navigate the cursor to the place where you took the photo. Highlight the corresponding photo in Grahic Converter...

... With 1 click , you can geotag. And more.


Richard Akerman

The situation with Mac photo geotagging is pretty good. The only thing that's tricky is apparently iPhoto will only read EXIF-GPS info from images on import, which means you have to load them, tag them, and THEN import them.

The main options are:
1) in-device geotagging - Nikon P6000 digital camera, various cellphones (some Nokia models, iPhone, others)
2) hardware geotagging devices - the ATP PhotoFinder and Sony GPS-CS3KA will take GPS info + camera memory cards and perform the geotagging in hardware
3) GPS loggers + software - there are a wide variety of GPS loggers, some of which are Mac-compatible. You can use recent version of GraphicConverter, or specific software like HoudahGeo to perform the necessary matching between photo timestamps and GPS position logs

The GPS logger market is very dynamic, there's lots of innovation and many of the models are very sensitive.

I have a blog that focuses mainly on the specific topic of GPS loggers for geotagging photos at


MacInTouch Reader

Houdahgeo works on OS X.

I use it with Lightroom. There's actually an interesting article on that here:

I should imagine it would be fully compatible with Aperture, too - its market would be too limited on the Mac if it were not. But have a look on the Houdah Software website and see what they say.

I geotag photos with it manually by means of Google Earth, which it can call, myself. But it will work with handheld GPS devices.

And, despite iPhoto now having "Places", whenever I want coordinates for a photo - I don't always bother - I still use this app. What I'll do is convert my raw files to DNG in Lightroom, tag there (including geocode information when desired), then export to JPEG for iPhoto at a resolution suitable for my laptop screen (resize long edge to 1800px).

iPhoto will then pick up on that to some extent. It seems to me that iPhoto on its own is limited inasmuch as it keeps its own database of "places". I prefer to write to the EXIF data (which you can do with HoudahGeo) so that the metadata lives with that to which it refers. (You can also write to separate files, if you use a format that doesn't support XMP metadata in the image files. Some raw formats don't: that's one reason why I convert to DNG.)

Having the image itself tagged gives me a more portable system. I'm not tied to iPhoto; neither do I have worry about possible corruption of its "places" database. But iPhoto 09 can still make use of what I'm doing, which is great.

I have thought about getting a GPS device, now that iPhoto is doing some interesting things with the GPS data. If the process were more automated I'd be more consistent about doing it. With some cameras, you can get one that sits on the hotshoe and talks directly to the camera, writing the coordinates to the EXIF data. But I'm not sure if that's possible with the camera model I've got.

If you're just wandering around with a separate handheld GPS device running and recording as you shoot and move you have to get the clocks in the camera and on the device in sync - which you can do after the fact in HoudahGeo. (See the linked article.)

That seems over-complicated to me. It sounds like an interim solution that'll eventually go away, giving way to one where the camera simply takes care of it all and you never have to think about adding the coordinates yourself. But it might be worth exploring at the moment.

Feb. 24, 2009


Tom Wible is simplicity: navigate Google Earth to where your pix were taken, drop your pix on geotagger, done :-)


Doug Eldred

There's a good writeup at I just purchased the Amod AGL3080 mentioned, and so far I'm reasonably pleased. I'm not looking for meter-accuracy, but more to know what town or where on the highway I was when a given picture was taken.


MacInTouch Reader

There is a YouTube How-To video on geotagging photos with location information from an iPhone at:


David Harney

This device may satisfy most everyone, photographically speaking:

Not sure about Mac compatibility software-wise, though.

Feb. 25, 2009


Stephen Hart

Just to make sure I'm understanding this discussion, is the point of geotagging using third-party software instead of Places in iPhoto is to get the geotag in the EXIF metadata of the original photo file instead of in a separate iPhoto database?

Anyone know why Apple decided to implement Places this way?


Jerry Black

I find GPSPhotoLinker works well for me - using my handheld Garmin 60Cx GPS to provide tracks, from which GPSPhotoLinker will interpolate position based on photo date/time and insert into the JPEG photos.

Feb. 26, 2009


Joe F

Thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions and references (keep 'em coming)! I've now got some homework to take a look at all these options and see which ones will work best for me. I also found an Aperture plug-in called maperture (and maperture pro, which is still in beta). It's one of the few Aperture specific tools that would work within my workflow, but I still need to understand how it affects masters vs versions in the Aperture library. Can anyone share their experience with this tool?

I definitely want to get the geotagging into the EXIF data so will be included in any versions/exports of the image and not be dependent on a particular application (like iPhoto). The hotshoe GPS logger is an interesting option, but it would only work with my DSLR and not other cameras. As far as software, I need to determine if it would be better to geotag before importing into Aperture, which would add another app to my workflow, or do it after importing, which may introduce inconsistencies between master and version copies of the photos.

Thanks for all the great info!


David Johnson

The geotag has to be in the EXIF data from the camera or some other source. As I understand it, you cannot geotag in iPhoto but iPhoto will import embeded geotags.


Andy Dannelley

I am a bit confused (and concerned) by the GeoTagging capabilities in new cameras and iPhoto and online photo sharing sites and even personal photo sharing.

When these photos are published, do they still contain the location information?

Many of us take photos of family events that happen in our homes and some of us take photos of our homes so friends and family living far away can keep up.

