Geotagging Photos Strategy For Backpacking

I think I figured out a solution to geotagging photos for my next backpacking trip. I like having my hiking photos geotagged so that I can upload them to Panoramio and have them show up in Google Earth, or upload them to Flickr and have a map on the photo page. It’s neat to look back and see what spot it was taken at, and then also see photos from other hikers from nearby locations.

Geotagged Photos on US Map

My camera doesn’t have a GPS receiver to geotag photos with latitude and longitude in the Exif data like my phone does. My buddy, Tom, has a fairly new camera that does. I thought I wanted one too, to make geotagging a no-brainer, but now I’m not so sure. Tom mentioned that when he turns his camera on, he has to wait a minute or so for the GPS to activate. Presumably it has to lock onto the signal of several GPS satellites, enough to calculate an accurate position. Now this isn’t so great when hiking, and especially backpacking, because I do what I can to preserve battery! That means I don’t want to wait to take a photo. I often turn the camera on, quickly snap a shot, and turn it off.

Mobile Apps to the Photo Geotagging Rescue

I came across a phone app (Geotag Photos Pro) that will save GPS information as it runs, and then later you can use software that will automatically combine that GPS information with your photos on your computer. It works by the time, so you have to make sure your camera and phone time match up beforehand.

Then I actually found another one (gps4cam) that doesn’t even require you to manually sync the time on your camera to your phone. It will provide you with a barcode that you photograph with your camera, and that allows it to compare the times. Leave that in the directory with your photos and it will be recognized. Then just run the program and it does everything for you. Simple! You can also photograph that same barcode with any other camera, and then the software will do the same for photos taken with that too – that way only one person in your group has to have the app running. The pro version allows you to include altitude in the geodata which is great, and it also allows you to better fine-tune the capture interval to balance accuracy and battery life.

The beauty of this is that I already have my phone and it’s GPS turned on when hiking to save my track in another app. It might cause a slight increase in battery usage in this situation, but I’m guessing not much if at all since the GPS is already in use. This solves the problem of a camera’s GPS taking a couple minutes to acquire signals after turning it on – and using more camera battery. And of course I don’t need to get a new camera just for geotagging.

Again, the two apps were:
Geotag Photos Pro
gps4cam – I’ll probably give this one a try.

My next step is to figure out the best way to geotag my past photos!

Geotagged photos near San Jacinto Peak in Google Earth

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