Photos of Technique/Workflow

My Geo-Tagging Workflow

February 28, 2019  |    0 comments  |  Apps GPS Logs Technique/Workflow

In my last post, wherein I outlined how I added a link to each photo’s location on Google Maps, I mentioned that I thought I’d done a writeup on how I geo-tag photos, but couldn’t find it. After extensive searching of the archives, I can confirm that I don’t seem to actually have ever written about my process. Today, I’ll rectify that oversight.

Let’s take a look at the tools I use, then I’ll walk you through how it all comes together.

First, we need a way to record a GPS log. Typically, these are in the format of a .gpx file, which is a type of XML file that can contain a geotrack, which is, at its most-basic, a series of GPS fixes in latitude and longitude along with a timestamp for each point that allows software to reconstruct a route. It may also, but not necessarily, contain speed and heading information. It can also contain a series of waypoints, which are GPS fixes that aren’t linked in a time dimension, so no track can be generated from these as there’s no way of knowing which order the GPS fixes/points were gathered, as order in the file doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the order they were gathered. In addition, we’ll need the time information later to match the time a photo was taken to a spot on our geotrack.

To build a .gpx file while out taking photos, we need a GPS receiver that has the ability to periodically record our current location in a file then export it for consumption by another tool to actually tag the photos. For this, I use a couple of different tools:

When I was using an iPhone as my day-to-day phone, I used an app called MotionX GPS to record my tracks.

Now that I’m using a Google Pixel 2 XL as my phone, I’ve had to find a different app to record tracks as MotionX GPS isn’t available for Android. I tried a few an eventually settled on GPSLogger. The UI isn’t as pretty as MotionX GPS, but it gets the job done.

The next tool we need is a way to merge the location and time data in our .gpx file with our photo data. Since I’m an Adobe Lightroom user (Classic, none of that CC nonsense for me!), I could use Lightroom’s rudimentary built-in geo-tagging feature (a tutorial can be found here), but I prefer some fine control over the process, so I use Jeffrey Friedl’s excellent Geoencoding Support plugin.

This allows us to fine-tune all sorts of fiddly bits in the process, such as correcting for the camera’s time being off a bit from the actual GPS time, which brings us to our next point:

How do I ensure that my time is correct on my camera?

There are a few ways to do it. If you’re lucky, your camera’s companion smartphone app supports synchronizing your phone’s time with your camera’s time, such as the Panasonic Image App (Android/IOS) does. If you’re not-as-lucky, you have to manually sync it, which means opening your camera’s settings and setting the date/time to match the phone’s as close as possible. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be precise as most geotagging tools, such as Jeffrey’s Lightroom Geoencoding Support, allow for some “fuzziness” to the time matching algorithm.

Once you’ve tagged your photos, you can manually tag any misses in Lightroom’s Map tab. Now you have a precise log of your adventures and the photos you’ve taken.

In addition, you can open the .gpx file in Google Earth and get a nice map of your adventure. Here’s one from a visit I made to the Great Smoky Mountains last year:

So, there you have it, my geotagging workflow. However, I would be remiss in failing to mention that I’m currently testing using a GPS watch (the Suunto Traverse) for tracking as I don’t need to worry about killing my phone’s battery life while logging my location. So far, so good. I might do a write up in the future about my experiences with it.

Quick Tip: Find Out Where People Are Stealing Your Photos and Bandwidth

November 30, 2016  |    0 comments  |  Technique/Workflow

Using services like Pixsy, TinEye or Google Image Search (built into Chrome!) to find where your images are being used without your permission is a “fun” way to spend some time (and anger you at the same time!). But there’s a special kind of image thief that annoys me to no-end…the kind that hotlinks your site’s assets, relying on you to use your hosting bandwidth/data to serve your own stolen photo on their site. How to find these? One trick I use is to go to Google Image Search and use a search query like this:

inurl:yourdomain -site:yourdomain

Essentially, you’re telling Google to look for photos that have your domain in their URL but are not being shown on your site. So, for instance, to look for these types of photos on my photoblog, I use this search string:

Which gives me these results:

Now that you’ve done that, how you react can be anything from DMCA takedowns, to replacing the photos with a message reminding people not to steal to lawsuits.


