Geotagging Photos

#1

When you take a photo with your smartphone, date, time, and GPS location information (if you allow your camera app to access your location) are stored within the photo’s metadata. iNaturalist’s app and website are able to read that data and use it for your observation’s date, time, and location.

However, not all dedicated cameras (eg DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, etc) have GPS capabilities and thus are not able to record location information. But if you use a smartphone or dedicated GPS device to keep track of you while you are in the field, there are applications out there which can use that track to add location information to your photos, a process known as “geotagging”.

Learning how to geotag my photos has really improved my iNatting experience, so I made this tutorial video to show you how to do it.

How to Geotag your Photos for iNaturalist from iNaturalist on Vimeo.

A few notes on the video:

  • I no longer use Lightroom so I purchased a third-party geotagging app called PhotoLinker (for MacOS only, I believe). There are other alternatives out there, some of which are free, just do a web search for geotagging software if your current photo software doesn’t support geotagging.

  • The smartphone app featured in the video happens to be MotionX GPS, but there are many other apps available for both Android and iOS.

  • Maybe most importantly, ensure that your camera’s clock and your GPS device’s clock are in sync. Most geotagging software allows you to compensate for time differences, but it’s best to check this before you start photographing, especially after Daylight Savings Time changes or you go on a trip and cross into a different time zone.

If you have suggestions for apps to use, or if you have a different method, definitely write share them in a reply.

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Don't let an observation attain Research Grade if its location is very imprecise
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How to post many observations in slightly varying locations?
#2

My camera does not have GPS, but it does have Bluetooth. I am able to run an app on my phone that communicates with my camera and geotags my photos. I use a Canon SL2 camera and the app, Camera Connect, was a free download from Canon. I do have to check the maps because the location is sometimes off track, but it is usually very accurate.

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#3

Nice! I wish my Sony worked consistently with its app. :(

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#4

Nice video! That’s very similar to my workflow. I use the free Cyclemeter app on my iPhone to track where I go and I geotag my DSLR photos using the free Darktable. It’s a great combo.

If I realise later that my DSLR clock had drifted off time by many seconds, I can also add that offset to Darktable when I geotag to get the exact locations. It also lets me specify the timezone when I’m geotagging, which is helpful if I’ve come back from a trip overseas and have a big bunch of photos waiting to geotag.

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#5

I have a similar workflow, using the Photolinker application mentioned in the original post, with one additional step. I use exiftool to add accuracy data with this command:

exiftool -gpshpositioningerror=10 ~/Pictures/_Import/

This command sets the accuracy of all photos in the designated folder to 10 m, which seems like a reasonable estimate most of the time. in some situations I might use a different value. Unfortunately I have not seen any GPS devices that include accuracy in the GPX files they produce.

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#6

Ok, out of curiosity (and to test polls) how do you record locations for your iNat observations?

  • Dedicated GPS device + geotagging
  • GPS app on my phone (not iNat) + geotagging
  • Camera has built-in GPS
  • iNaturalist mobile app
  • Manually choose locations in the Uploader

0 voters

I used to be an avid geotagger, but these days I just use the iNat app and cameras that have onboard GPS. I guess I choose locations in the Uploader for those rare occasions when one of those fails, but that’s not too often.

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#7

Unfortunately I think that with mirrorless cameras becoming the norm, more and more cameras will probably not have GPS antennae due to the smaller body sizes. Even the new Canon full-frame mirrorless lack GPS.

Personally I still find it kinda magical to see all my photos get geotagged.

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#8

I almost never have any issue with the iphone app gps, so i pretty much exclusively use that. But i also don’t have another camera. The Android gps from my work phone is a little ‘fussier’ and takes longer to get a reading, but just a few seconds more.

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#9

One missing option (sort of) on the poll above - when not using my real camera I take photos with the default camera app on my phone (which records location), and add them to the app later at home. Main advantage is that I can open the camera by double-pressing the home button, and take pictures by pressing the volume button. Really nice with gloves in winter!

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#10

i do that sometimes but i find unless the phone GPS is already on… the location often comes up way off. And at least in the past it didn’t record location precision like the app does. I still do it every now and then when i need a quick photo

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#11

I sort of think of this as the same as using a camera with GPS, i.e. you’re relying on your camera to embed coordinates in photo metadata and then relying on iNat to use that data when you upload later.

