How to use your image geotags in Flickr

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mapGeotagging images is soon becoming the hottest topic in photography primarily thanks to Flickr. Flickr is such a popular photo sharing site (apparently after Facebook) that whatever Flickr does it spreads very quickly. Flickr has embraced image geotagging around 2006 I believe, and they have tailored their tools to make the picture geotagging process very easy for the user. It is surprising however, that Flickr doesn’t do image geotagging according to what it’s expected…but rather in a roundabout way.

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How should image geotags be used ?

Well, image geotags should be picked up normally from the EXIF fields (Read Easy methods for geotagging). This is the most normal use of image geotags because image geotags can be automatically generated when the picture is taken (either by the camera itself or by a GPS receiver hooked up to the camera). This is what EXIF is used for…to contain machine generated image metadata. Google uses image geotags this way. Both Picasa (finally in the newer version) and Picasa Web Albums read/write image geotags from/to the EXIF portion of the image metadata file. So, if you have EXIF geotags, then Picasa and Picasa Web Albums will be able to display your images in a map (a Google map of course…or Google Earth). No conversions are necessary.

Learn how to apply geotags to your images in Flickr
mapPhoto credit:SXC

How does Flickr use image geotags?

Flickr, however doesn’t read image geotags from the EXIF image metadata. Rather, it can only import image geotags if they are being translated from EXIF lat/long to IPTC keywords. And not any keywords, but keywords that are written using a specific format. Yes it is true that the Flickr map tool is very easy to use, but if you already have geotags written in your images, Flickr will not be able to import them unless you convert them to their own tag format and save them to the IPTC portion of image metadata.

What does Flickr actually need from your image?

Flickr needs your EXIF image geotags (lat/long) translated into IPTC image keywords according to the following convention:

  1. geotagged – you must insert this keyword, otherwise Flickr doesn’t pick up your tags.
  2. geo:lat=45.90165652; – this is from the EXIF Latitude field
  3. geo:lon=6.13414763; – this is from the EXIF Longitude field.

Once you have created these keywords and saved them to IPTC you can upload your pictures to Flickr and instruct Flickr to import these image tags. This usually is done very quickly and lo and behold your pictures appear on the Flick map. Very cool…but a lot of work is needed !

Why, oh why?

I really don’t know why Flickr doesn’t pick up image geotags from EXIF…just can’t understand why! They do pick up all the other EXIF metadata and you can actually see it for each image…but they just don’t want to use the geotags from EXIF. My only explanation is that their software is quite old and standards were not well defined when Flickr embarked on the geotagging boat. I’m hoping that they’re working on this and in the future they’ll be changing their software. If you know why they do this I would be really interested to find out…so please share !

Resources

I use Picasa from Google to add goetags in the EXIF metadata portion of my images. Picasa uses Google Maps of course and it works great.
The other software I know that can populate both EXIF and IPTC geographic location fields is Geosetter (This is one very cool program…and it’s free too !). In addition it can also create the right IPTC keywords for Flickr from the EXIF Lat/Long information.

Here’s a good article (from NaturalSearchBlog.com) on Flickr Geotagging when it was first introduced.

How do you add geotags to your images? Do you have a new GPS enabled camera or do you create them manually through Google Earth or other software?

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