If the location information is still in the photo, couldn't just anyone get the location of our homes (which we may not want just everyone to know). Is this a concern relevant, or is there some way to remove the location information?



David Roach

Maperture! If you use Aperture Maperture is the way to geotag your pics. It has a smooth interface and works well with multiple photos. If you have a GPS that can give you tracks in GPX format the Pro version (currently in beta) will let you import those directly.


Becky Waring

Regarding Tom Wible's tip on Geotagger:

" is simplicity: navigate Google Earth to where your pix were taken, drop your pix on geotagger, done :-)"

This looks like a great little free utility. iPhoto's Places feature does not actually change the photos metadata, so you can't export photos with geotagging information. So using Geotagger, then importing into iPhoto seems a perfect solution.

Unfortunately, this solution does not work well with photos already in your iPhoto library, since the metadata will be written, but iPhoto will not update its cache to reflect the data.

Is there any way to force iPhoto to do a mass metadata cache update? (Being careful not to lose other data you may have entered into iPhoto, like Faces and captions.)


Victor Drummond

Jerry Black wrote that GPSPhotoLinker was a good solution to enter GPS metadata into photo files. I've been following the geotagging discussions here, and was looking for a good piece of software.

I downloaded a copy of the program (Mac OS X 10.5.x only), which is "donationware," and gave it a test run today.

I used my Garmin GPSmap 60 to generate a track log as I was taking photographs with a Nikon D50. I downloaded the photos to my Desktop, then plugged in my GPS via USB. I started GPSPhotoLinker, and selected the folder of photographs. Thumbnails of each photo were displayed within the program which has an attractive Mac-ish interface. The program immediately found my GPSr hooked to the USB port, and I downloaded its track file.

The program has three modes: "Standard, "Manual," and "Batch."

Using the "Standard" mode I selected the photo I wanted to geotag, and the program picked the two track log entries that were the "Preceding point" and "Next point" to the date/time stamp for the photo. The program also calculates a third "Time Weighted Average" between the two points that can also be selected. (You need to be sure the camera and GPSr are pretty closely time-synched, though the program provides an easy way for the user to apply time offsets to eliminate differences.)

There is a "View on map" button for each point for a photo which takes you to Google Maps to view the specified location. Click a "Save to photo" button to write the selected Latitude, Longitude, and Altitude metadata. In addition the program looks up the City, State, and Country data and allows the user to save it if desired.

In "Manual" mode you may select specific points from the track log to assign to a photo.

In "Batch" mode the program does assignments to all selected photos automatically.

I geotagged a group of photos before importing them into iPhoto '09, and Aperture. After the import to iPhoto '09 there was no "Location" indicated for the photos. However, upon re-opening iPhoto, the "Location" was filled in as a location I had previously specified. (I'm not sure how closely location data has to be to be picked up by iPhoto as being the pre-specified location.)

Aperture handled the new metadata just fine.

I'm very pleased with GPSPhotoLinker and have made a donation to the author. I can strongly recommend it to people having similar needs. I have no connection to the author -- just a very satisfied user.


Andrew Schultz

My guess on why iPhoto doesn't add geotagging info to photos is it fits with the philosophy of non-destructive editing that they follow with your photos.

You can always revert back to original state of photos. Adding geotag info to a copy of the original could cause photo libraries to balloon.

Perhaps this should be a preference. Add to EXIF or add to iPhoto database.


Doug Eldred

Those who already own a current version of GraphicConverter can use it to store the GPS data into the EXIF metadata. It has the advantage of not changing the file's timestamp (in the OS). Note that it updates files in place; some of the other programs put the GPS-updated files into another folder instead.

iPhoto can READ the GPS data from EXIF metadata, but the current version doesn't put it there. Reasons for not writing the metadata itself might include the number of possible GPS formats, not wanting to have to know how to talk to dozens of different GPS devices (most require a driver, unlike the Amod AGL3080 which appears to the OS to be a USB disk drive), and the fact that there are plenty of existing free/inexpensive tools to do this, but this is just guesswork on my part.


Richard Barrett

Steven asked:
"Anyone know why Apple decided to implement Places this [external database] way?"

It has to be something like this:
Apple Engineer: We could put the geographic location metadata in the EXIF standard format so it could be shared with other applications.

Apple Marketing: No! We what to position iPhoto to make it a more valuable tool. Therefore, the capability should only work in iPhoto, so that Windows users can't take advantage of the cool stuff we do without MacOS X and iPhoto software.

Apple Engineer [under his breath]: I wonder if this guy has ever seen a "Dilbert" comic strip?

Feb. 27, 2009


David Weatherston

Andy Dannelley asks if geo-tagging poses a personal security risk, by disclosing the location where a family photo was taken if published. I was ready to pooh-pooh this suggestion, but I find that EXIF data is more persistent than it used to be. He therefore has a point, in theory.

EXIF data, which sums up the information known to the camera as the photo is taken, used to be quite fragile. Many applications routinely failed to include it when saving a photo (noted here), and most Web preparation and uploading processes deliberately stripped it out to trim file sizes. So copying about a dozen photos from Flickr failed to disclose one that contained any information. All good.

