Geotagging in Lightroom made easy

Adobe Lightroom does not have much features to add location to your photos. With a few clicks and drags, it is easy enough to get a geotagging workflow going for Lightroom, though. Let me show you how I do it on my Mac.

First, I got the “GPS-Support” Geoencoding Plugin from Jeffrey Friedl. It is distributed as donationware, so if you find it useful, do paypal him some $$$. Install it through Lightroom’s plugin manager.

The Eye-fi Pro smart SD card with geotagging built in - the digital camera accessory that will render this post obsolete.

There’s a lot of ways to geotag images using this versatile plugin. It can work with a ‘shadow’ GPS trace to semi-automatically tag a series of photos taken while recording your location using a separate GPS logger. Believe it or not, I mostly do not, so I end up manually geotagging many of my digital photos. Until I get myself one of these, that is.

Here’s how I use the geocoding plugin to quickly tag a set of images just dowloaded from my camera.

  • Open Google Earth and Lightroom.
  • Download images from camera
  • Open the latest import in Grid View (g).
  • Toggle the view until I have full screen with menu bar (f).
  • Adjust the grid view to make the thumbnails big enough to be able to determine the image location without having to switch to single image view most of the time (Cmd+ / Cmd-)
  • Get rid of all the palettes and accessory views (Tab)

My Lightroom screen looks something like this at this point:

You may have noticed I am a keyboard kind of guy – if your style is more mouse-oriented you might not find this workflow all that appealing. Lightroom is quite keyboard-friendly, but not towards plugins. Their options are hidden away in menus without any keyboard shortcuts. To access the gecoding plugin dialog, I would have to mouse through two menus:

Luckily, Mac OSX provides a mouse-less interface to any menu item. You can give any menu item in any application a keyboard shortcut in the Keyboard preference pane, like this:

If you’re too lazy to do that, there’s also the option of accessing the Help menu in any application and just start typing the name of the menu option you want to access – also a lifesaver in less frequently used applications with tons of menu options. Just hit [Cmd Shift /] and start typing, ‘geo’ in this case:

And hit [Enter]. The plugin window pops up. The plugin will work its geotagging magic on all currently selected images, so whenever I have a few images taken in the same place, I select them first (Shift + arrows) and then call the plugin using the keybord shortcuts outlined above.

The plugin window looks like this

Note how it has taken the data from my last geotagging operation, so I could quickly add the same location to another image. Right now, I want to set a new location. The plugin itself does not provide a map interface to do this, but it can take the current location from Google Earth or a permalink URL from OpenStreetMap or Google maps. Because getting a permalink requires more clicking, I prefer to get my location from Google Earth. So I Cmd-Tab to Google Earth and use the arrow keys (hold Alt for precise control) to pan to the location of the photo.

Then I Alt-Tab back into Lightroom and hit ‘Import from Google Earth’ and lo! it even reverse geocodes the location:

Now I just need to hit the ‘Geoencode Images’ button (with unappropriate red label) and I’m done. Here’s a short video showing the entire process:

It cost me only two mouse clicks, those last ones inside the plugin interface, which could use some optimization in more ways than this: I think it’s quite convoluted and could do with a ‘easy mode’ of operation. For my use, I wouldn’t even need an interface at all: just hit the shortcut key and the currently selected images would be geotagged using the current location in Google Earth.


4 thoughts on “Geotagging in Lightroom made easy

  1. I used to use this Google Earth method but running GE and LR3b concurrently kills my system. Also, I prefer Picasa for it’s sheer speed over LR in it’s catalogue role; Picasa allows you to use google maps in a side window to simply drag and drop to update gps data – right in the program itself.

    If LR3 isn’t as slow I may change back to this but personally I don’t think LR will ever come near Picasa in terms of speed.

  2. I found Picassa much better for manually Geocoding images – it also writes to the photos embedded metadata, so if you resynch Lightroom with the same photos afterwards, you can still use Lightroom as your main photo manager.

    I think the plugin works with Google Maps now too, but requires copying and pasting URLs for each photo you want to geotag (or perhaps each location).

  3. I upload my photos to Flickr and have so far been geotagging them there.
    Do you know if there is a way to download those geotags from Flickr to Lightroom to avoid having to do the work twice.
    …and what about uploading geotags with the photos from Lightroom to Flickr?

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