Photographers often say that their images should speak for themselves… then spend the next three hours writing long descriptions that explain what their photos show, where they shot them and what they shot them with.
For photographers who hope to sell the pictures they take, at least some of that information can be useful. Although few buyers will care whether the photo was taken with a Nikon or a Canon, many will want to know exactly what they’re looking at before they buy — and sometimes where they’re looking at too.
Geotagging has made that last piece of information an integral part of the image. It lets photographers add an identifying piece of code to their digital photo that reveals the precise location it was taken. For tech fans who are as hard to part from their GPS systems as from their cameras, putting the two pieces of hardware together is as much fun as having their cake and eating ice cream too. For photography fans who’d simply like to pack a little more information into their photos and remember where they shot them, Flickr’s drag-and-drop maps can be a simple alternative. Other programs such as Blockrocker.com also add the geographic information automatically, although these systems do have their limitations.
“[Y]ou have to remember where you took the shot, or have it recorded somewhere,” says Tom Taylor, a photography enthusiast who has been geotagging for two years. “[But] I must admit to being lazy occasionally and just using Flickr’s convenient drag-and-drop function for many of my photographs.”
Whether you choose simply to put your pictures on a map or hard-wire the data on your GPS into your image with an Exif file is really down to how comfortable you feel with technology. Whether you geotag at all is down to the sort of images you take and what you want to do with them.
“There are many reasons why someone would want to geotag their photos,” explains Tom. “The most common is as a high tech form of scrapbooking. You are able to produce maps in Google Earth or Maps to show where you’ve been. Professional landscape photographers may want to record a particular location. Really it’s limited only by one’s imagination.”
The most obvious sorts of images that can benefit from geotagging though are travel and nature photography. “I love seeing the pictures other people took of the same sites I visited,” explains Anita Gould. “Using ‘Explore this Map’ on Flickr I’ve found pictures taken of the exact same rock in a creek in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand. I got a huge kick out of that.”
That sounds like fun for people looking for specific sites but a photo buyer is still more likely to search for a shot of a location by name than by longitude. Geotagging travel photos might help a photographer remember where she’s been — and dig up different views of the same spot — but it’s really in nature photography that geotagging shows its worth.
When Anita Gould isn’t shooting rocks in rivers, for example, she’s often shooting flowers, birds and insects. By geotagging where each creature was photographed, she’s helping scientists keep track of the location of different species.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten any direct feedback from anyone saying ‘Hey, I went looking
where you said and I found the same species,’” she explains, “but… it contributes in a small way to an online ‘citizen science’ database. And when the photos are posted to a
group on Flickr, like the various Field Guide groups, you can explore the group map, do keyword searches and see the results on the map, etc., it becomes a really powerful resource.”
But can it help you sell more photos?
Although we haven’t heard of anyone selling an image as a result of its geotagged data, it’s not impossible that someone researching Roseate Terns or Bald Eagles could use that information to track down an image of one… but don’t depend on it.
Ultimately, geotagging is best thought of as another way of getting more fun out of your photos. As Anita puts it: “Maps are just plain cool.”
[tags] flickr geotagging, geotagging, geotagging photos [/tags]