Downloading photos from my own public iWeb galleries, though, gave me every bit of data present on the originals still on my own hard drive. So yes, Mr Dannelley is right, there is a risk of disclosure. Of what that would otherwise be secret, I'm not sure, though. Home information is already available on voters' lists and telephone books. Perhaps the location of a family cottage, kept secret to guard against unwanted guests?

Seriously though, if people are concerned, the definition of EXIF on advises readers to test their photo applications to find out how they handle EXIF data. By extension, people who publish photos to public sites, if they're concerned about disclosing locations or other info, would do well to upload a harmless photo or two to the chosen site and see how it's handled. If it's stripped clean, good. Otherwise, it might be worthwhile stripping the information via "Save For Web" or similar before uploading.


Raj Singh

Re: Andy Dannelley's note:

I am a bit confused (and concerned) by the GeoTagging capabilities in new cameras and iPhoto and online photo sharing sites and even personal photo sharing. When these photos are published, do they still contain the location information? If the location information is still in the photo, couldn't just anyone get the location of our homes?

The answer in most cases, is "yes", if the location is in the EXIF information, then whoever gets the image file also gets the location. On a site like Flickr, you can share your pics with only family and/or friends, which should make you feel a little safer. My personal strategy is to never tag a picture with my real house location, but to place it in a nearby street or public place. This still allows for some interesting location applications, but adds a nice layer of privacy.


Doug Eldred

Regarding security, I've seen this mentioned on other websites, not sure if the site I mentioned earlier is one of them or not. Since today most digital cameras don't geotag, and iPhoto doesn't either, you have control over whether or not you choose to geotag individual photos, "rolls", etc. Certainly privacy and security are issues, though for many people doing a name search on the web will give the person's address, phone number, etc. unless you're very careful to avoid making those public.

Properly used, geotagging is a great feature. I'd rather let my Amod AGL3080 figure out where each photo was taken, not necessarily to the nearest meter, than laboriously record that myself, especially since my cameras don't really show me the actual filename that I'll eventually see.

And, it's certainly true that some people are more concerned about privacy/security than others - and some have good reason to do so.

Not primarily for privacy/security, but on general principles, I'll probably capture the photos from my media card in one folder, duplicate it, and geotag the second folder. That gives me complete control over whether or not I "share" my geotagging info with anyone, but (to me) more importantly it ensures that geotagging my photos won't wipe anything important out.

Feb. 28, 2009


Vince Heuring

If you are concerned about what your EXIF data, the free cross-platform app exiftool by Phil Harvey will let you view and edit your exif data. (You'd be surprised what you'll see there.)

It's at

Yes, it is a command-line tool but easy to use. After it's installed, launch Terminal and type in "exiftool." That will bring up the documentation.

To view the EXIF data just type in exiftool <space> drag a photo to the terminal window and hit <return>

Learn all about EXIF tags at

Mar. 2, 2009


WK Lee

GraphicConverter 6.4 has a version of Phil Harvey's ExifTool built in to the program. Though not the most recent they're close enough, GraphicConverter's version is 7.67 and Phil Harvey's version is 7.7. The latest version of GraphicConverter also supports GPS.

GraphicConverter can be found here.

Mar. 3, 2009


Jon Golden

The latest version of Photomechanic (v4.6) supports geo-tagging within the program. You can work from a Google Earth map interface backwards, or from GPS coordinates forward. It will allow you to select and tag photos in groups or singles to mark.

Apr. 29, 2009


Doug Eldred

For whatever it's worth, on my recent vacation I geotagged my photos in several ways:

(1) I used HoudahGeo to add GPS info to each photo; this obviously works with iPhoto '09 or any geotag-aware web site such as Flickr.

(2) I used HoudahGeo to create Google Earth .kmz files, showing the travel path and photos for each day of the trip. (For some reason, Google Earth on my work PC lets me do a "fly-through" slideshow from the .kmz files, while on the Mac it doesn't. May be cockpit error or version differences.)

(3) I used JetPhoto Pro to create Google Maps folders, which again let you see where the photos were taken, click on individual photos, etc.

So far, I'm pleased with the results.

Apr. 30, 2009


Stefano Pagiola

A few years back I looked into the then-available geotagging solutions, and all seemed to work just with jpgs. I've done a quick check now, and can't seem to find a solution that states explicitly that it will work with RAW and/or tiffs. Any recommendations for such a solution?

May. 1, 2009


Gordon Sick

HoudahGeo does a fine job of geo-tagging my Canon Raw photos. I do this before importing to Aperture, but it now seems that it may allow me to geotag after I've imported them as well.

The biggest problem with HoudahGeo, in my view, is the clumsy way it handles time zones. Most applications and the Mac (and my Canon Camera) allow you to select a time zone from a map and/or list of cities and then either choose automatic daylight saving time or manual daylight saving time adjustments. But, HoudahGeo only supports a time-zone offset from UTC. If you travel to a new area, you might not know the time-zone offset, or may easily make a mistake by 1 hour. Then, you are screwed, because I can't get HoudahGeo to retag the photos with the appropriate offset.

The fix for HoudahGeo could be as simple as telling the user what time currently corresponds to the time zone they have selected.


Paul Fabris

RE: Stefano Pagiola's Question

"I've done a quick check now, and can't seem to find a solution that states explicitly that it will work with RAW and/or tiffs."

I created a Filemaker Runtime solution for this very problem. It loads a folder of Canon CR2 RAW files, loads one or more GPS log files, and using Phil Harvey's command line EXIF editing tool writes the GPS data into the RAW file's EXIF data.

