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GeoTagging Photos on a Mac

UPDATED: 2008-01-22 (GPSPhotoLinker)
UPDATED: 2008-03-26 (iPhotoToGoogleEarth)

In short:

The Long Story

I’ve recently got very excited about Geotagging photos. I’m getting ready to head off to Europe for a couple weeks, visiting both Prague and Vienna. I wanted to be able to track where we go in the cities. My past couple trips, including Berlin and Paris, I always get back and start trying to comment on my photos and I no doubt have trouble remember where in the city they were taken!

So this time, I want to be able to geotag them all. Needless to say, I don’t have the money to spend on a DSLR with built in GPS support, or even a DSLR that can support an external GPS unit. So I have to find a way to tag my photos from my trusty Canon Powershot SD630.

I started off with a Garmin Forerunner 201, which I borrowed from a guy here at the office. I used it for a few days of tracking my driving, it seemed to work pretty well, but it had trouble acquiring the satellites fast enough. It would take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, which just isn’t fast enough for me. Also, I was afraid that when in Europe it wouldn’t be able to hold a whole days worth of tracks.

There were a few other issues with the device as well. First, I could not find ANY software to work with it on my Mac. Even GPSBabel couldn’t seem to find it. Second was that the windows software only exported in Garmin Training Center (.TCX) file format. After some searching I was able to find a website that could convert the files to the correct GPX file format, but this would require that I have internet connection while in Europe. Which is not a guarantee.

So, this weekend I went out and bought a fairly cheap used Garmin eTrex Vista. I didn’t need or want anything too fancy. The maps, etc are unneeded. Plus I’m going to be attaching it to my backpack, so I don’t want anything expensive in case it gets stolen while in Europe.

The device so far seems to be working pretty well. It acquires signals in just a few minutes, and can hold 10,000 track points.

As for the Mac Software, I’ve found tons of software out there, however none of it seems to actually work!

For transferring the data points from the Garmin device to my Macbook Pro, I have found the best solution to be GPS Babel. It was able to easily and quickly find my GPS unit and then transfer the trackpoints off into the correct GPX file type data.

From there, I then was able to find Photo GPS Editor. It’s a pretty straight forward interface with a really nice wizard. It even gives you the ability to select a location on the map and set that as the starting point. It will then try and find the correct information for the pictures.

My major complain with this software is the “Offset”. Probably because I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be setting here. It seems that no matter what I put there, things are “close” to where they should be, but not quite correct. I know I’ll probably never get it EXACTLY on where the pic was taken. But still, I think they should be closer then where it’s being shown. IE. I have a picture of the “Fairfax Exit” on the I-10 freeway here in LA. The Photo GPS Editor is putting that picture as being taken about 2 miles past where it was actually taken at (2 miles north on Fairfax from the I-10).

I’m also very confused by the listing of the GPS unit’s data. It shows that there are 8 different track logs with many different points each. So I don’t quite understand what those all mean.

I’d been playing around with GPS PhotoLinker before I moved over to Leopard. However now it doesn’t seem to start (Something about a missing perl module). I have emailed the developer and he says it’s a known issue and should be fixed shortly. (UPDATE: The developer has been actively releasing beta versions that work on Leopard. Check out the site here.) UPDATE:// I have been using this software for a while now that it’s working on leopard and it works great! This is by far the best software to use!!!

Lastly, I tried out ImageIngester. At first the interface is very confusing and has way too much going on. It’s in some serious need of a redesign. However! I found at this software actually worked the best out of all of them!

Even though this software is very cumbersome in the design and not very intuitive (I’m not really going to go into what should be changed here), it was relatively easy to actually get the photos tagged with GPS data. The first thing I did was go to “ImageIngesterPro” and click “Switch Mode”. This disabled a lot of the advanced features which are useless for this experiment. Second, was to click the “Tools” option and select “GPS Input” to enable the use of GPS data.

Here the Offset stuff is much easier to change. I knew that my GPS and my camera were both set to Pacific time and I knew that my camera was an hour faster then my GPS. Under the option for “Camera Time Adjustment” I changed it to remove an Hour.

Next, click the “Choose” button to select your photos, then click “Start”. It was that easy! ImageIngester did all the rest.

Some of the other software I’ve tried has been:

  • GeoTag – This was a really nice software, however it only works on Windows because there is no Java 6 build for the Mac yet.
  • GeoTagger – This software wouldn’t even start on Leopard
  • HoudahGeo – This software seems nice, but it crashed my Mac every time I tried to export to Google Earth (which is something I really want to be able to do!). I’ve emailed the developer, but he’s been unable to resolve the issue at this point. (UPDATE: The developer has emailed me saying this will be fixed in 1.3, I have yet to try it out, but I am looking forward to giving it a shot tonight)

Now, as for getting things onto Google Earth. I was hoping for a quick and easy solution here. And Sure enough, there’s one available… That is, if you still have iPhoto 6. It’s called iPhotoToGoogleEarth. It’s supposed to export directly from iPhoto to a Google Earth KML file format. Of course, I no longer have iPhoto 6. Again, I emailed the developer and he is unsure when a new version will be available. So off I go to find a new solution.

UPDATE://iPhotoToGoogleEarth now works with iPhoto ’08! Great news and it appears to work great!!

The guy who wrote ImageIngester also wrote a nice blog entry about how to do this with some simple PHP. However, this is not exactly what I was hoping for. It’s a great way to do it, but I want people to download a KMZ format file and open it in Google Earth Locally. (And hopefully have a link back to the full size image online).

It seems that Picasa is the best solution, but last I checked it’s still only for Windows?

So far it looks as though I am out of luck on this issue. I’ve spent countless hours searching the web, perhaps I’m googling the wrong things, but I just have not been able to find anything! If you have any suggestions, let me know!

There’s a great article on GeoTagging on Wikipedia.

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11 replies on “GeoTagging Photos on a Mac”

I make about $10 a month. Just enough to cover the cost of hosting.

I was thinking about removing those from within the posts and going with PayPerPost.com to see how that works. But I’m not sure about doing that.

I am sorry to hear you are still having problems with HoudahGeo.

I am baffled. You are the only one to report the problem.

Have you upgraded all your third party utilities and haxies to Leopard compatible versions?

Could you try logging in using a Guest account? This creates a clean environment any time you log. This eliminates any risk of outside influence.

Best,
Pierre Bernard
Houdah Software s.à r.l.

Thanks for the comment. I don’t really have any third party things that I could think of messing things up. I will try again once I am back from vacation with a guest account as you suggest.

Thanks!

Hi Chris,
I am going to try the gps to photo thing. I have a canon like yours but my pictures are already in iphoto. Realizing how fussy the iphoto database is, i am reluctant to try and add the gps data using gpsphotolinker directly to the photos already in iphoto. It would be easy enough to do as they are in albums and thus folders ready to choose. Have you tried this method? Or do i have to take the plunge on my own.
take care,

Hi there, sadly the iPhoto database is very picky. It reads the meta data from the file once when you import it so just updating the file will not show up in iPhoto. 🙁

If you want the GPS information to show up in iPhoto you have to export the photos, geotag them and then re-import them all.

I suppose you could try to update the files while in the iPhoto directory and then use the “rebuild database” feature. I belive you access that by holding down the “Option” key while starting iPhoto. (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107947)

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