Do you geotag your images? Do you know what geotagging is or how it’s done?
When you geo-tag your pictures, you are simply adding in a latitude and longitude data point within the EXIF data so you know exactly where the image was taken. It alos allows you to share the location of images you’ve taken on the web. But is it a good thing to do?
If you want to geotag images there are two ways to do it. Either, you have it done automatically by the camera (and some accessories) or you manually input the data later on once the images are back on the computer. Some programs like Aperture allow you to do this for a batch as you input your files, others you’ll have to manually adjust the EXIF data for each image.
How to add location data to your images automatically…..
If you want to geotag images to make them location aware, you’ll need a Canon WFT WiFi transmitter. These WiFi units have a full-size USB plug on them allowing you to connect an external GPS unit like something from the Garmin eTrex range. With this connected, the camera will automatically collect the GPS data from the eTrex and add it into the EXIF data of each image you take with the camera. However, having a USB cable to a large GPS unit is a bit of a faff and there is a smoother way of doing it… It is possible to buy a very small blutetooth receiver that is hardly any bigger than a thumbnail and plugs into the USB socket on the WiFi unit. If you pair this with a Bluetooth GPS receiver, you can keep the bluetooth receiver in your bag and not have to worry about trailing cables.
OK, so now you know how to collect GPS data, should you?
This is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while and I’m not sure I have a fixed answer yet. In truth, I think it depends on exactly what you shoot. Imagine the scenario – you find a cracking location for a landscape photo. You spend months exploring the area, working out the best angle and time of day. Waiting for the right weather etc. And you geotag your image. If you post that image on the web with the GPS data embedded in it, anyone else can walk up to exactly your spot and repeat your picture. OK, so this may be a bit frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world and I’m not sure is a good enough reason not to geotag your images. After all, photography is about sharing and they will never have the same light as you unless they too put in the hours waiting.
However….now imagine the site becomes very popular, with hundreds (or thousands) of photographers turning up to capture the great beauty you’ve found. You may find that the wonderful location you’ve found is reduced to nothing more than a muddy criss-cross of tracks and tripod holes. And because photographers like to find their own angles, it could be over a wider area as others search around trying to improve on what you’ve done. Without the right infrastructure and sadly because not all photographers treat the areas they visit with as much respect as they should, it could lead to overwhelming damage to a previously unspoilt beauty spot.
Ok, so you may feel this is a bit far fetched, but how about if you photograph wildlife? Perhaps you’ve come across a badger sett, or something rarer like a Ghost Orchid site. If you merilly always geotag your images and then head off to shoot the ghost orchid, it may not be long before the location becomes known to all and the site again suffers damage through over-visiting. God forbid the orchid is trampled by someone clumsy who just doesn’t see it. Again, the world hasn’t ended, but there has been avoidable damage caused by geotagging of images.
All this is not to say that geotagging is bad though. There are many situations where it may be good to geotag your pictures – photojournalism for example where you want to prove the veracity of images and where they were taken. Or on a simple scale, sports photography at say a race track or football stadium. Setup cleverly you could have your images tagged and then with the use of a smart folder sorting system on your computer you could automatically group all images taken at a given venue.
So what’s your view? Do you geotag your images? If so, is it an automatic or manual process and if you do tag, have you had this same internal discussion about whether it’s a good or bad thing? Light up the comments with your views.