It's free, you can get it at

You have to download and install exiftool as well:

It works with files created by Sony's GPS-CS1 and Amod's AGL3080 GPS loggers. The AMOD file is (I believe) a standard NMEA GPS log file, so it might work with other NMEA files, but I haven't tested anything beyond these 2 devices.

Fair waring: Backup your RAW files before running this on them as I make no warranty on the safety. That said, I've processed thousands of RAW images from my Canon Digital Rebel XT and 40D without any issues.

Hope that helps.


Adam Newman

I shoot all my pictures on my Canon xTi using RAW and have found "Geotagger 2" (FREE!) to be a terrific app in combination with Google Earth. The trick is, you can't geotag once you've imported into iPhoto. So, there is an extra step or two:

Copy your images from your camera to a folder on your Mac
Fire up Google Earth and navigate to where the pics were taken.

Run Geotagger 2

Drag the images that were shot at the Google Earth location that you found on top of the Geotagger icon in your dock.
Voila! Now you can import into iPhoto (or whatever app you are using) with correct Geotags!

No financial relationship with Geotagger - just a *very* grateful end-user.


Doug Eldred

HoudahGeo's FAQ says that it supports RAW, with some caveats. JetPhoto's manual appears to say it doesn't. There's a pretty good writeup on Mac geotagging, discussing various programs, at, which may be helpful (or not) on this issue.

May. 2, 2009


Pierre Bernard [Houdah Software]

Gordon Sick writes:

"The biggest problem with HoudahGeo, in my view, is the clumsy way it handles time zones."

I am the developer of HoudahGeo. As a matter of fact, HoudahGeo makes every effort to simplify the complex subject of time zones.

All HoudahGeo needs to know from the user is the time zone the camera's clock was set to. Typically this is your home time zone. I recommend against updating the camera clock mid-trip to keep up with local time zones.

HoudahGeo supports both offset time zone and named time zones. In the end it as easy as remembering that you live in the "America/Los Angeles" time zone. HoudahGeo will even remember the setting for your next project.

HoudahGeo supports time zone switching in much the same way as does iCal. You get to view your entire project in your choice of camera time zone, computer time zone or GMT.

Gordon Sick is right in suggesting that HoudahGeo should display the current time in the selected time zone. This enhancement is planned for the next update.

BTW, should you incorrectly specify the camera time zone HoudahGeo always gives you the option of adjusting it.

Pierre Bernard
Houdah Software s.à r.l.


Pierre Bernard [Houdah Software]


Bioneural has published a follow-up article to the one mentioned by Doug Eldred. The second article focusses on HoudahGeo 2.1:
"HoudahGeo take two best for geotaggers" at

As for RAW support: HoudahGeo may read all the same file formats as Apple's iPhoto and Aperture.

For writing EXIF, XMP & IPTC tags, HoudahGeo relies on Phil Harvey's excellent ExifTool. You may check this list for file formats ExifTool can write to:

Pierre Bernard
Houdah Software s.à r.l.


James Steele

For Aperture users, try out Übermind's Maperture Pro BETA plug-in to geotag RAW (and other) images. The software is still in beta, but it works for me although there are some speed issues: for example with fetching altitude data. You can manually geotag a single image or match a number of images to a GPS track log.

May. 4, 2009


MacInTouch Reader

Pierre Bernard from Houdah Software says not to update the camera's clock mid-trip to keep up with time zones.

[In my opinion] The time stamp on the photo should show the correct local time where the photo was taken. If a photo is taken at 3 PM in the afternoon it should say 3 PM, not 9 PM because the photographer lives six time zones away. People don't leave their wristwatches set to their home time zone, why would they do that with the camera?

Which leads me to a bigger question: Why does the user need to enter in the time zone at all? The time zone can be easily determined from the GPS coordinates! Provide a way to override it, but this should be the default. In fact, as cameras with built-in GPS devices become more common, I would expect the camera's clock to automatically set itself to local time, much like a cellphone does now.

Finally, this functionality should be part of image cataloguing apps so that a separate utility is not needed. Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom, etc. should have the ability to read GPS data directly. I was stunned that Apple added Places to iPhoto but didn't offer any way to import track logs from a GPS device.


WCO 81

Well after using it on about a 1000 photos taken since upgrading to iPhoto '09, I have to say the Places implementation is pretty broken.

My workflow, using the Gisteq Phototrackr, is to import into their program first, which properly puts the GPS data into the EXIF tags.

When I initially import these photos into iPhoto, it displays the locations correctly.

But the next time [I] open iPhoto, several *hundred* of these photos are tied to a Place that I'd manually named, Almudena in Madrid.

It may be that I'm not manually naming these photos with a Place name, instead relying on iPhoto to display the GPS location as stored in the EXIF. So after import, they say "photo place." But like I said, the next time I open iPhoto, a lot of them (maybe all, I'm not sure) will be associated with the place Almudena, getting not just that Place name but of course the GPS coordinates.

So when I check my Places, there is no listing for "photo place" so what iPhoto seems to do is to arbitrarily assign all those photos which I do not explicitly name to Almudena.

But in fact, if I export to Picasa or just check these photos within iPhoto in an EXIF utility, I see that it does in fact have the correct GPS coordinates.

