This describes how to read and write GPS using GPS devices, Google Maps and Bing Maps. If you simply need a fast way to add GPS to your digital images, get GeoSetter. It has Google Maps embedded, IPTC editing run by ExifTool in the background, and it’s free.
In the What I Do meme, many participants deemed Picasa a popular photo pit stop. I’m guessing because it’s free, it’s easy and it links directly to Google Earth. But, Picasa has some serious problems as I noted previously in Picasa Summary.
Here are some of the more recent and amusing Picasa queries I’ve seen -
picasa ate my iptc
picasa why did my tiff iptc disappear
I use Photo Mechanic for GPS as well as IPTC so I don’t need anything else. But if you prefer not to use this software, there is an alternative to Picasa for writing and reading GPS without disturbing your IPTC tags.
Obviously, if you have a GPS device that records your position every few seconds in a downloadable text document that’s the easiest way to go because you can record your position, within a few seconds, as you’re taking your pictures. How far can most of us move in a few seconds unless we’re taking pictures out of a car window? If you’re moving at 30 mph that’s 44 feet in 1 second, I believe. I have those numbers stuck in my mind from a situation many years ago involving a pedestrian who was run down by an automobile.
So, if your device is set at 5 seconds that could be 220 feet. That’s quite a ways. But generally, traveling on foot with your camera, 5 seconds will put you in close proximity to the exact location of your shot. Photo Mechanic, for instance, can synchronize the GPS data with the timestamps on your photos. So can GeoSetter.
Then there’s the old pictures, some of them identifiable by address and some not. Just recently I found out from a birth certificate that my grandmother had a daughter I didn’t know about and in her early married life she lived at a different address than I had originally assumed. Not that I’m crazy about assumptions but I had nothing else to go on. GPS mapping through Google Maps and Bing Maps is not dead accurate so I still don’t know exactly which house it is out of three I can narrow it down to.
If you have photos of your ancestors’ homes or other locations that you can recognize, you can get close enough to street level through Google Maps or Bing Maps to be able to match them with the correct co-ordinates. This is a good thing for future generations who would like to have that information. I know from going through my photos that I know a lot of things about them that will be lost if I don’t write it down. So, now’s a good time.
If you don’t have Photo Mechanic and you don’t have a GPS device and, like me, you are not a fan of Picasa … and you’re still wondering how to get GPS co-ordinates into your photos, here’s some other ideas.
If you have a specific address, just type it in. Then zoom down to street level. Google Maps never gets the location quite right, so you’ll have to drag the red arrow to where it belongs. This is done by putting your cursor on the correct spot, right-clicking and choosing “What’s here?” This will move the red arrow there and put the co-ordinates in the search box all in one step.
Next step: how to add the co-ordinates to your photo or photos? GPS is EXIF info, not IPTC, so what you need is software that edits EXIF.
For free, you can use ExifToolGUI. This is a little more technical but just follow my instructions at Writing GPS with ExifTool.
Bing Maps is sometimes more accurate about landing on specific addresses but not necessarily. If it’s not, first you have to ‘Save’ it anyway and that will open your ‘My places editor’. The orange marker will change to a blue pushpin. Hover your cursor over the pushpin and click ‘Move’. This pop-up will tell you what to do next.
Delete all your other mis-marked markers so you don’t confuse yourself.
Bing is from Microsoft so I guess that explains why finding the co-ordinates is so roundabout. Once you have your pushpin centered on the right spot, go to My places editor/Actions/Export/ and choose either option. GPX or KML.
You can open either one with a text editor (right-click/Open With) and there you’ll see the co-ordinates. Something like this:
<Placemark> <name>Address blah blah</name> <description /> <Point><coordinates>-82.71250993602655,41.4416605815542</coordinates> </Point> </Placemark>
Also note, just to be contrary, Bing lists the co-ordinates as Longitude, Latitude rather than the standard other way around. If you find yourself looking at Thailand when you thought you were aiming for Colorado, just remember I told you that.
KML is a Google Earth file so you can go that even longer way around instead. The point here is to get the co-ordinates so you can add them to your photos.
Now, for the reading part. XnView makes a pretty good choice for non-techie relatives to read your IPTC data. And, as it turns out, your GPS as well. It has an option called ‘Open GPS location in GeoHack‘. Right-click on any thumbnail that has GPS co-ordinates embedded and it will open a Wikipedia page with more maps than you could ever need for viewing your location.