GeoTagr review: iPhone app to geotag your photographs

geotagr-app-review.png

UPDATE (24 March 2014): A new version of GeoTagr is out with additional features and full iOS7 support. It's now better than ever. Highly recommended.

Geotagr is an iOS app that continuously records your location while you're out taking photographs and lets you geotag them afterwards.

According to Wikipedia, "geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as a geotagged photograph or video." Basically, it means your photographs include the location they were shot at as part of the metadata, which you can read later to find, sort, or just see where exactly you took them.

Photographs taken with the iPhone are geotagged as you shoot them. The iPhone uses its GPS to determine your location and assigns it to photos taken with it's Camera app automatically.

However, the photographs you take with your regular camera are unlikely to include location information. Although growing, the number of non-phone cameras with built-in GPS capabilities is still relatively small, so if you want to geotag photographs from these you need to do it separately using a different device to track your location.

This is where GeoTagr comes in.

GeoTagr uses the GPS in your iPhone or iPad to track your location and then matches it to your photos based on the time stamp.

GeoTagr allows you to geotag photos in your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Dropbox, Flickr and others straight from the app. It doesn't require a separate desktop app to do it, although you can also export a gpx file and import it into Aperture or Lightroom and do the geotagging there.

GeoTagr a universal (iPhone and iPad) app developed by Galarina and sells for US$4.99 in the App Store.

Using GeoTagr in a real situation

So that was the sales pitch, but how well does it work in a real life situation?

That's what I set out to find out. I had used GeoTagr a couple of times around the house to test it and it all worked as expected, but I didn't think it was sufficient to really understand how it works enough to write a review. Fortunately, I had an upcoming road trip to New Zealand, which seemed like the perfect way to test it, so I did just that.

I spent 2 weeks traveling around the north island and I took over 1,200 photographs, which I wanted to geotag. I took only a Panasonic GF1 and an iPhone 4 with me (GeoTagr is optimised for the larger screen of the iPhone 5/s/c, but I only had the 4 at the time).

I didn't get a data plan while in New Zealand, so I turned off both Data Roaming and Cellular Data to avoid any unexpected charges. I could only make calls and text messages. No Internet, so no maps.

There are essentially 3 steps to geotagging with GeoTagr:

  1. Record location
  2. Geotag photos
  3. Import to Aperture (or Lightroom/iPhoto/whatever)

Here's what happened on my trip:

Recording your location

Every morning, before even taking the first photo, I opened GeoTagr on my iPhone and let it track and record my location all day until I returned to the hotel at night.

geotagr-review-01.png

Upon startup, GeoTagr shows you a screen with one big red "Record" button and a note reminding you to synchronise the time on your iPhone and camera. This is a very nice and useful touch since it's easy to forget and geotagging won't work if your devices aren't syncronised.

I had my camera in Australian time and my iPhone had already changed to the local time automatically. Fortunately, GeoTagr was smart enough to notice and gave me a handy warning.

geotagr-review-02.png

Even with all these warnings I managed to screw it up on the first day. I did change the time on my camera, but foolishly set it as PM instead of AM. Dumb, but it was easy to correct within Aperture. Anyway, moving on.

Tap the "Record" button and GeoTagr will start tracking your location.

I was initially concerned about battery life, but I was pleasantly surprised that it lasted all day. The longest stretch was 18 continuous hours and I still had 12% battery left at the end. Of course, keep in mind that I had roaming and data off, and I only turned on the screen occasionally to take photograph. Under normal circumstances the battery drain is also negligible.

The lack of Internet connection wasn't an issue either. GeoTagr tracks your location constantly and you can see the track and distance, but without data it just doesn't download the maps.

geotagr-review-03.png

No worries. I don't need to see the map of where I am and I'd rather not spend unnecessary money with exhorbitant data charges. I love that GeoTagr works while overseas.

Geotagging the photographs

I didn't geotag the photos until I got back home. You basically have 2 options to geotag: use GeoTagr itself or export a gpx file and use another application, such as Aperture or Lightroom. Neither was doable during my trip.

Using GeoTagr itself, you can geotag:

  1. Photos in your iPad (transferred via the camera connection kit, which I didn't have)
  2. Photos online in Flickr, Smugmug or Google+ (which I didn't use for these photos)
  3. Photos in a folder in Dropbox (which take forever to upload with crappy hotel Wi-Fi)
  4. Photos in a shared folder on your Mac (which need the Mac and iPhone/iPad to be on the same Wi-Fi)

To geotag within Aperture, you need the gpx file on the Mac to be able to import. Unfortunately, the only ways to get it out of GeoTagr are to email it to yourself or sync it to Dropbox, both of which require an Internet connection. So geotagging had to wait until I was back.

I figured the easiest was to download all the photographs to my Mac into a shared folder and do it that way. The tracks were on the iPhone, but I wanted to use the iPad because of the bigger screen. It sounds rather complicated, but it was pretty straightforward and worked flawlesly. The only requirement is that all devices are on the same Wi-Fi.

This is what I did:

  1. I opened GeoTagr on both the iPhone and the iPad. The apps quickly saw each other and linked.
  2. From the iPad, I selected the shared folder on the Mac where my photos were.
  3. GeoTagr automatically finds photos it can geotag and goes ahead and does it. It even creates a copy of each photo as a back up just in case, since it's writing the metadata to the file itself if it's a jpeg.
geotagr-review-ipad-01.png

Importing into Aperture

Once GeoTagr finished, I imported the photos into Aperture. When finished, clicking on Places shows all images on the map.

geotagr-review-aperture.png

Awesome.

I have to admit, it's so much fun looking at photos in Places. I sat down with my family after the trip and went through the photos this way and everyone enjoyed looking at the map and remembering where we were.

One extra thing I did was email myself the full gpx file and import that into Aperture as well. I didn't use it to tag the photos, but just to show the full track. It's fun to see the whole trip. Some days, I took some photos in the morning in the town we woke up, then drove 2 hours, stopped for lunch, took some more photos, drove another hour, took more photos, etc. Having the gpx file shows me a line of everywhere I was.

While Aperture can geotag the photos off the gpx file, it's not that intuitive and in my experience it doesn't always get it right. I find it much easier to geotag with GeoTagr first and then import into Aperture.

Since the location metadata is embedded in the files, any application that can read geolocation will display it. For example, below is one of the photos from the New Zealand trip viewed in Preview. It shows latitude, longitude, altitude and even shows it on a map. Clicking on the "Locate" button opens up the exact location in Apple Maps.

geotagr-review-preview.png

If you pay attention to the date stamp in the photographs above you'll notice this trip was during the New Zealand winter of 2012. Hence the iPhone 4 screenshots. Since then I've used GeoTagr extensively.  I've become obsessed with geolocation to the point that I adjusted my Aperture workflow to ensure I have location metadata first.

My only complaint about GeoTagr is that the interface hasn't been updated to the look of iOS7. Although honestly this is a nice-to-have. The functionality is there and it already does everything I need.

If you're interested in geotagging your photographs without having to purchase additional hardware, give GeoTagr a try.