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#12

To “force” a better location fix, I find it useful to open google maps on the phone first. Once you have a position on there (usually in 5-10 seconds) the location recorded by the camera or iNat should be ok.

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#13

I voted for two. I geotag my DSLR photos with a GPS track from my iPhone, and I take photos directly with my iPhone and (usually) use its supplied GPS (so that’s “Camera has built-in GPS”). I tag them both on my computer and use the Uploader. The Uploader rocks!

I’ve noticed that very occasionally my iPhone adds a wildly wrong GPS to a photo and I can then correct that by geotagging from my Cyclemeter app (oddly, Cyclemeter can track my correct location at the same time that the Camera app adds the wrong location to a photo). By rare, I mean about 1/1000 photos though, so it’s no big deal.

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#14

While that is a good way to get a camera app to record more accurate coordinates, it shouldn’t be any different than using iNat and waiting for the accuracy to get down to an acceptable level. Theoretically iNat’s doing exactly the same thing as the Google Maps app: waiting for the operating system to provide better information as it triangulates from cell towers and receives better signals from more GPS satellites. The main difference is that iNat will stop once it hits what it think is an appropriate level (I think it’s 5m or something).

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#15

I use a Nikon DSLR and Garmin Dakota 20. Then I use Nikon’s ViewNX-i software to do the same as Lightroom does in the video.

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#16

I almost always use my Google Pixel 2XL stock phone cam, which automatically records the GPS coordinates and works seamlessly with Google Maps and Google Photos. In the stock camera settings one must toggle on “Save locations.” In my Google Photos app settings I toggle on “Remove geo location (from photos & videos that you share by link, but not by other means).” When I’m out in the field I simply take photos with my phone cam. Later, when I want to create a single iNat observation I open Google Photos, press and drag across the pix I want to upload to my observation, click on the share icon, then click on the iNaturalist icon. The pix and the location info is uploaded and the iNat observation opens up in the iNat app. I don’t select automatic upload in the iNat app. so I can first work on preparing all the observations, and then when I’m ready to post the observations and make them public I can either click on “upload,” or I can simply press, hold, and drag down on the screen to initiate the upload process. Recently I reinstalled my iNat app (as I do somewhat regularly whenever it gets buggy and I can’t fix it any other way), and I forgot to re-do my settings. I noticed the GPS coordinates were not automatically uploading to the iNat app. I was able to open Google Photos, open one photo that was used in the observation, click on the 3 dots in the upper right of the pic to open up a menu, click on “i” (info), see the little map with the location pin, click on that map to open it in Google Maps, and then copy & paste the GPS coordinates from Google Maps into the “Location notes” in the iNat app, and thus, manually add them that way after-the-fact. That was a bit of a pain, but not as time consuming as it took you to read that process, especially after I did it a few times. Better to have all your settings correct before you make your observations so that’s all automated!

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#17

I just want to warn people: some phones will accidentally post the wrong location if directly using the iNat app, especially if phone is looking for wifi. I have found the GPS half a mile off, marked at one of the nearby homes one to many times. Many thanks to @alex_abair for noticing this issue.

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#18

There are two advantages to google maps (or presumably any other mapping app) - one is that you can see your location on a map, and therefore know when it has found a good fix. The other is that, if I’m not wrong, google maps continues to hold an accurate location when in the background, while iNaturalist does not seem to. That might be something to do with my location settings though.

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#19

Maybe it does for you. For me, on Android 9, in Google Maps version 10.11.1, it only continually fetches coordinates in the background if it’s providing me with directions.

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#20

I started geotagging my pictures long before iNaturalist.

Currently I’m using my Garmin Fenix 3 watch for tracking. I use it as a fitness tracker and I’m also able to export the .gpx tracks if I want to geotag my photos.
It’s really easy with Geosetter for Windows. I download the .gpx tracks into the same folder as the pictures. That way I just open the folder in Geosetter, tick the .gpx track, select all pictures and press CTRL+G to automatically geotag all pictures.
It’s a really simple process!
You need to be careful if you’re travelling and pass different timezones.

In the past I’ve used a dedicated cheap GPS logger (i-Blue 747A+) to track my travels and geotag my pictures. The battery lasted much longer than my Fenix watch, but I can easily get through a day with it when I reduce the GPS logging rate.

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