Brief Thoughts On Geotagging Images

March 18, 2019

37°54'26.6"N 122°37'02.5"W

So this photo itself is kind of lame, but it did get us thinking about how the OMD-EM1X is the first camera1 we’ve owned with a built-in GPS that actually works.2 We’d never really thought such a thing could be useful, but now that we’ve got a bunch of photos that are accurately tagged, it opens up a lot of possibilities such as allowing search by location on this site or even finally clicking on the “maps” module in Lightroom which up until now has been naught but a gimmick3.

There’s debate in the photography community about whether geotagging images is a good or a bad thing - on the plus side, it helps people discover and appreciate the incredible beauty of nature. On the other hand, geotagging coupled with the viral nature of instagram and other social media have led to the rampant destruction of nature and trampling of previously pristine and beautiful locations by disrespectful swarms of tourists “doing things for the ‘gram” and not giving a crap in the process4.

So personally, we wonder if it really is a good idea to add GPS coordinates for where we take our photos5. But we also really hate selfish photographers - the kind that never share the unretouched images with models6, never talk about their post-processing7, never reveal their shooting locations8. The democratization of information and techniques is one of the most wonderful things about the internet and we feel that just as we have all learned from others sharing with us, so too is it our responsibility to share back to our peers and the next generation as well.

Anyway. No conclusion overall, but given that Mount Tam is already a well-known location, for those curious here’s the coordinates to this shot and the one from yesterday.

Happy shooting.9

  1. Other than the iPhone. Talking pro DSLR/mirrorless bodies here. 

  2. Many years ago we owned the Canon EOS-1DXM2 which had many positive things going for it (at the time) one of which in theory was a built-in GPS. Only thing is, we could never get it to work no matter what we did (wide open field on the top of a tall hill with nary an obstruction in sight on a bright sunny day? Nope, doesn’t work… sigh), which was pretty frustrating for a $5000+ plus camera. Our subsequent cameras such as the Sony A9 all required janky smartphone app connections10 to enable GPS tagging of photos, which of course never worked so we all-but gave up on GPS in a camera. 

  3. Don’t get me started on the facial recognition/people tab - if you ever wanted to blow up your CPU for no useful purpose whatsoever, this is the tab for you. 

  4. It reminds me of assinine drone owners who don’t care to learn the rules and ruin things for the rest of us. We were resting near a stream in Yosemite last year when suddenly we hear the unmistakable sound of a Mavic Pro flying overhead. Not only are drones prohibited in National Parks, but there were also dozens of kids and families playing in the stream - you’re never supposed to fly drones over people. We told the couple flying the drone to stop, but they just brushed us off. Jackasses. Similar situation at the top of Takao San in Tokyo last year as well - two tourists from overseas just randomly stopped in the middle of the walkways filled with people, unpack a drone and start flying it over the crowds. What. In. The. F*** ? 

  5. To say nothing of the privacy implications. We obviously would only turn on GPS for outdoor/nature/sports shots, not for studio shoots, etc. 

  6. For non-client TFP shoots, we always share a SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) dump of all images with the models right after the shoot for them to choose the ones they like which we’ll later post porocess - we can’t count how many times we’ve heard them say “oh my god, I get all the photos?! Thank you so much!” - so many photographers act like their SOOC shots are these precious mysterious things that must never be seen by human eyes - only their perfectly-edited uber retouched final picks should ever see light of day. Which would be okay if it didn’t take them weeks or even months to process photos and even then they only share like 4 or 5 shots out of 1000. Bro, we get it, you shoot RAW and under-expose to avoid blowing highlights just like the rest of us, and yeah, it can suck sometimes if a model shares an unprocessed, deliberately under-exposed image with the world when it would look better with retouching, but that’s life. And more importantly, that’s what TFP means. 

  7. Few things irk us more than photographers who post highly-retouched and edited shots pretending they came straight out of camera like that. “Oh yeah, I just cropped a little in PS but that’s it.” My arse. How about the 20 layers of curves, vibrance, dodge/burn, clarity and so on? That, or folks who clearly drop a few presets on there but won’t admit to it. We all use presets, there’s no shame in that, why won’t y’all admit it? 

  8. For model shoots on IG when there’s clearly no ecological impact and it’s just a random pretty shooting location, but they want to keep ish secret for no reason other than they are sponges who will gladly suck up information but never share it back out. The community only works if people both give and take

  9. This is one of those posts where the footnotes are longer than the entry itself. That, and unneccessary hyphenation have always been two of our greatest literary failings. 

  10. Why do all camera smartphone apps suck so very, very badly? And don’t get me started on the near-universal lack of iPad support. 11 

  11. Yes, we just did a footnote inside of a footnote inside of a footnote. We need to go deeper

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