GPS Options

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Today’s Question: My SLR doesn’t include GPS, but I would like to be able to keep track of where I captured my photos without marking spots on a printed map. Is there a good solution, or should I just “upgrade” to a camera that includes GPS capabilities?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a few options available to you. Obviously you could simply purchase an SLR that includes a GPS receiver. You could also purchase an accessory GPS receiver for your camera if your camera supports this option. And another option is to use a GPS-enabled device (such as your smartphone) to capture reference photos, which I refer to as “location snapshots”.

More Detail: Having GPS built into your camera is most certainly a very convenient solution for photographers (such as myself) who frequently want to be able to keep track of the location where they captured their photos. With the GPS receiver turned on you are most certainly going to cause the battery to discharge more quickly. Therefore, you need to determine whether the location information is worth the reduction in battery life. For me the decision is easy, because I tend to value the location information for my photos. But this is a decision each photographer will need to make based on how they prioritize that information.

For those who have a camera that supports accessory GPS receivers, this provides another solution. These devices generally attach to the flash hot shoe, and then plug into the camera to provide GPS coordinates that are automatically added to the metadata for each capture.

With both of the above options you can then view the GPS coordinates in metadata, or use an application such as Lightroom to plot your photos on the map based on those GPS coordinates.

You can also use another device to track locations for your photos. One solution that works great in many situations is to create what I refer to as “location snapshots”. This was the subject of the article titled “Location Snapshots” in the August 2012 issue of Pixology magazine (http://www.pixologymag.com). With this approach you use a device (such as a smartphone) to capture a reference photo that contains GPS coordinates in the metadata, and then use that photo as a reference for adding (or simply reviewing) location information for your other photos.

In addition, you can use a GPS device (such as a smartphone) to record a track log, and then use software such as Lightroom to synchronize the track log with the photos, adding GPS coordinates to the photos in a relatively automated way.

As you can see there are a variety of solutions for adding location information to your photos. Choosing a solution that works best for you is a matter of understanding the options that are available and comparing those options based on your specific workflow priorities.