Downtown Plano Photo Walk

March 29, 2014  |    1 comment  |  GPS Logs Technique/Workflow

Our Meetup.Com group, Dallas Photo Walk (a great photography group and if you’re in the Dallas area, we’d love to have you join), had a scavenger hunt photo walk in Downtown Plano, Texas, this morning. For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to log my photo explorations on my iPhone so that I can geotag my photos after importing to Lightroom. I plan on writing about this process in the next few days, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a map of today’s walk. Perhaps in the coming weeks, I’ll share some from other adventures I’ve had in the past.

Google Earth

Focal Length Analysis

March 28, 2013  |    0 comments  |  Cameras Technique/Workflow

So, I’ve been contemplating a buying a new lens, but I couldn’t decide on what focal length I needed.  Did I want 11-16? 24-70? 24-105? 100-400?  600?

I could make arguments for any of these, but I was still indecisive.  So, I decided to see what focal lengths I have been shooting at to guide me.  And the best way to do that would be to get some statistical analysis going.  Luckily, this isn’t terribly difficult to do with the right tools.

I use Adobe Lightroom as my image catalog/workflow manager and I knew that Lightroom’s catalog files are simply SQLite databases, storing everything from file system locations of images to EXIF metadata to develop settings. And buried in that EXIF data is the focal length of every image in the catalog.  To get to my analysis, here are the steps I followed:

  1. Select a Lightroom catalog to do analysis on.  I chose my main 2011-2012 catalog, which would provide roughly 60,000 images to glean information from.
  2. Open the catalog using SQLite Database Browser and find the table that contains EXIF data.  This table is AgHarvestedExifMetadata.
  3. Export to csv.
  4. Open in Excel.  Round each focal length to its nearest whole number (some cameras write extremely precise decimal representations of focal length, but we’re only interested in the whole number.
  5. Group by focal length and sum the number of images in each focal length.
  6. Create a line graph.

And voila!:


As you can see, most of my images fall into the 20-100 range of focal lengths.  Therefore, I would probably get the most use out of something like Canon’s 24-105 L series glass.

Of course, this lens is only f4, so it’s not the fastest.  I could do more analysis on the apertures I’ve used over the last few years as well, but I know from experience that I mostly shoot landscapes and urban photography at f8 or higher, so I should be covered.  Also, today’s cameras’ high-ISO performance and that this particular lens has image stabilization that adds roughly three stops of light should cover me.

How I Did It – Time Lapse + Light Trails

October 24, 2012  |    0 comments  |  Technique/Workflow Video

A while back, I posted this video to Youtube:

Earlier tonight, a user on Reddit asked how to do this very thing for a TV production he was working on.  I obliged him by doing a quick write-up of the process; after which, I decided to share here as well:

First off, equipment used: Canon 60D with Sigma 17-200 lens (Magic Lantern installed –, Tripod, FCPX

I used ML to shoot 216 photos using the intervalometer function. Since this was a “spur-of-the moment” idea I had, I didn’t really think things through and didn’t think to shoot any other format than full-size RAW. Looking back, I could’ve probably shot in the lowest res RAW or even JPEG and have been fine, since the resolution I was aiming for was 1080p. This would’ve let me shoot longer, but I quickly ran out of card space at that resolution. I squeezed off a few test shots at various shutter speeds until I found a speed that I liked the length of the trails at, settling on .8/second. (ISO 400)

Also, since I primarily shoot stills, I’m used to usually shooting in shutter-priority or aperture-priority and, since I’d already determined that I wanted a specific shutter speed (0.8 second), I made the mistake of shooting in shutter-priority. I should’ve shot in full manual, as this would’ve kept my aperture constant as well, preventing the variations in black levels that are evident in the final video. (The varying brightness of the cars’ lights made the camera constantly adjust aperture–this probably could’ve been fixed in post, but I was just experimenting).

