A lot of cameras (especially on your phone) offer the ability to tag your images with GPS information.

To this date, I haven't really found a "killer idea" that would convince me to add GPS information to my photo. Is there any generally good reason, or is it just some kind of niche tool?

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are all kinds of uses for geotagging (real estate, travel blogs, scientific documentation, etc.), but whether any of them are "good" for you is entirely subjective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Caleb of course. Perhaps I wrote my question from a bit too personal of a perspective, though perhaps it's because I'm looking for a personal perspective as an answer. Anything I've found so far online has been along the lines of, "Well, you might want to use GPS for some reason or another if it suits you, and you feel like it that day." Olin's answer is *exactly the kind of thing I was looking for: "I use GPS on my camera, and these are the tangible benefits I get from it." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Clearly you haven't experienced what it feels like to have a poor memory. I have a number of favourite photos that, for the life of me, I couldn't remember where I took them. GPS was the feature I looked for when I bought my (first) camera. \$\endgroup\$
    – muru
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mehrdad dates, usually, which still doesn't help when you visit a number of places in a short time. Having the exact location beats trying to remember using dates any day. \$\endgroup\$
    – muru
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mehrdad It's a couple of weeks for me - I remember the city, but I usually forget the details. I usually relied on other people to remember the locations, especially when I visit a number of places in a short time. Then I got a phone with GPS. Then the camera with GPS. Now I can look at the location and quickly remember other details as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – muru
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:55

5 Answers 5


I bought a separate GPS unit for my camera and use it extensively. Actually, I keep it pretty much permanently attached on the hot-shoe mount and have my pictures geo-tagged by default. I have a hard time imagining why you wouldn't want it.

I take a lot of outdoor pictures and am anal about keeping records. For years before I had this camera, I'd look thru maps and figure out where each picture was taken when I got back, and record the lat/lon coordinate. It is so much easier and nicer to have this done for me automatically.

Another side effect of the GPS is that the camera clock is always accurate. My camera sets its clock from the GPS whenever the GPS has a fix. This is often enough that the camera clock is effectively spot on all the time for my purposes.

With a GPS, every picture then really records where, when, and what it looked like. Ways I've used that, or reasons I've found it useful include:

  1. As I said, I'm anal about keeping records. I have my picture archiving software harvest the lat/lon from the raw file meta data automatically and include it in the human-readable information associated with each picture.

  2. Having pictures archived by location can be very useful for narrowing searches. If I'm looking for any pictures I have of historic Williams Barn, for example, I can limit the search to 200 meters from a lat/lon location I can easily get from Google Earth or various other maps and mapping software.

  3. It's been useful to figure out after getting home where something I saw really was. In some cases, I was able to figure out where I was and what path I actually took, even though I wasn't so sure at the time.

  4. I'm on the town Trails Committee. I usually take my camera with me when hiking on our local trails. If I see something that needs maintenance, like a fallen tree across the path, I take a picture of it and don't need to take any other notes. That one picture records what the problem is, exactly where it is, and when it was observed.

  5. I'm on the town Conservation Commission. I take my camera with me when we go on site walks. Not only is having the location useful later for sorting pictures by issue that we went to look at, but sometimes being able to go back a year later or whatever and check something from the same vantage point can be useful.

  6. In one case I saw something in a remote location that I alerted the authorities to when I got back. A picture was useful to show them what exactly I saw. Having accurate lat/lon coordinates not only helped them get to the location reliably, but I think they took me a lot more seriously than someone walking in saying "I saw xxxx out in the woods somewhere north of Jackalope Flats".

    I had the reverse experience when my car got stuck behind a large tree that fell across the road deep in the national forest 20 miles southwest of Flagstaff AZ. This was before I had a digital camera with a GPS unit. When I got to the police station, I pointed out on the map where the fallen tree was. Their first reaction was "No, you couldn't have been there. Nobody goes there.". I had to argue with them for a while and explain landmarks I passed before they (at least pretended to) believe me. By the time I did get back to the car hours later, the fallen tree had been cleared, so in the end something worked. A single picture with lat/lon coordinates would have been really useful though.

  7. I used to enjoy uploading pictures to Google Earth. Having a lat/lon string I could just copy and paste made it easier and less error prone to place the pictures correctly. The reason I say "used to" is that Google is shutting down Panoramio, which was their mechanism for uploading pictures to Google Earth.

