In just a few weeks it will be the beginning of summer, and with the change in season comes a rise in the number of photographs you're bound to take. Yahoo-owned photo site Flickr, for instance, gets an average of 4 million photos uploaded a day during the summer months, which amounts to a 30 percent increase versus the rest of the year.
Summer shooters are also likely to be taking these photos while out and about, be it a weekend trip or a vacation. And if that's the case, the argument for geotagging is becoming increasingly strong.
Why geotag? For one, it makes your photos easier to organize in software like Google's Picasa, Adobe's Lightroom, and Apple's Aperture 3 and iPhoto software. More importantly, it can add an extra level of interactivity to your photos once they're hosted on photo-sharing sites like Smugmug, Flickr, and Picasa that group together user-shared shots on a map.
The sad truth though is that unless you're snapping photos with your smartphone's camera, you're not going to be getting that sweet, sweet GPS data appended to your shots. But fear not, there are plenty of solutions out there, and they're getting cheaper and more plentiful. One of the ones I tried out this past weekend proved to be remarkably simple and effective. Best of all, it will work with just about any camera--past, present, and likely those from the future.
What I chose to use was an Eye-Fi X2 Explorer SD card, a $99 Wi-Fi-enabled Secure Digital memory card with a built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi antenna and embedded software that can add GPS data to your photos as soon as you've taken them. The one prerequisite is that you need a Wi-Fi connection for the Eye-Fi to figure out where you are. I solved this by linking the card up wirelessly to my Android smartphone (a Nexus One) that was running Android 2.2 (aka "Froyo")--the latest version of the operating system that lets users turn their phone into a wireless Wi-Fi hotspot.
This combination works in perfect harmony; as I took photos with my digital camera, it ping-ed my phone's Wi-Fi signal to grab GPS data. These coordinates are not from your phone's GPS signal, but from your location as guesstimated by the embedded technology from Skyhook Wireless. This is the same company that furnishes the location estimator for Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, as well as for third-party Web sites that use the company's "find me" button to let visitors share their location. It may not have the extreme accuracy of "real" GPS, but it's almost instantaneous, works indoors, and is accurate to around 20-30 meters.
Getting rid of more wires, middleware, and proprietary hardware
Beyond adding simple geotags, the Eye-Fi card can also be set to beam photos up to places like Facebook and Flickr, as soon as they're taken. This cuts out the need to haul around a computer with you if you're on vacation, since you can make edits later on down the line. The company's Explore X2 and Pro X2 cards are also able to automatically hop on to AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots.
All in all, this is a particularly more convenient system than what was previously possible on mobile phones that didn't have a Wi-Fi tethering mode. I, as well as my CNET colleague Stephen Shankland, had explored using an alternate geotagging method using an Android application called My Tracks. With it you could set your phone to record your GPS location as you moved around; it, in turn, would spit out a log of your whereabouts.
Software like Apple's Aperture 3 had a handy feature that would let you drag and drop the GPS log from My Tracks into its library to have it map out that particular trip, then link it up to a "roll" of photos you had taken. Apple's implementation of it was not automated though; you still had to tell it where you started taking photos, and pick that particular shot. From there, it would assign GPS coordinates to the rest of the photos in that roll based on when you took the shots. … Read more