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Geocoding photos means attaching location information to them. You can then make links between maps and your photos, so that people can see exactly where your photos were taken. Digital photo file formats support the addition of this geographic information (latitude and longitude). There are a number of different ways this can be done:

Once you've coded your photos, there are various ways of viewing them on different maps.

I have also gathered additional reference information if you want to explore beyond this page.

Eventually I expect that almost all digital cameras will come with built-in GPS (or equivalent system). An intermediate stage may have cameras that can connect to an external GPS, e.g. over Bluetooth. Of course, if you have a camera built-in to your cellphone, it can probably access the cell tower info, and may even have a GPS as well.

Terminology / Definitions

These are my definitions, describing how I have used these words on this page.

any action of matching an item with a geographic location
embedding geographic location information WITHIN a digital photo, e.g. in the EXIF metadata
adding EXTERNAL tags outside a photo to provide location information, e.g. in Flickr, typically geotagged, geo:lat=, geo:lon=

Note for Canadian shoppers: Amazon.com does not ship most electronics to Canada, and Amazon.ca does not sell most electronics.


If you want to manually geocode or geotag your photos, you have a number of options:

Flickr now offers built-in georeferencing using Yahoo Maps (Yahoo owns Flickr). See my blog posting Flickr's built-in geocoding - your photos on Yahoo Maps for more information.

Google Picasa version 2.5 supports manual geocoding of photos using Google Earth.

Using Cellphone Information

There are various applications that will try to determine location based on cell towers (or cell towers plus other info). So far the ones I have found require Nokia Series 60 (S60) phones. These include

Using GPS

The approach that interests me most is using an external GPS. The way this works is, even if your camera can't talk to the GPS, you can still do an automatic geocoding. You record a continuous, time-stamped track of your location from the GPS. Your camera also takes time-stamped photos. (Obviously you will want to synchonize the camera time as closely as possible with the GPS.) Then you just run a program that compares the photo time with the location recorded for that time and voila: geocoded photos. Most of the GPS hardware listed below now costs around US$100.

Mac and Windows software

JetPhoto (a free download) will do GPS timestamp matching coding on Mac and Windows.

Windows only software

Mac only software

Other software

Camera Companion Hardware

Sony has a combination GPS receiver and GPS data logger, the GPS-CS1 (Amazon.com - Sony GPS Unit For Sony Digital Still Cameras - USA only). It is a basic 12-channel GPS with no screen, but in addition it stores your position continuously, logging your location every 15 seconds. It has 31MB of storage and runs off a single AA battery. You download the data from it using USB, and then use time-stamp matching in some included software called "GPS Image Tracker" to match your photos with locations. The option to plot photos on Google Maps is also provided. The software is Windows-only. There's some more info at DPreview, Imaging Resource, and at Sony Japan.

You can check out my review of the Sony GPS-CS1, including photos and some comparison testing. As well, Digital World Tokyo has a review (including video of the unit and software in use) and states It should work on any digital camera that outputs JPEG images with EXIF 2.1 standard metadata.

In Canada, the GPS-CS1 is available from SonyStyle.ca for Can$130. I got mine from there.

The GiSTEQ DPL700 PhotoTrackr Lite and other GiSTEQ PhotoTrackr models combine hardware (MTK or Nemerix chipsets) and software to provide a complete photo geocoding experience. Much better hardware and software than the sony. See my review of the DPL700, and the GPS Passion review of the older CD111 PhotoTrackr.

GPS Loggers

GPS Loggers are designed to record GPS locations to local memory, for later download to your computer. Like the Sony unit above, they may perform ONLY this function, with no real-time data available externally, or they may provide an option to access location information as a NMEA serial stream over USB or Bluetooth.

You can check out my reviews of:

As in the case of GPS receivers shown below, you will need additional software in order to geocode photos using the data points from a GPS logger.

GPS Receivers

I am by no means an expert in GPS receivers. The SIRFstar III and MTK chipsets are more sensitive than SIRFstar II. Please note: the GPS receivers I will mention below DO NOT have a built-in display or data logging. They only communicate with the GPS satellites and stream out information about your current position (over Bluetooth or USB connections usually). You need another device (laptop, Pocket PC, etc.) to log the information, or to display the GPS data on a map.