This limitation on requiring you to name a place makes managing of a large volume of geotagged (containing GPS in the EXIF) photos very difficult and limits the utility of iPhoto.

May be better off for me to upload to sites which will use the EXIF data. When uploaded to Picasa Web Galleries for instance, they all show a keyword like Rome but they each are unique points on the map.

But in iPhoto, if you try to name all the same photos as Rome, iPhoto would pin them to the same GPS location.

So it would be better to use a keyword but upload to sites which relied on the EXIF data.

If I have several hundred photos taken in a big city, I'm not going to name each place. Even if took 50 pictures of the Eiffel Tower from say 35 different spots, including some say a couple of hundred meters away, am I suppose to name each place?

All of this makes iPhoto less than optimal for managing and viewing geotagged photos.

It's too bad, because a high-profile application would help popularize geotagging but even a "free" (included with the Gisteq Phototracker logger) not only respects the EXIF GPS data but does reverse lookups automatically with Wikipedia to automatically show what the place is. You click on a photo and it shows not only the location on the map but a Wikipedia entry based on the GPS coordinates.

May. 5, 2009


Wally Wedel

I also note that Aperture and iPhoto behave quite differently in dealing with geotagging. Aperture does recognize geotags and if you check the appropriate boxes displays those tags in the info section. It does not go so far as to allow you to view those tags on a Google Map and correct them as necessary.

I use GPSPhotoLinker for my geotagging, but it does not recognize all of the Apple-supported raw formats so I have to convert the raw image to Adobe DNG before geotagging.

I would like to see iPhoto and Aperture treat geotags consistently. It would be especially useful if both allowed you to correct erroneous geotags with Google Maps.


Doug Eldred

One reason for setting the camera clock to match reality (i.e. where you're taking the photos) is that you may NOT want to geotag everything, or you may find that the GPS data didn't get recorded for some of the photos. Or, maybe you're doing manual geotagging, via place names or Google Earth or whatever, rather than GPS track data.

After geotagging a few test photos around town, and almost 800 on a recent trip, I have *not* have the problems described by "WCO 81". I had to manually geotag a *few* photos (from another photo via cut-and-paste of the lat/long/alt values in HoudahGeo, not by place name or in iPhoto) when the GPS track didn't have those times recorded (evidently I was faster to shoot photos than the Amod AGL3080 was to acquire the satellites), none of the locations seemed way off or required manual adjustment, etc. *Something* in my workflow resulted in iPhoto showing home-based timestamps instead of vacation-based timestamps (a difference of 7 hours in my case), but I used iPhoto to fix that. The timestamps after geotagging with HoudahGeo were fine, so I don't know where that glitch arose.

One hint: a lot of people recommend taking a picture of your watch, or some other time source. That will help you figure out if the camera was off by a timezone, off by a few minutes, etc., and most of the geotagging programs make it easy to fine-tune the GMT/camera times as needed.

I did report it to Apple, via the Feedback page, just in case it's not just me. Any serious problems or usability issues should be reported, if we want Apple to fix them.

May. 21, 2009


Gordon Sick

On May. 1, 2009, I remarked that HoudahGeo's handling of timezones was quite clumsy. I had just been burned by a time zone that was out by an hour on 600 pictures and fixing it was very time consuming.

I want to report that HoudahGeo 2.2.6 (just out) fixes the interface problem quite nicely, because when you set the camera time zone, it tells you the time it thinks the camera would have and you can confirm whether you have the right time zone or not. This is handy if you pick a time zone offset and get burned by daylight saving time.

The developer was in touch with me after my earlier comment and said he would put this fix into the next version of the software and he did so, promptly.

He also fixed a problem where the timezone menu wouldn't scroll on my 30" Cinema Display (menu too long?)

The software still has a cutely annoying feature in its choice of cities it lists for time zones. I live in Calgary (1 million people), which is 120 km from Banff (where a LOT of photos are taken) and neither appears on the menu. But, the tiny little Arctic community of Pangnirtung (yes, I've been there twice!) and scores of other small communities like Gothab are on the menu!

Fortunately, he lets you pick the time zone or time zone offset and that is enough for me.

Feb. 12, 2010


Joe F

Just following up on the geotagging discussion we had here last year. In case anyone missed it Apple released Aperture 3 this week; and it includes the ability to import track logs to tag the locations of your photos.

The update also includes enhanced versions of iPhoto's Faces and Places and many other enhancements. Worth a look for anyone looking to move beyond iPhoto.

Oct. 27, 2010


Evan Dreyer

The last real discussion on [geotagging] was about a year ago; I am curious as to what MacInTouch readers think is the state of the art now.

I am looking for a simple geotagging solution that works as easily as possible with iPhoto (09 for the present).

I am using a Sony camera; and am looking for a simple pocket device that I can easily time-sync with my photos.

Any suggestions are appreciated!

Oct. 28, 2010


Michael Corbin

visit the B&H Photo/Video website [here], and you will find 29 devices of this sort available.


David Bradbury

I love geotagging my photos. I have a Qstarz BT-Q1000XT logger that links in directly using the free GPS Photo Linker by Early Innovations ( It supports tagging JPEG and DNG files. They sell pricer software that does more, but for what I need the free version is fine. After tagging, I import the photos into iPhoto and it reads the embedded information.


