Geotagging the easy way with Aperture 3.5

Even if your camera doesn’t have GPS built-in, you can add location data to your photos using Aperture 3.5.

There are three major ways to do this. The first two involve looking up locations in Aperture’s Places, then applying that data to your images. The third technique pulls data from pictures captured with your iPhone. Since iPhone images are automatically geotagged, they can be used to mark photos captured with a regular digital camera.

Here’s how it all works.

Drag and drop using Places

This method is terrific when you’ve captured pictures at a location displayed on a map. For example, I shot a series of photos at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. If I zoom in on a map of that area, the Wharf is displayed. So all I have to do is drag my pictures on to that location to tag them. Here are the steps.

1. Select the images you want to tag by command-clicking on them in the Browser (thumbnail mode).

01 select images to tag

2. Click on the Places icon in your toolbar to reveal the map in the Viewer with the selected thumbnails underneath.

02 places mode with thumbnails

3. Zoom in to get a precise location.

03 zoom in to get precise location

 4. Drag and drop the images to the spot you want and reposition the pin, if necessary. The pictures will be geotagged with that location.

04 move pin if necessary

5. Check your work by selecting GPS from the popup menu in the Info tab of the Inspector. You should see coordinates for each image.

05 check your work

Using the Assign Location command

An easy alternative is to use the Assign Location command. This time, I apply geotags to a series of photos captured at the Santa Barbara Zoo. I start out by selecting the thumbnails in the Browser.

1. Go to Metadata > Assign Location.

06 assign location

2. Type the name of the place in the search field.

07 search for location

3. Choose the best option from the displayed results.

4. Refine the area shaded in purple that will be the geotagged location.

08 google dropping a pin

5. Click the Assign button.

6. Double check the location by selecting GPS from the popup menu in the Info tab of the Inspector.

Using an iPhone for location data

Some photographers will snap an iPhone photo while shooting on location. They can use the accompanying geographical data later to tag images in Aperture.

I used this method when visiting the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California. I captured a number of high resolution Raw and JPEG files with the Sigma DP2 camera. Since the DP2 doesn’t record location data, I also took a few photos with my iPhone.

I could share the iPhone shots immediately on Instagram and record the geotags for use later in Aperture. Back home, here’s how I applied the location information.

1. Connect the iPhone to my Mac.

2. Select the images I want to geotag in Aperture’s browser.

09 select iphone data

3. Click on Places.

4. Click on the GPS button and choose Import GPS from iPhone photos.

5. Navigate through the thumbnails and choose the photo that is closest to the desired location. Click OK.

10 choose photo to closest location

6. Drag images on the the purple marker that appears on the map. Aperture will change the marker to a red pin and add the location data to those images.

7. Check my work by selecting GPS from the popup menu in the Info tab of the Inspector.

11 geodata applied to photos

Exporting with geotags in place

The location data applied to the photos can travel outside of Aperture too. To make sure this happens, check Aperture’s Preferences. Click on the Export tab and confirm that the box next to include location info in exported photos is checked. Conversely, if you don’t want geotags to travel with exported pictures, uncheck the box.

You can test that all systems are go by exporting a geotagged image from Aperture. Then open the picture in the Preview app on your Mac. Hold down Command-I to reveal the General Info Box. Click on the i tab then choose GPS. If there aren’t any geotags for the image, there also won’t be a GPS button.

13 displayed in maps

But if there are geotags for the picture, you’ll see a map and coordinates when you click on the GPS button. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Click on the Locate button, and if you have Max OS X Mavericks, your Mac will launch Maps and display the area where you took the photo.

Since driving directions are available in Maps, you can send an image to a friend and they’ll know how to get there.

12 include exported data

General area

These methods of applying location data to your images aren’t as precise as an accurate GPS accessory connected to your camera. If you need a high level of accuracy, I probably wouldn’t go this route.

But, for travel photos and general usage, adding tags to your favorite shots in Aperture is easy, and probably close enough for most applications.

How to Get Navigation Directions (Even Offline) Without Buying a GPS

Dedicated GPS devices are going the way of the dodo, and for good reason. That smartphone or tablet you have can be a capable GPS with turn-by-turn navigation. This works even if you don’t have a data connection.

Find a way to mount your smartphone or tablet in your car and it can even make a capable in-car GPS solution. This is illegal in some jurisdictions, so check your local laws before mounting anything.

If You Have Mobile Data…

Using a smartphone or tablet as a GPS is very easy if you have mobile data. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and even Nokia’s HERE Maps are capable map apps with turn-by-turn navigation directions. If you have data access, these solutions are better than a dedicated GPS device in many ways. You get a more user-friendly interface, up-to-date search results from the web, links to open websites in your browsers, and real-time traffic data. Some services will even route you around bad traffic on the fly.

On Android, use the Google Maps app to search for directions to your destination. Tap the Start navigation button and you’ll be taken to a GPS navigation-style experience with spoken, turn-by-turn directions.