  8. I edit OpenStreetMap. A geotagged picture of something provides far more detail than any amount of note-taking (thanks Mark for reminding me of this in a comment). A good example is taking a picture of a gate at a trailhead or a stream crossing. OpenStreetMap has various tags for different types of gates and crossings. Looking at the picture while browsing thru the available tags has been helpful a few times.

Sharing Geotagged Photos

As Knob Scratcher pointed out in a comment, the location data in a picture file might give out information you don't want everyone to have. Actually, this is the case for all meta-data. Time and camera type are also things you might not want everyone to know.

So don't give people pictures with meta-data. The camera includes a lot of meta-data in the raw file. That has to be processed anyway. I have my software create JPG derivative files that contain no meta-data at all. Don't give out your raw files. Many people wouldn't know what to do with them, and bad post-processing will may you look like a bad photographer, not whoever did the post processing.

I do have my picture archiving and indexing software grab various pieces meta-data from the raw file and associate that data with the picture. The pictures and selected data is written to a HTML tree for easy viewing, navigating, and being able to display annotation with the picture. The software that exports selected pictures from the large collection can be told what type of data to export with the selected pictures. This way I can control what the rest of the world gets to know about each picture. So far this has worked well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer; it's how I use the geotagging feature as well. However, beware of geotags that become part of a photo's EXIF data. Should you upload these photos, that data becomes available to anyone. In which case, those pictures you took at home of your valuable antique jewelry (that you wanted to share with the on-line antique jewelry forum) now have essentially your home address affixed to them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ 8. I edit OpenStreetMap. A geotagged picture of something provides far more detail than any amount of note-taking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ When I take vacations, I want to know exactly where I was when I took a picture so when friends and family ask "Where was that" I have an answer for them. In case they want to go there. \$\endgroup\$
    – cybernard
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 4:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Famous people wouldn't necessarily want their whereabouts posted to instagram. I remember reading that Adam Savage removed a photo of his car from social media once he realized he'd geotagged his own driveway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Octopus
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mark: Good point, added to answer. I edit OSM too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 13:00

In addition to the points already mentioned, I would add: for posterity. I'm probably more curious than the average monkey, but there are family photos from when I was a kid (or earlier) that I wonder about the location of, and there isn't always somebody around who remembers.

It can also come up in other cases where people are looking at old photos that they didn't take themselves... like this one.


In my opinion, it's a niche feature for architecture and landscape photography – to keep precise track of where the photo was taken. And to be able coming back there again if necessary – it's pretty easy to find some address in the city, but way harder to find the same rock or path somewhere in wild..

and it can be useful in general:

  • you can see/group your photos organized by position e.g. on map in Lightroom
  • when you upload them to some photo-sites or social networks it allows them to suggest corresponding geo-tags and places for your picture
  • as a tourist you may want to find out after, what was the name of that church or cool statue you have taken a picture
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    \$\begingroup\$ If "it can be useful in general" then it's not a niche feature. Niche feature implies that its use it limited to a fairly specific application, but there are many different applications for geotagging. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 15:02

A negative "benefit" is privacy compromise. Many people aren't aware that the images they post on line may contain GPS information in the "Exif" metadata, added to the file by the camera. That's not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but something people need to know about. Fortunately most social media sites such as Facebook will strip the metadata.

As @Knob Scratcher noted in a comment to another answer, it can give potential thieves a clue about where to find your valuable posessions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So don't give out your raw files. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 12:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop EXIF is also in jpeg, not only in raw \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hagen: Yes, EXIF data can be in JPG files too. However, while the camera writes the raw file and the EXIF data to it, you control the post-processed JPG file. Only allow the meta-data in the post-processed file you are willing to have others see. Personally, I have my software write no meta-data to JPG files at all. I pass selected data about the picture in other ways, only as I chose to. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 12:59

1) It could be useful for keeping track of where you are. Now that the per-shot costs are negligible these days when playing tourist the first thing I do is snap a picture of a sign indicating where I am. GPS could serve a similar purpose.

2) I have a GPS-enabled camera. It's a real battery hog and takes long enough to acquire that I almost never use it but a couple of years ago I was out hiking and found a spot the rangers needed to fix. I snapped a few pictures to e-mail them--and pointed out it was geotagged so there was no question exactly where the tree was blocking the trail.


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