Steven MacDonald


It's not 100% precise but I always take some shots with my iPhone. Later in iPhoto, sorted by date/time, the phone pictures are interleaved with the ones from my camera so I can add the locations to the camera shots.

Not automated, but cheap, since I already have the phone.


Joe F

Re: geotagging

Now that both iPhoto and Aperture support geotagging, it makes it easier for Mac users since software was always the weak spot for most of the GPS hardware options available on the market. There are three main methods for getting GPS data associated to your photos.

1. Your camera adds GPS data to your photos as you take them. The iPhone can do this, but it's less common on regular cameras. Either your camera itself may have a GPS receiver built in, or it may allow you to attach a GPS and add the data to the photos as they are saved to the memory card. There are workflow advantages to this, but few cameras have GPS built-in, it drains your cameras batteries faster, and GPS can be slow to "boot up" when you first turn on your camera.

2. Add GPS data to your photos after getting them off the camera but before importing into iPhoto/Aperture. This requires you have a GPS logger to store the GPS data as you are talking photos and software to merge the location data with the photos. This is probably the most flexible option as you get chose which software to use with features to match your needs. But it also adds many steps to your workflow and introduces the very small, but real, potential of corrupting your image when the GPS data is added. The software must also work with your camera's image format (some software won't work with RAW images).

3. Add GPS data after importing into iPhoto/Aperture. You'll need a logger that saves track data in a format iPhoto/Aperture can read. But it lets you import your photos immediately so you can work with and delay adding the location data until time permits. It also doesn't add the location data to the image file itself (at least Aperture doesn't, not 100% about iPhoto). This is in keeping with Apple's philosophy of never modifying the original image. The location data is stored in a database to work within the application, and is added to exported versions of the photos.

Assuming you don't have a camera with GPS capabilities (#1), the first choice is probably whether or not you need more flexibility than iPhoto or Aperture provides. For example, Aperture (and I assume iPhoto) will not read the altitude data from your track log and attach it to your photos. It only saves latitude and longitude. If you also make a backup copy of your images from your memory card, those backups will not have GPS data since that doesn't get added until after you import into iPhoto/Aperture. But that also means less risk of your master image getting corrupted with the EXIF data is updated with location data. Aperture has pretty good tools for adjusting time zone offsets (now that they've fixed the nasty daylight savings time bug), but sometimes simpler is better. Some 3rd party software requires you keep your camera's time set to GMT, which I final annoying. Personally, I add the location data after importing into Aperture and save a copy of the track log with my backup copies of the images from the memory card.

As for hardware, your choices are the same as always. Most GPS units can be made Mac compatible if you can find the right software and drivers to connect the device to your Mac and download the track logs. My preference is for those that can mount as standard flash drives and let you simply drag-and-drop the log file onto your hard drive. No special software, no drivers. Next is whether you want/need a screen. Options range from no screen at all, a simple LCD status screen that shows time and coordinates only, or full mapping screens. Battery type/life and storage capacity are other factors to consider.

My choice was the AMOD Tech's AGL3080. It's screenless (an LCD status screen would be nice), but easily mounts via USB as any other flash storage device. The log files are text files that can be directly imported into Aperture. The 128 MB of storage is larger than any other device except those that can use removable SD cards. It has good tracking options for both what types of geo data it saves and how frequently is saves a track point. It has longer battery life than most other units for continuous tracking (I recently recorded an 18-hour track with data points every 10 seconds on a single set of batteries) and uses AAA batteries which can be found nearly anyplace in the world. I use rechargeables, with disposables as emergency backup.

There are other good units out there, but my priorities were: 1) no special software or drivers, 2) storage capacity, 3) battery life. The second and third priorities were for taking long trips and being able to simply turn it on in the morning and leaving it on all day, not worrying about turning the tracker on and waiting for it to acquire a signal before being able to take a photo. So I didn't have to worry about the batteries dying in the middle of the day, and didn't have to take my laptop to download track files to make space for more data (at the lowest data rate settings, the AGL380 could record nearly a month of continuous tracking data).

If your needs are more casual, you may want to consider a unit with a small LCD screen and forgo the battery life and storage capacity. The AGL3080's cryptic button press sequences and status lights can be a bit confusing without a display to confirm you have things set up the way you want them.


Joseph Martines

There is a host of options for add on devices to your camera. They are a poor answer to what you want to do and can be costly.

Several manufacturers have come out with the geo-tagging device built into the camera and I believe that is the only way to go.

I would buy a point and shoot with the geo-tagging built in. This gives you a handy pocket camera and then you can take and transfer the data to other photo's in their metadata (manually) should you be using another more advanced camera.

I'm sure that in the future all the cameras will have the geo-tagging built in.


Doug Eldred

I don't know if it's "state of the art", but I'm happy with my AMOD AGL3080, bought a couple of years ago. Unlike many geologgers (at least then) it appears as a USB drive on the desktop, so no drivers are needed. Battery life is okay, seems to work *much* better with regular AAA batteries than with rechargeables.


Tom McGee

I have a couple of stand-alone Sony GPS taggers. With the newer one (now a couple of years old), you keep it on while you're out taking pictures and then load the memory card from the camera into it so it can tag the images. Works fine.

If you use a GPS that can save tracks, there are utilities to match up your pictures with location info and tag them for you, based on the time stamp from your camera. You're most likely to find GPS tracking ability in handheld or motorcycle-specific GPS units.