On an iPhone or iPad, you can also install the Google Maps app and use it in a similar way. You can also use the Apple Maps app included with your device. Tap Directions in Apple Maps to get directions to a location, tap the Route option to view the route, and tap Start. Apple Maps will display turn-by-turn directions.

Windows Phone users can use Nokia’s HERE Maps to get turn-by-turn directions in a similar way.

Offline Turn-By-Turn Navigation

This all works great if you’re paying for mobile data, but you can use your device as a GPS navigation solution even if you don’t have mobile data access.

Dedicated GPS devices include a GPS receiver and an offline map database they can use to display your location, provide directions, and allow you to search for locations. Your modern smartphone or tablet also has a GPS chip so it can determine its location offline — all you need is an app that will provide offline map data and navigation directions.

Google Maps allows you to download map data and view it offline. To do so, zoom to the area you want to cache in Google Maps and type “OK maps” into the search box. You can then open Google Maps and see where you are on the map — the map will work fine even when you’re offline. Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn’t provide a way to get navigation directions offline. You can search for navigation directions before you leave Wi-Fi and continue using the cached navigation directions to get to your destination, but that’s it.

If you’re looking for a free offline GPS navigation app for Android , try Osmand or Navfree. If you’d like something more full-featured and polished, you may want to buy a paid app likeSygic or one of the many other offline navigation apps in Google Play. Sure, they cost money — but they’re cheaper than buying a dedicated GPS device and having to pay for map updates.

On iPhone or iPad, you can use Google Maps to save offline map data in the same way, but it still won’t provide offline navigation. Apple Maps doesn’t provide offline navigation instructions, either. You’ll find a variety of offline navigation apps in the app store, like the paid Sygic and CoPilot GPS.

On Windows Phone, Nokia’s HERE Maps allows you to cache maps for offline use and even get navigation directions offline.

Note that you can’t use an iPod Touch as an offline GPS device. Apple’s iPod Touch doesn’t include GPS hardware, so it can’t use GPS to figure out where it is.

The mobile spy in your pocket

A big chunk of the big data trend is about collecting and processing information to predict what you want to buy at any given moment. No wonder, because the incentive is huge.

Global spending on Internet advertising topped $100 billion last year. Big data processing to create rich user profiles — based on cookies, clickstreams, keywords in social media content, and so on — can go a long way toward delivering more targeted and effective advertising.

Mobile devices are raising this guessing game to a new level, because GPS enables them to know exactly where you are at any given time. In the past, I’ve mainly thought of mobile location-awareness as an opportunity for, say, brick-and-mortar stores to deliver a special 20 percent off coupon when you’re just around the corner. That idea has been around for 15 years.

But there’s a deeper user profiling aspect to this: You are where you go.

The notion that mobile location is not merely transient, but persistent data embedded in your user profile comes courtesy of a recent conversation with Gil Elbaz, CEO of Factual — an Andreessen Horowitz startup that calls itself the “king of location data,” with high-quality information on more than 65 million places around the world. The company’s Geopulse Audience product analyzes “the geo-behavior of mobile users to generate rich user profiles to help you understand your users.”

Elbaz notes that, under most circumstances, this information is not personally identifiable. But when you start to think about the explosion in wearables as well, the depth of the information that can be collected is mind-boggling.

For example, on Saturdays, I like to take long bicycle rides. From my iPhone’s GPS it’s pretty clear I’m too slow to be riding in a car and too fast to be on foot, so I must be on a bike. If an advertiser cared, it could determine by my speed what kind of rider I am (slow), mash that up with my age and income, and predict exactly the sort of equipment I’d be most likely to buy.

In digital marketing circles, the operative phrase is “location is the new cookie.” Just think for a minute how many apps on your smartphone ask for your location in addition to whatever mapping service you use — not just Foursquare and Uber, but virtually every social networking app. Once you opt in, that app is free to collect location data and, depending on the terms of service, potentially provide it to marketers or other third parties.

The dark side of this is all too obvious, beginning with the NSA backdoors that might provide access to such information. (If you’re in a paranoid mood, check out the cool new ACLU videoabout how law enforcement might use location data; it’s about cell location, but same idea.) Government snooping aside, how about insurance companies? It’s easy enough to determine if you’re in a car that’s breaking the speed limit — and boom, your rates go up. And your health-monitoring watch? I’m not sure I want Cigna to know my heart rate when I’m climbing a hill on my bike.

On the other hand, the flood of telemetry we can expect from wearables, smart appliances, and all kinds of clever gizmos not yet invented is going to make technology a magnitude more useful. The Internet of things is the next wave. Coupled with big data processing, it will inevitably make any discussion of privacy — which, after all, former Sun CEO Scott McNealy declared dead in 1999 — seem quaint.

McNealy, by the way, was right: He meant that credit card companies and old-school credit agencies like Equifax or Experian already have a huge amount of information about you. I’m just not quite ready to let go of every last detail about my personal life, including a complete history of where I go. Are you?