GeoTagr review: iPhone app to geotag your photographs

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Importing into Aperture

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

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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.

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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.

What do the Aperture badges mean?

There are a myriad things you can do to a photograph in Apple's Aperture. A typical workflow may include applying ratings, keywords, location, adjustments, and round-tripping your images to external editors. Then there are albums, stacks, books, light tables, and more. It's easy to loose track of what you've done to and with each photograph.

Fortunately, Aperture makes it easy for you to quickly identify the key things you need to know. It does this by overlaying small symbols in the corners of your photographs called badges.

I get asked often what these badges in Aperture mean, so I've put together the table below to point people to. It shows you the icon for the badge, a description, and the location where this badge will appear.

The badges in Aperture

BADGE DESCRIPTION LOCATION
badge adjustments This means adjustments have been made to the photograph. This badge will appear whenever you add any adjustment from the adjustments tab. It basically lets you know that you've already done something to the image. A version with two sliders is sometimes used. Lower Right
badge keywords This means the photograph has keywords assigned to it. Lower Right
external edit This means the photograph has been edited in an external editor. Whenever you select "Edit with..." and choose an application or a plug-in (ie. Photoshop, Nik, onOne, etc.) Lower Right
badge referenced This means the photograph is referenced. That is, the master file (or original) is not stored within the Aperture library, called managed, but it's somewhere else and Aperture is only referencing it. Lower Right
badge referenced offline This means the photograph is referenced, but the master image is offline. This will happen if you have the masters in an external drive and it's not attached to the computer. Lower Right
badge referenced lost This means Aperture expects the photograph to be referenced, but cannot find the master and it's lost the path to where it is. You may need to re-sync. Lower Right
badge ratings stars This is the rating you've assigned to the photograph. It goes from 1 star to 5 stars. If the photograph is unrated it won't have a badge, and if it's been rejected it'll have an 'X' instead of stars. Lower Left
badge stack This badge tells you the image is part of a stack and how many photographs are contained in the stack. Upper Left
stacks This is also for stacks, but it tells you you're looking at the second image in a stack of 3. It will appear, for example, within a smart album where not all images in the stack are visible. Imagine a smart album where the filter is 3 stars or more. If only the second image in the stack is a 3 star photograph, while the others are 1 star, you'll see this badge. Upper Left
badge low resolution This badge will appear whenever the image resolution is too low for the book or webpage you're trying to create. The badge appears in the image within the book/webpage, not in the thumbnail though. Upper Right
album-pick This badge tells you the photograph is the album's pick. It's useful when you have, for example, a stack of 3 images. One Black & White, one Full Color, one Color Monochrome. If you do 3 albums, one for B&W's, one for color shots, etc, you can "pick" the one that goes into each album from the stack. Upper Centre
book This badge tells you the number of times the photograph has been used within a book, web journal or light table. Upper Right
globe This one doesn't seem to be documented anywhere. I haven't seen it since MobileMe died. The badge is a little globe and it was used for images that came from a MobileMe gallery. For example, if you exported a gallery to MobileMe, then deleted the original image from your Library, and then synced the MobileMe gallery again, Aperture would know the master is missing from the Library and will pull down the jpeg from MobileMe with this badge. Lower Right
badge photostream This one means Aperture downloaded this image from Photo Stream, Facebook or Flickr. Lower Right
“badges This means a location has been assigned to the image. You'll see it in the Places view. Upper Centre
“badges This means the image is part of a RAW + JPEG pair (you imported them together), and this is the RAW version. Lower Right
“badges This means the image is part of a RAW + JPEG pair (you imported them together), and this is the JPEG version. Lower Right
“badges This means the photograph has an audio file attached (some cameras let you record an audio file when you take a photograph) or the file is an audio file. Lower Right
“badges This means the file is a video and not a photograph. Lower Right

Of course, you can also consult the manual, which includes a short description for most of Aperture's badges. It doesn't, however, include them all.

You can also get to the manual from within Aperture itself. Just go to Help > Aperture Help. Unfortunately, the search doesn't work very well here. Searching for "badges" doesn't point me to the right page. But searching for "badge overlays overview" does, which is the title of the page. Very annoying if you ask me.

How to read the badge overlays in Aperture

Let's look at a specific example. The thumbnail below has several badges, can you identify what it's telling you?