One of my cameras, the Sony HX-5 has tagging ability built in.

Oct. 29, 2010


Ken Bowman

For those who want to carry a full-featured GPS unit, here are some hints for geotagging with Aperture and a Garmin 'hiking-type' GPS device.

1. Sync the camera clock with the GPS clock. (A precision of a few seconds is usually good enough.)
2. Turn on track logging on the GPS. Carry the GPS around with you while you take photos. Set the track logging interval (time or distance) appropriately (e.g., 60 seconds should work if you are hiking).
3. When you are finished, download the GPS track to your computer. I use MacGPSPro for this. See notes below.
4. Import your photos into Aperture.
5. Geotag them using the free Maperture plug-in.

There are a few tricks to making this work right.

First, when you save a track log to a Garmin GPS's main memory, it compresses the track information, stripping out the time codes in the process. This renders the track log useless for the time matching step.

To fix this, you need to go into the GPS settings and turn on "Log track to data card". The tracks saved on the data card include complete track information. Unfortunately, you have to take the card out of the GPS receiver and connect it directly to your computer with a USB adapter to read it. Open the track log files with MacGPSPro and save them as GPX files.

Import your photos into Aperture, select the images that you want to geotag, and then use the Maperture plug-in to open the relevant GPX file and geotag the photos.

If you use iPhoto, you might need third-party software such as HoudahGeo or GraphicConverter (which is well worth having anyway) to assist with the geotagging. I have not used iPhoto much since switching to Aperture, so I can't give specific advice about iPhoto.


B Carpenter

As always... There's an app for that...

Instead of using a dedicated data logger, there are various iPhone apps that will log a GPS path, then export a GPX file that can be imported into Aperture or any other program that can consolidate the photos with the GPS locations.

Some of these apps log a path continuously (eg. Trails, Everytrail, Tracklogger) while others are dedicated geotagging apps which can log a location every, say, 3, 5 or 10 minutes, thus saving battery (eg. GeoLogTag, GPX Logger). The developer of GeoLogTag says that he's tested his app with an iPhone 4 & achieved over a week of battery life with a log interval of 60 minutes & the screen asleep.

Some apps just generate the GPX file, while others include their own desktop app to tag the photos with a location.

Oct. 30, 2010


John Feinberg

A year ago, I went on a week-long backpacking trip, and I wanted to be able geotag the photos once I got back home. I decided to buy the Holux m-241. It was a uniquely useful device, for the reasons listed below:

* It has an LCD display, with several display options. You can display the clock - useful to either synchronize the camera clock, or to just take a picture of the GPS clock so you can synchronize the time when you geotag the photos (easier in the field).

* It runs on one AA battery, and lasts 10 hours or so. I just brought 7 NiMH AA batteries with me so I was set for the week. There was enough memory for this.

* It has a standard mini-USB jack, and mounts on the computer as a flash drive. Each track you record shows up as a (somewhat) standard NMEA text file.

* The price is excellent -- around $60 or $70.

It looks like exactly like a roll of Kodak film (albeit with buttons and and LCD display) -- cool!

After trying several different geotagging programs available for Mac, I eventually used Ovolab Geophoto. The user interface was a little difficult to pick up, but it was the only program that I found that allowed you to easily set a time offset. This is important if you simply take a picture of the GPS clock. You would then bring up that photo in Ovolab - it will show you the camera time, and of course the photo shows you the GPS time. You then set the offset, and it will use the same offset for the entire photo set. This feature is not necessary if you sync the camera time to the GPS time before you start taking pictures, but it's easier to just take a picture of the GPS each morning. More important, you don't have to remember to do this first thing -- it's OK to take that picture of the GPS at lunchtime or at night, if you forget in the morning.


Gordon Sick

Ken Bowman says:

First, when you save a track log to a Garmin GPS's main memory, it compresses the track information, stripping out the time codes in the process. This renders the track log useless for the time matching step.

Yes, that is a problem, so with my Garmin 76 CSX, I just set it to hold an enormous track log (one or two day's worth) and download that to my Mac with Mac GPS Pro. The point is that the time stamps are only lost when you "save" the track log in the Garmin to one of the numbered track logs. The live track log has the time stamps and Mac GPS Pro easily downloads it.

BTW, a hassle I have when using Aperture's geotagging with the track log is that every time the GPS unit lost reception (e.g. in a tunnel or building), the track log is broken, so that Aperture sees multiple track sub-logs for one day of travel. Since you need to select your desired sub-log in order to geotag photos in Aperture, this is a real pain, since you have to do this several times to get all of one day's photos geotagged. So, I geotag with Houdah Geo instead. Maybe the Maperture plugin also solves the problem.


MacInTouch Reader

Some geotagging embeds the data inside the picture. Does iPhone '09 or '11 embed its Places geotags in the picture, or in the iPhoto database?

If the database, is there a way to hard-code that information into the pictures themselves? I prefer my metadata to stay with the files, rather than databases that can become corrupt, especially if I have to manually migrate files elsewhere.


Joe F

If you want the geotag data added directly to the photo file in the EXIF data, rather than in iPhoto or Aperture's database, use 3rd-party software to add the data before you import the photos into iPhoto.

