Geotag photos for the Apple Photos application

This post no longer applies to Apple Photos 2.0 under macOS 10.12 Sierra. HoudahGeo 5.1 can now add location information to photos in the Photos library.

The most common workflow for geotagging photos with HoudahGeo is:

  1. Import photos into iPhoto or Aperture
  2. Geocode the photos using HoudahGeo
  3. Write geotags to the original image files
  4. Notify iPhoto or Aperture of the newly added geotags

The new Apple Photos application lacks the programmatic interface needed for HoudahGeo to notify it of changes made to geotags.

Until this issue is resolved, we recommend that you geotag your photos before importing them into the Photos library.

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View your photos in Google Earth

Geocoding photos serves two main purposes:

  • Geotags provide extra information that can be used to catalog and find photos. Years from now, you may not remember when you took the photo you are looking for. But you will remember roughly where you took it
  • Geotags add to the “story” of a photo. With the photo pinned to a map, you can see the exact spot where it was taken. Add a GPS track log to see how you got there

One way to view and show geotagged photos is to create a Google Earth file with both the photos and the GPS track log. Now you have a bird’s eye view of your trip and the spots where you stopped to take photos.

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Custom keyboard shortcuts on Mac OS X

UPDATE: There finally is a better solution. Introducing CustomShortcuts.

On Mac OS X it is easy to set custom keyboard shortcuts for just about any menu item. Still this great feature is often overlooked.

  • Don’t like one of the default keyboard shortcuts in HoudahSpot?
  • Find yourself using the same HoudahGeo menu item over and over again?
  • Do you want to switch the Mail.app From: account without having to reach for the mouse?

Learn how to set up custom keyboard shortcuts for menu items in any Mac OS X application.

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Automatic geocoding: Camera clock setup

Digital cameras record the exact time each photo was taken. HoudahGeo relies on this information to match photos to a GPS tracklog. Unfortunately, most digital cameras fail to specify which time zone the recorded time is expressed in. I.e for a photo taken at noon, HoudahGeo cannot tell if it was noon in Los Angeles, or in Luxembourg, etc.

HoudahGeo thus needs a little help to make sense of the camera timestamps. Getting camera clock setup right is essential for automatic geocoding to work.

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Save Aperture / iPhoto Places geotags to EXIF

Apple has announced plans to cease development of Aperture. Corel and Adobe have already started courting photography enthusiasts and professionals with their respective photo management and editing products.

Before moving away from Aperture you will want to safeguard geotags currently stored with Aperture Places. HoudahGeo can copy these to industry-standard EXIF / XMP tags embedded within your JPEG or RAW image files. There geotags will be available for other photo management and editing tools to pick up.

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Geocoding using iPhone reference photos

HoudahGeo offers several options for geocoding your photos: automatic using GPS track logs, using GPS waypoints, using built-in maps, using Google Earth, etc.

One of the lesser known options is geocoding from reference photos (aka. gap fill geocoding). The basic idea behind this technique is pretty simple. Your iPhone creates geocoded photos. You may however find the camera lacking when compared to your regular digital camera. Your preferred camera on the other hand lacks a GPS chip. HoudahGeo can match up geocoded photos from your iPhone with photos taken around the same time using your regular camera. It can thus assume both were taken at the same location.

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Tag photos managed by iPhoto or Aperture

Do you use iPhoto or Aperture to import photos from your camera? No problem. You can still use HoudahGeo to tag your photos.

HoudahGeo integrates tightly with iPhoto and Aperture. You can browse your photo libraries using HoudahGeo. To geotag photos, drag them from the sidebar into the Images list of your HoudahGeo project.

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