What is a GPS Photo Tagger?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

GPS is the abbreviation for “Global Positioning System.” It refers to a system that can use computers and satellites to determine a receiver’s position on Earth in latitude and longitude. A GPS photo tagger, or geotagger, is a device to add GPS information to photographs taken with a camera of phone.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

There are several different GPS photo tagger devices that work with cameras, depending on the camera model. If a camera has a built-in GPS receiver, then each photo can be automatically tagged with GPS data in the EXIF header of the photo, which is the location that stores the date, time, and orientation of the photo, and the camera settings. EXIF is the abbreviation for Exchangeable Image File Format. For even more accurate data, an external, handheld GPS receiver can be connected to the camera by means of Bluetooth®. If a camera — or phone — has a built-in GPS chip, this is another alternative for GPS photo tagger functionality.

Cameras that don’t come with any kind of built-in GPS receiver may be able to get GPS photo tagger functions from an add-on. Nikon, for example, sells a device that attaches to the camera. Another approach is to carry a GPS tracker and insert the camera’s memory card into the tracker prior to uploading the photos to your computer. The separate tracker will do just what the built-in tracker does: write the GPS tracking data to the EXIF headers of each photo.

The use of GPS photo tagger data to identify photographs has a number of applications. It is used generically as one way to help people organize and categorize photographs, both their own and others’. This is true in software applications for personal computers, such as iPhoto®, as well as photo-hosting sites, such as Flickr®. For example, it allows Internet searches based on very specific spatial location if someone needs a photograph of a specific geographic location that is better identified by latitude and longitude than be words.

Professional uses of GPS photo tagging include military applications, which was the original impetus for the development of GPS. GPS photo tagging is also used by archaeologists who are planning a dig, real estate agents who are previewing available locations for customers, and film location scouts who are previewing an area for a director. It goes without saying that professional photographers find this technology highly useful as well.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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One should beware of the dangers that the GPS poses to his privacy. Tools like BatchPurifier LITE can strip GPS tags when the user wishes to remain anonymous when publishing his photos.

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