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GPS Photography Walkthrough

How would you like to travel and keep track of all the cool places you've been?
How would you like to be able to go back to that awesome photo location you found while hiking?
How would you like to share your favorite locations with friends and family?

You can do it easily thanks to GPS! By carrying around a portable receiver, you can now keep track of everywhere you've been and know exactly where each photo was taken!

Combine your GPS information with the timestamps in the photos, upload your photos to the web, and they'll be automatically mapped out on the globe!

Here's exactly how you do it:

 

1. Purchase a portable GPS receiver.

  • If you're on a budget, you can pick up the inexpensive Sony GPS-CS1. All you do is turn it on, give it a moment to lock onto the satellites, clip it onto yourself, and start shooting!
  • Sony GPS-CS1

  • If you're looking for a more sophisticated device with mapping capabilities, receivers by Garmin and Magellan are excellent. I use the Garmin GPSmap 60CSx and it works beautifully.
  • Garmin GPSMap 60CSx


2. Synchronize your GPS receiver, computer, and camera's clocks.


    Your GPS receiver's clock is extremely accurate since it synchronizes with the atomic clocks embedded within the satellites. Your camera's clock needs to be synchronized with the GPS clocks and there's a number of ways to do this:
  • Most cameras offer the ability to manually set the time via the in-camera menus. You can punch the same time into your camera while looking at your GPS receiver's screen (if it has one) so that the two are in sync.

    Set Camera Clock

    Here's a more precise method:

  • Many handheld GPS receivers come with software that let you synchronize your computer's clock to the GPS atomic clock.
  • Synchronize GPS clock with computer

  • If your receiver doesn't have this ability, you can just as easily update your computer's clock over the internet.

    Set Clock Online

  • Some camera manufacturers provide a way to directly sync your computer's clock with your camera's clock. Once your computer's clock is accurate, plug your camera into your computer with the USB or Firewire cable and launch the appropriate software. With Canon, EOS Viewer is perfect.
  • Set Camera's Clock Accurately

  • If you forget to accurately set your camera's clock, don't worry. You can correct for any errors as long as you know how far off the camera's clock is from the actual time by specifying the Camera Offset. This is handy when you're out traveling and change timezones, but you forget to adjust the clock in your camera and/or GPS receiver!

3. Go out and shoot!

  • Enable your GPS receiver's "tracklog" feature so that it actively records everywhere you've been. Every few seconds, your GPS device will log where you are on the globe, along with the current time.

  • If your GPS receiver has mapping and navigation abilities, that's an added bonus in case you want to return back to a location you visited earlier, such as coming back to a previously scouted location for golden hour. Outdoor Navigation with GPS is a handy little book to help you out there.

4. Software installation and Image conversion.

  • Now that you've been out and about taking photos, it's time to match up the GPS receiver's tracklog timestamps with each photo's EXIF timestamp.

  • Sony's GPS-CS1 comes with Sony's custom software package which, quite frankly, is pretty lousy. Regardless of which GPS receiver you purchase, download a copy of RoboGEO.

  • Note: Camera manufacturers are constantly changing the specifications for their custom proprietary RAW formats which makes it tougher on software developers who have to keep releasing updates to maintain support for the latest and greatest cameras. RoboGEO's author has chosen NOT to support Canon's .CR2 and .CRW raw formats or Nikon's .NEF format.

  • If you shot in a RAW format, you'll need to convert to one of RoboGEO's compatible formats such as .DNG, .JPG, or .TIF.
    (The Canon 1D raw format is .TIF and it WILL work with RoboGEO, despite being a RAW format.)

5. Add GPS data into your photos' EXIF information.

  • Fire up RoboGEO and plug your GPS receiver into your computer.
  • RoboGEO Steps


6. Combine your photos with maps!

  • Now what? Let's share your photos and locations with the world!

  • Add your photos to Google Earth by submitting your geolocated images to Panoramio.
  • Submit your photos to Flickr or Smugmug and they'll automatically map out your collection of images.
  • Pixelpost, the popular photoblog application, supports mapping through a Google Maps addon.
  • Webmasters can even add maps directly to their websites using the Google Maps API.