Add GPS Coordinates To Your Photos

Back in December I did a post about digiKam's new tagging features. In that article I briefly mentioned another new feature that supports adding GPS coordinates to a photo's metadata. Today I'll explore how to do it.

While I don't know of any digital cameras that come with built-in GPS to automatically add coordinates, it is possible to use a GPS device to gather geolocation data separately. One device marketed for this purpose is Sony's GPS-CS1 GPS Device for CyberShot Digital Cameras. But if you are like me and don't own a GPS, don't despair, it's still easy to add the coordinates yourself.

digiKam can add coordinates in one of two ways. The first is by importing a GPX file and the second is by selecting a location from Google Maps. The coordinates you define through these methods include longitude, latitude, and altitude. If you use the Google Maps method then the altitude will always be set to 0. You can change it manually if you wish.

I used digiKam version 0.9 and kipi-plugins version 0.1.4 for this example.

Adding GPS Coordinates

Select Geolocalization from the Image menu and pick Edit Coordinates.

Wait a few moments for a Google map to load then select and zoom in until you find the appropriate location. Once you have it click OK to save the coordinates.

To add a location to multiple pictures, highlight them in the main view, select Geolocalization from the Image menu, and pick Correlator. Make sure that each of the files that you want the coordinates applied to are highlighted in this view as well. Click Edit and choose the location just like you did in the single file example. Select Apply and then Close to save the location and return to the main view.

Viewing the Location

Open up the Metadata sidebar and select the GPS tab to view the coordinates you just added. The coordinates will be listed and their location shown on a map. A dropdown box at the bottom of the sidebar gives four online mapping services: MapQuest, Google Maps, MSN Maps, and MultiMap. Clicking More Info will load one of those pages in your default web browser.


How useful is this feature? I'm sure there will be some who say why bother, but I think it's a great addition. When you first add some photos to your collection it may seem that the location is obvious, but adding geolocation coordinates can be valuable for one of the same reasons that tags and comments can be valuable. They help us to remember.

I often find myself looking at old photos and not quite remembering where they were taken. Pictures of a centuries old church in England and one in France can lose their distinction when looking years later with an ocean between here and there. Knowing the location adds context.

Thanks to the digiKam and kipi-plugins teams for giving us this capability. Being able to add a location is useful, but I hope that it won't be long before some cameras start coming with GPS built-in.