After getting back to my Mac, I downloaded the files to Lightroom and edited the first photo for noise reduction, sharpness, tone curve, exposure and color balance. I also cropped it to 16:9. I then synced this first image’s edit to the rest of the images in the sequence. I exported out to a folder at 1920×1080, then loaded up FCPX.

In FCPX, I imported the photos, created a new project (1080P/24) and placed the photos onto the timeline. To actually create the timelapse, I followed the demo in this video:

Export and you’re done.

Pretty easy, eh?  Incidentally, I was just messing around with this video last night, experimenting with using Photoshop CS6 video features by applying various filters to the video.  Here’s a version with polar coordinates applied and some lengthening and reversing thrown in for good measure:

What RAW Will Get You

March 6, 2012  |    1 comment  |  Technique/Workflow

A lot of people are confused when it comes to RAW vs. JPG, so I just wanted to show you a quick before/after of what kind of dynamic range you can get out of RAW. The before is what it looked like out of the camera, while the after is with the exposure boosted. And while I’d never publish the “after” without some serious post-processing to clean up the banding and noise, you can clearly see that an amazing amount of detail and color information is hidden away in the dark areas of the photo. I, of course, settled on a more sensible final exposure that is more interesting than the “after” shot.


Processing “The Last Supper”

January 17, 2012  |     2 comments  |  Apps Technique/Workflow
Pedro Alves asked in a comment on today’s photo if I could explain the processing.  So I thought I’d give it a quick try.
The original raw photo was shot at f/10 at ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, using a polarizing filter to darken up the sky a bit.  After importing to Lightroom, I pre-sharpened and adjusted the white balance, giving me this:
Not very exciting, eh?  I decided to tone map it to bring out the shadow and highlights detail in a sort-of “faux” HDR process.  Since I hadn’t shot multiple bracketed exposures, which would be necessary to do true HDR, I faked it, relying on the pure dynamic range that shooting RAW affords a photographer.
In Lightroom, I created four virtual copies of the photo, giving me five copies altogether, including the original.  I left the original’s exposure value at 0, then set the others at values of +1, +2, -1 and -2 respectively, imitating the bracketed exposures I’d get with a “real” HDR shot.  I then exported these to Photomatix to do the tone mapping, which resulted in this image:
This gave me great detail in the shadows, but killed the sky.  I didn’t really care, though, because I still had work to do.  I imported the original photo with the dark sky I liked and the tone-mapped photo I’d created in Photomatix into Photoshop for further work.
First step was to copy the tone-mapped version into a new layer over the original.  I then created a layer mask which allowed me to use a black paintbrush to “punch through” the tone-mapped layer to the original photo below.  I used a brush with an opacity set to roughly 50% to slowly bring the original sky into the tone-mapped layer.  Once I was satisfied, I applied the layer mask, resulting in a photo that had tone-mapped statues and mountains, but original dark sky.  I then used Topaz Adjust to bring out a bit of detail in the mountains and statues, because I feel like the tone-mapping process leaves the photos looking a bit flat detail-wise.
My next step was to convert to black and white.  For this, I used Nik Software’s excellent Silver Efex Pro 2.  I started with the built-in “high structure” preset, then added a bit of extra structure and a little bit more contrast, while dropping the exposure down a notch or two.  Then, I used Silver Efex’s control points feature to darken up the sky just a bit more while leaving the mountains and statues unaffected. Once this was done, I saved back to Lightroom, did some final noise reduction and a bit of sharpening and posted it to the site.
Here’s a before/after:


Tools of the Trade – FlickStackr

August 17, 2011  |    0 comments  |  Apps Technique/Workflow

As part of my photoblogging/sharing process, I generally have photos scheduled to be published at 05:30 on my photoblog, where they sit and get viewed and commented upon all day. Then, in the evening, after 19:00 CDT (or 18:00 CST), I upload them to Flickr, giving my site roughly 13-14 hours of exclusivity. The reason for trying to upload to Flickr as close as possible to these times is because that’s when Flickr’s “day” starts (it’s on GMT), which means that uploading at these times is the best way to maximize daily photo views, which are part of the mysterious algorithm Flickr uses to calculate things like “Interestingness” (not that I particularly worry about these things). Also, most people in North America seem to do their Flickr viewing in the evenings, so this time hits a nice spot when my photo will be landing in their “Contacts” photostream.