Aperture badges

Aperture badges

You can learn multiple things just from looking at the badges in the image above:

  1. I've rated it 4 Stars.
  2. I've edited in an external editor (Nik Plugin).
  3. I've made further adjustments in Aperture.
  4. I've assigned keywords.
  5. It's part of a stack of 4 images.
  6. It's the album pick (for a book).
  7. I've used it once in the book.
  8. I've applied the grey label.

Aperture's badges are a great way to know what you've done to a photograph. I find them immensely helpful as part of my workflow and a huge time saver.

How to add borders in Aperture

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Sometimes I like to add a border to my photographs when I export them for uploading to the web. Some people like to add a border to their images when they print. Either way, I hadn’t found an easy way to add a border without going to an image editing application like Photoshop.

Now that I’m using Apple’s Aperture for most of my workflow, I wanted to find a way to do this without having to leave the application.

Unfortunately this functionality isn’t available in Aperture as far as I know. So after some searching, I found a pretty cool export plugin called BorderFX that does just that. And it’s quite flexible in what you can do with the borders. And it’s free! Although the author asks for a donation if you find the plug-in useful.

Adding a border in Aperture with BorderFX

Adding a border in Aperture with BorderFX

BorderFX lets you:

  • Add borders to your images on export. You can even add strokes and drop shadows.
  • Add text from either your IPTC data (such as caption, copyright, EXIF info, version name, etc.) or free text.
  • Add a watermark. Similar to the way Aperture lets you do it.
  • Save border settings as presets.

I’m sure Apple will eventually build this functionality into Aperture, but until that happens this is a pretty cool plug-in that does what it promises very well. If you like to add borders to your photographs I suggest you download it and give it a try.

The image at the top of this post was exported using BorderFX.

You can get BorderFX from:

UPDATE May 2010: BorderFX has just been updated to be compatible with Aperture 3 with 64-bit support. It's even better than it used to be. Definitely recommended.

Apple Aperture Workflow: My Aperture Ratings

Apple Aperture ratings options

Apple Aperture ratings options

I’ve never been entirely convinced that my Aperture ratings system is adequate. I changed it way too many times and finally settled on one more out of frustration with having my photographs all over the place than anything else. Either way, I don’t think I’ll be changing it any time soon... unless I discover (or somebody shows me) a much smarter way.

I did search the web for what others were doing, but couldn’t find much regarding Aperture ratings. It seems photographers don’t like sharing this kind of thing. Or maybe they’re just as confused as I am about the whole thing so I’m posting what I do. Hopefully it’ll help you to decide on a rating strategy that works for you.

In Aperture, you use stars to rate your photographs. As the screenshot above shows, you have from no stars for “unrated” images up to 5 stars. There’s also a “reject” mode for those shots that just don’t cut it.

Aperture has a “pick” button that I never use as it assigns 5 stars to the image. To me, a 5 star image is a final, edited, and superb shot. And there are very few of those in my library. This is one aspect that I feel Lightroom is superior, as it gives you not only stars, but a flag for “pick” or “reject”, and you can even assign colors to the shots.

So, here’s what the stars mean to me:

  • 0 Stars - All photographs are “unrated” on import. I leave unrated my average shots, those not bad enough to delete
  • 1 Star - Picks on First pass. As I go through my photographs, I assign 1 star to my “picks”. Basically any shot I consider decent.
  • 2 Stars - Picks to Edit. I do a second pass of the 1 stars and give an extra star to the best of the shoot. These are the ones I’ll spend some time editing.
  • 3 Stars - Edited. Once I’ve done some post-processing and I’m happy with the results, I’ll give them 3 stars. These are the final photographs.
  • 4 Stars - Out of the final ones, I’ll give 4 stars to the best of the shoot. Very few get 4 stars.
  • 5 Stars - Portfolio Shots. Some photographs may not have any 5 star shots. I reserve this for my very best only.

As I go through the first pass, I also mark as “reject” the photographs I know I won’t want to keep.

Aperture makes it really easy to go through a shoot and rate your photographs. I almost always go into full screen and use the keyboard to rate them as I go along. The numbers in the keyboard correspond to the amount of stars, and hitting the 9 marks them as rejects. I advance to the next shot with the arrow keys.

So there it is. That's my Aperture ratings workflow.