HOW TO GPS Tag Photos: Flickr, Mappr, Google Earth….

GearthHere’s the simple, non-techy way of tagging photos with the location of where you took them on planet Earth. There are lots of ways to do this, and I’ll write about those later- but this is fun thing to do over the holiday weekend. As an added bonus, I’ll show you how to see your photos on a cool Mapping application called Mappr, as well as Google Earth…After hanging out at Where 2.0, I’ve been more interested in tagging my photographs with where they were taken with the exact latitude and longitude so I can later do some interesting things with them. This how-to is just the start of some mapping hacks, step-by-steps etc- I wanted to start out with the simplest method possible so even the non-techies can play. Also, if you have suggestions or other ways of doing this, please add them in the comments!

For this how-to all you’ll need is:

  • A digital camera.
  • A free Flickr account.
  • Optional: Cheap GPS off Ebay or wherever.

Planning the photos
The first thing you’ll want to do figure out what types of photos make sense to tag with their location. For now, I’m just testing out stuff so it doesn’t matter- but my plan is to get/take photos of MAKE projects around the USA (and beyond). Imagine spinning a globe and zooming in and out of cool projects and MAKErs from around the world. Any way, my photo test today was at Gas Works park in Seattle, WA.


Taking the photos
I happen to have a cheap GPS I got off Ebay, so as I took photos around the park, I also took a photo of the position I was at. Eventually, we’ll see cameras that have GPS built in (there are some attachments and cameras now) but this is a low-tech way, take the photo, take a photo of the GPS with the latitude and longitude.


Wikipedia– Latitude is an angular measurement ranging from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. Longitude is given as an angular measurement ranging from 0° at the Prime Meridian to +180° eastward and −180° westward.





You may need to convert the GPS coordinates. Here’s a handy web site that can help you.

If you don’t have a GPS, that’s OK too. But, you’ll need to write down or use another method to record where you’re at. A simple hack (if you’re taking photos near streets) is to look at the spot you’re at, jot down the address and look it up later. Here’s what I do…

Getting the Lat and Long via Google Maps
Let’s say you take a photo at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, WA. You can later pop on over to and enter “Space Needle, Seattle, WA” and zoom in / out and find the exact location. Once you find the location, click the “link to this page” link in the upper right. The URL will now appear in your browser, cut and paste it in to notepad or some text application.


In the URL there are two bits of information we’ll need. The ll is lat and long:

Lat: 47.620314
Lon: -122.348996


Advanced: If you use Firefox, you can do this more “automagically”- Geotagging Flickr photos, with GoogleMaps via a cool Greasemonkey script and bookmarklet. More here.

Uploading the photos to Flickr
Flickr is pretty much, hands down, the coolest and best way to post photos online- It’s my favorite “application” of all time, each week there’s something new to do with it. If you haven’t already, grab a free account. Once you’re up and running you can upload you photos via the web, or add on applications. How you upload doesn’t matter, it’s all about the tagging.

Tagging the Photos
Once your photos are on Flickr, you can individually edit the tags or all once. For my example, I kept the photos of the GPS (the location of the photos taken) on my hard drive, and just uploaded the photos I took of the actual places. For each photo, I’ve tagged where they were taken with the lat and lon, if you need to look up the addresses via Google you can do that now, or read them off your GPS photos like I did.

I’ve added some other tags that have been useful for other projects, the folks at have a lot of interesting things going on, so if you take your photos with geotagged, you’ll also be able to participate in other projects- but if you don’t want to, there’s no need. Here’s an example of some tags…

google earth



It’s also a good idea to put in the photo description. Here’s why (for the techies)…in the description add a link to (i.e. (<a href=””>geotagged</a>). From the photos own page (not the photo stream) click the link. geobloggers will automagically look up the photo you just came from and search the tags for the lat and long. Note: If the link doesn’t seem to work wait a couple of minutes and try again. Sometimes it takes a short while for the lon/lat tags to appear in the XML data I get back from the flickr API. More here.

Looking at the Photos on the Map (with Mappr)
Now that I’ve tagged my photos with MAKE and the location of where they’re at, I’m pretty much done! If you go to you can just enter in the tag (MAKE) and see all the photos that have been tagged MAKE and also have lat and long. You could just put in your user name.

Here are what some of it looks like…(they’re getting hammered with traffic at the moment, so you might need to try the site at different times).



Viewing the photos with Google Earth
If you want to see your photos in Google Earth (free 3D application from Google). You can do it in a few ways, the simpliest way that I’ve found is to download this KML (Google Earth file) that will look for photos wherever you’re zoomed in to and stopped moving. Right click this link, save it, and once you install Google Earth double click it.


Adding a “Network Link” allows you to fetch KML data from remote servers. It does this in two ways, Time Based or Location Based. So *anyone* can add dynamic data to Google Maps. More about this here…Also check out GeoBlogger’s with all their amazing hacks.

Right click / control click and save this file and double click it, it will add my photos to Google Earth, so you can see what I am up to!






If you select “Flickr” in the places, ad press play you’ll get an amazing photo tour of geobloggers in your area!

And that’s it for now…feel free to post your links, photos, suggestions and questions in the comments. I’m hoping that lots of people will try this out, even if they’re not hardcore alpha geeks, and later build on their experiments and try out the web services. We’re about to see an explotion of mapping related services, nothing “new” has happened, just the data is finally “free” and hackers, remixers, tinkerers and Makers are playing. Enjoy!

A little bonus note– I really like Google Earth, more so since it’s based on the following- “Digital Earth” excerpts from Snow Crash, © 1992 by Neal Stephenson:
There is something new: a globe about the size of grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm’s length in front of his eyes… It’s a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that the CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns — all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff.

The level of detail is fantastic. The resolution, the clarity, just the look of it…

It’s not just the continents and oceans. It looks exactly like the Earth would look from a point in geosynchronous orbit directly above L.A., complete with weather systems — vast spinning galaxies of clouds, hovering just above the surface of the oceans — and polar ice caps, fading and fragmenting into the sea. Half of the globe is illuminated by sunlight, and half is dark. The terminator — the line between night and day — has just swept across L.A. and is now creeping across the Pacific, off to the west.


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