Why GPS?

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Today’s Question: You had several comments regarding track logs and GPS. How much of a drain is there on the battery when using the GPS? I usually carry a phone with GPS apps which I can easily use to mark the spot where I took the image. I also find it not too difficult to recognize the images I have made and do not see a real point of getting coordinates for all of them. What am I missing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my experience using GPS location tracking with a device such as a camera or smartphone causes the battery to last about half as long as it otherwise would. I find location information tremendously helpful as a reminder and for locating photos, but that is in large part because most of my photography involves traveling relatively far from home. If you don’t find that location information helpful, there probably isn’t a good reason for you to deplete your battery faster by enabling GPS.

More Detail: The effect on battery life due to enabling GPS will depend on a variety of factors, including how frequently GPS location information is being recorded. I’ve found that my batteries last about half as long as they otherwise would based on my own usage, but your experience may vary.

Personally, I find GPS location information to be an invaluable part of the metadata for my photos. Having that information added automatically by my camera is very convenient, and provides location details for my photos even if I neglect to add location-based keywords.

I often use this information to remind myself of where I captured a particular photo. I also browse my photos using the map in Lightroom Classic CC, and often seeing a location pin on the map reminds me of a photo that might work well for a particular project.

That said, not every photographer will find this location information particularly helpful. A studio-based portrait photographer, for example, would probably not benefit from GPS metadata at all. If you don’t find that information helpful, there probably isn’t a great benefit to recording a track log or enabling GPS in your camera (if your camera is equipped with GPS).

As noted in today’s question, however, a “location snapshot” can provide a good compromise. When you want to know the specific location of a photo, you can use a smartphone (with GPS enabled) to capture a snapshot that will contain location metadata. You can then reference that information to recall where photos captured without the benefit of GPS were captured. This type of hybrid approach provides a good solution for photographers who only need location information periodically, rather than for most (or all) of their photos.