But how to do the upload? Some people use Flickr’s native upload functionality, but I find this kind of limited. Another option–and one that I occasionally use when uploading from my Mac or my PC–is Flickr Uploadr. Flickr Uploadr has a lot of nice features including the ability to tag photos and put them in sets, but is missing one of the most important–the ability to add a photo to groups from the application, meaning that after you upload, you still have to go into Flickr and add to groups from their interface. Which is okay, but not a favorite task because, for some reason, I constantly get this error when trying to add a photo to groups on the site itself:

(Flickr! Fix your code!)

Another issue with trying to stick to these times is that I’m usually walking our dog, Winston, between 19:00 and 20:00 during these times. Luckily, I have an iPhone with me and can upload on the go. I used to use the Flickr app, but, like the Flickr Uploadr, you can’t add photos to groups. So, after a bit of research, I discovered FlickStackr.

FlickStackr is everything Flickr’s app should be:

  • Profile view


  • Actions/Activity view

But the most relevant to this blog post is “Upload” and here are screencaps showing how you can set titles, tags, groups, geolocation and more when uploading:

As you can see, it’s the perfect iOS companion for Flickr users.  And it’s a universal app, so it will work on your iPad at native resolution!

Second Guessing

Sometimes (by which I mean, honestly, “a lot of times”), I second-guess the photo I’ve chosen for a particular day on the photoblog.  I usually post the next day’s photo the night before, queuing up several days if I’m going to be busy or out of town, choosing a photo that I think–at the time–has interesting composition and subject matter and looks great.  But then, sometime the next day or week or even  month–I’ll look at the photo and be like “what the hell was I thinking?”.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I catch my mistaken choice too late, once the photo has been published.  And, since I’m not a fan of rewriting history, I let it stand and make myself promise to do better next time.

Only rarely do I get a chance to fix my mistake before it’s “too late”.  Take last night, for instance.  I’d planned on going out to the roof of our parking garage late so that I could try to get some decent shots of the Moon while it was full and, for the first time in a few days, the skies were clear (or at least what passes for clear in Dallas-Fort Worth).  Knowing that I’d be up late shooting, I decided to go ahead and get a photo posted.  I’d traveled to Fort Worth on Saturday and had wandered around downtown there, taking photos like you do.  I noticed that Tarrant County was in the process of remodeling the clock tower on their courthouse, so I took a few frames from the roof of a parking garage several blocks away, unsure of how usable they’d be backlit against the stormy grey sky.  So, then, last night, I was surprised to find that they had a nice silhouetted effect that brought out the intricate details of the construction scaffolding and proceeded to choose one to process and post.  Unfortunately, in my haste, I chose poorly.  The frame I chose showed the scaffold on the left side and a crane on the right.  At the time, I think my thoughts were that these two subjects–while not traditionally composed–would balance each other out and make for an interesting comparison between the pieces of scaffold and the framework of the crane.  So I posted it.

And went about my business.  I shot the Moon. Came inside, showered off the humidity and downloaded and reviewed my Moon shots.  Then went to bed, reading some of my favorite photo-related sites and forums on my iPad.  Then I started to fall asleep.  And, as I lay there about to succumb to the Sleep Monster, it suddenly occurred to me “I’m about to publish a crap photo”.  So I leaped out of bed to my computer and chose another photo that was basically the same as the one I’d chosen, but used a strong centered composition–something one normally avoids but I think works well in this situaation–that focused on the clock tower scaffolds alone.  Processed and published, I went to bed.

And, now, almost 9 hours later, I’m still happy with my choice.  Here’s the photo I ended up posting on the photoblog:


And here’s the misfortunate first choice:

So, did I make the right choice?

The point being, never be afraid to second-guess yourself.  Oftentimes, our first instincts aren’t the right ones, despite what conventional wisdom says.


© 1993-2021 Matt Harvey/75Central Photography - All Rights Reserved • Contact for image licensing and other queries.