Nov. 1, 2010


Gordon Sick

MacInTouch Reader asks:

Some geotagging embeds the data inside the picture. Does iPhone '09 or '11 embed its Places geotags in the picture, or in the iPhoto database?
  If the database, is there a way to hard-code that information into the pictures themselves? I prefer my metadata to stay with the files, rather than databases that can become corrupt, especially if I have to manually migrate files elsewhere.

Houdah Geo can write directly to the file or to a side car. Aperture always writes to a sidecar file, since it won't ever alter EXIF data in the picture. I think other tools write to the file, using EXIF Tool, as does Aperture, as you note. I only write the GPS information to one copy of the file after downloading the pictures. The other copy is clean and in the same folder, I store the track log.

BTW, with these geotagging programs, you can write to the file before importing to Aperture or after. If you write to the file after importing to Aperture, you must run Metadata > Update from Master, in Aperture, in order for Aperture to see the new geotags.


Scott Bayes

iPhoto '09 appears to maintain its GPS (location) data externally to the image file, i.e. in the database, but when you Export the photo(s) to File, you can have it embed the info. You can then open the exported file with Preview, for example, and see its location data in the Inspector. I would hope that iPhoto '11 does the same.

Nov. 10, 2010


Johann Beda

John Feinberg recommended the Holux m-241 for geotagging, so I picked one up. Looks like a nice device. However I cannot get it to connect as a USB flash drive as he mentions.

I grabbed the USB driver software from the Holux website and installed it on my 10.6.4 machine, but when I plug in the device, I get prompted to set up a network interface called "CP2102 USB to UART Bridge Controller" which seems to be a modem type of interface.

The other places I see with M-241 and Mac information at does not mention this issue.

John - how did you set up your machine?

Nov. 11, 2010


Matt Neuburg

Geotagging is not rocket science; in fact, it isn't science at all. All you're doing is looking at the times in the log and comparing them with the time on each photo; if there's a near match, the log's position for that time is where you were when you took the picture. This is so easy to do, you can do it by hand. I've also written a Ruby script to do it. There's no need to pay *money* for this! (And speaking of money, why would you buy a $70 data logger when a GPS *is* a data logger, and can be had for about the same price?)


Old Toad

For Scott Bayes on iPhoto 9 (11) and Location information: yes it does embed the GPS data when properly exported out of the library.


Collin Ong

A GPS logging device that is a step above the rest is the Locosys BGT-31 (also available as the GT-31 without Bluetooth). This unit is a bit larger and more expensive than the others but has the following advantages:

- Full LCD display: gives you full control of the functions without relying on blinking lights as well as access to many other features besides just GPS logging. You can use it as a world clock, speedometer, tracklog with route display, view GPS coordinates on-screen, mark waypoints, and lots more. Also lets you configure the GPS logging intervals with lots of different options.

- Internal battery that charges over mini-USB. It lasts well over a day of traveling and you don't have to keep swapping an AA or AAA battery in and out, just plug it into your laptop or a USB wall charger each night.

- Writes to SD card. Stop worrying about running out of memory and clearing out your old tracklogs. I put in an old 1GB card and barely dented the available storage for 15 days of traveling in Australia and New Zealand, retaining daily log files for each day. Easy cross platform compatibility, too. Just pull the card and insert into card reader and copy the files off.

- Waterproof to 1M so you don't have to worry about when it starts raining. I put a mini carabiner clip on mine and clipped it to the handle of my photo backpack.

- Usable as a real-time bluetooth GPS linked to Mac or PC. (I have not tried this function.)

Dec. 6, 2010


Father Vlasie

Strangely, there does not seem to be much interest in plotting high-resolution, geotagged photos along a GPS track, using various world mapping services offered by Google as a backdrop, and enabling you to share the "album" with interested parties(via a weblink). I have in mind a track through mountainous terrain (e.g., Yosemite) with lots of photos plotted along that track as markers (popping up to images available in multiple sizes) on a full screen Google terrain map. Alternatively, the backdrop could be Google Earth accessed through the API, so the user didn't have to launch Google Earth software.

GPSVisualizer does offer this service as one of many features (, but with a difficult interface and, in my experience, inconsistent results.

EveryTrail seems to be content with thumbnails or relatively small photos. And I do not like the highly-commercialized and busy interface.

Obviously, not too many sites are interested in hosting huge image files without pitching their products. But if you have your own online storage, wouldn't it be relatively easy to create your own personalized (ad-free) web interface for your pictures and tracks with Google-provided backdrops?

Has anyone found a user-friendly but robust solution for this need?

Dec. 9, 2010


Antonio Tejada

Father Vlasie broached the topic of geotagging. I'd love to take that opportunity to ask for some help/experiences. I am very much intrigued by geotagging, but none of my cameras have internal GPS receivers. I'm not terribly interested in Nikon's wildly expensive (and IMHO kinda cumbersome) GPS receiver. I've heard of GPS logging devices that just log the location every few seconds/minutes, producing a file that you can import into Aperture or what have you. But it's really unclear which models work better than others, which ones play nice on the Mac (it seems some write directly to the Aperture-supported NMEA or GPX formats, while others require an annoying import/export with proprietary software to produce one of those standard files).

Can anyone here shed light on this for a GPS newbie?

(And no, iPhone geotagging isn't an option, since I have an original, no-GPS model, and WiFi triangulation doesn't work when you're in the boonies without so much as an EDGE signal!)

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