One interesting way to get a receiver is to buy Microsoft Streets and Trips 2006 with GPS locator ( Amazon.com , Amazon.ca ). It comes with a basic GPS, a rebranded (with Microsoft logo, of course) Pharos iGPS-360. Includes a USB cable and comes with Pocket Streets software as well. If you want to make it into a Bluetooth GPS, you can get a Pharos Bluetooth adapter. You will need the Bluetooth if you e.g. want the receiver to communicate with a Pocket PC running Pocket Streets.

However, please note that Streets and Trips 2006 will be replaced with the 2007 version as of October 12, 2006. See below, as it has a SIRFstarIII GPS.

Some other purchase options are

Note: If you want the Pharos Ostia Canadian maps you need to find bundle PTCAN200.


Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007 with GPS Locator [DVD]. The box cover reads "New SIRFstarIII GPS Locator is ultra-compact and 10 times more sensitive". It is USB, but you can buy a Bluetooth adapter. US$110.
[Microsoft Streets and Trips box]Buy from Amazon.com Also available from Amazon.ca

I only know of a few models that are both SIRFstar III and Bluetooth:

* Note: for Holux models, if you want to use them over USB (so-called GPS-mouse or G-mouse mode), you will have to buy a separate USB data cable (Holux part #GR230-A2). Although the Holux connector looks like standard USB, a regular USB cable will only provide power to the Holux; it can't be used for data.

Amazon.com won't ship electronics to Canada, and Amazon.ca doesn't sell electronics. I personally purchased the Holux GPSlim236 from NCIX.com in Canada. It is currently (August 17, 2006) showing a price of Can$130. You can link to NCIX through the banner below.


Built-in Camera Interfaces

Right now, there are only a few digital camera models with GPS or GPS support, and they are extremely expensive.

The Nikon D2X ( Amazon.com , Amazon.com ), D2Hs ( Amazon.com ), and D200 ( Amazon.com ) can connect to a GPS using the MC-35 GPS Adapter Cord. Connects GPS devices to D2X and D2Hs via PC cable supplied by manufacturer of GPS device.

The Ricoh Caplio Pro G3 can use either a Compact Flash GPS, or it can communicate with an external Bluetooth GPS using a Compact Flash Bluetooth card. I *think* it has both a CF slot for I/O, and a Secure Digital/MMC slot for memory. There is more information about this camera setup from GeoSpatial Experts - Advanced Solutions.

The Kodak Professional DCS Pro SLR Series Digital Cameras ( Amazon.com ) and Kodak Professional DCS Pro 14n Digital Camera ( Amazon.com ) can connect to a GPS, see Kodak - How to Connect a GPS Unit.

The importance of place - GPS and photography is a great article by Ruth Happel (November 30, 2005) that introduces this topic and then gives a detailed review of using the Nikon D2X with a GPS.

The information about the GMapper software also includes a discussion of using the Nikon D200 with a GPS.

I also have a not particularly up-to-date list of other Canadian online vendors I trust at Canadian Online Shopping Tour.

Using Wireless Network Information

The Loki software (Windows XP only) is a plugin for Firefox or IE that determines your location based on the signal strength of known wi-fi access points (so it will only work within areas that it has coverage data for). I know we're running short of names for software, but naming your app after the god of mischief? There are no Canadian cities mapped. The WPS system is currently operational in the metro areas of the 100 largest cities in the US and expanding daily. We plan to begin our European and Asian expansion towards the end of 2006.

Windows Live Local has a Locate Me feature that uses some Microsoft software called Location Finder.

Using Any Network Information

Viewing Geotagged Photos


Flickr should automatically detect and display geotagged photos. If your geotagged photos are not getting displayed within Flickr, try http://flickr.com/account/geo/import/

Flickr can also map geocoded photos, that have the location in the EXIF, but currently only for newly uploaded photos. Set this preference at http://flickr.com/account/geo/exif/

Apps that understand new Flickr API (or EXIF)

Older Geotag-based Apps



References for WiFi Location


Discussion Groups


Mostly about general GPS, mapping, geo-topics - not specifically about photo tagging.

The EXIF and IPTC Specifications

I am definitely not an expert in these standards, but here's some info I found from RoboGEO - EXIF and IPTC fields.

EXIF (version 2.2, PDF) includes many fields for GPS info:

For more information, see Wikipedia - EXIF.

The IPTC standard is more about tagging for news agencies, but it does have some fields relevant to location:

For more information, see Wikipedia - International Press Telecommunications Council.

Copyright © 2006-2007 Richard Akerman. All Rights Reserved. No mirroring without prior written consent.

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