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Working with Geo-Tagged Photos in iPhoto and Preview

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Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Peachpit Learning Series author John Tollett explains how to add and use location information (geo-tags), mapping your photos to show where they were taken.
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Geo-tagging adds GPS location data to a photo. Software that can recognize this data can show you a map of the location where the photo was taken. After you return from traveling or hiking, for example, this location data can tell you where you were when you snapped a specific photo. If you've never geo-tagged your photos, you're missing out on some fun, interesting, and even useful stuff.

Both iPhoto and Preview can use geo-tags to show a photo's location on a map, although the accuracy of the geo-tagged map location can vary depending on your location and whether you're shooting indoors or outside. Most of my outdoor shots are accurate to within 10 or 20 feet. (Not bad—usually I'm happy just to know what city I was in.)

Even if your camera doesn't have built-in GPS and automatic geo-tagging, you can add location information to any picture that you add to iPhoto. This article shows you how.

Using Geo-Tag Info in iPhoto

To see where a photo stored in iPhoto was taken, follow these steps:

  1. With the photo displayed in iPhoto, click the Info icon (a small circle containing a lowercase i) that appears when you hover the mouse pointer over the lower-right corner of the photo, as shown in Figure 1.
  2. The photo "flips over" (see Figure 2) to show the info on the back side of the image. If the photo contains location information, it's automatically displayed here, including the date and time when the photo was taken.

    Figure 1 To show a location map on the flip side of a photo, click the Info button that appears when you hover your mouse pointer over the lower-right corner of the photo.

    Figure 2 The flip side of the photo is where you find (or add) location information.

  3. Click the location name field (marked as "photo place"), and then type a location name. A pop-up menu shows a list of location names based on the you name you type. If one of the names in the list is appropriate, choose it. Otherwise, just finish typing the place information. If the red pushpin location needs adjusting, click the "Find on map" item that pops up when you click the "photo place" field. A large sheet drops down that shows a map with the location marked by a yellow pushpin in a blue circle to indicate the exact spot (see Figure 3). If the location is inaccurate, drag the pushpin to reposition it. To refine a region (the circled area), drag the circle's double-arrow handles to make the circle larger or smaller.

Figure 3 When you choose "Find on map," this sheet drops down to show the photo's location; drag the pushpin to adjust its location. The sidebar includes a search field and a list of locations.

Adding Locations to the Map

You can add and name new locations on the map. To add a new location pushpin, click the Drop Pin button in the lower-left corner of the window; then drag the pushpin to a location you want to add. iPhoto will automatically try to find and assign the correct name for the new location. To modify the assigned name, click the name of the highlighted item in the list, and then type the new name. Press Enter (or Return) on your keyboard to accept your changes.

Manual Geo-Tagging

Most of your photos are probably shot with a camera that's not capable of geo-tagging. That's not a problem, because you can manually geo-tag any photo in iPhoto. Follow these steps:

  1. Select a photo in iPhoto.
  2. Hover the mouse pointer over the lower-right corner of the photo and click the Info icon (the circled letter i). iPhoto opens a window with a generic map of the world (see Figure 4).
  3. Figure 4 If no location information is built into the photo, type a location name and then click "Find on map."

  4. Click "photo place," type the name of the general location, and then click "Find on map."
  5. iPhoto tries to find the location for you, and it's often surprisingly accurate. If only one location is found, and it's a little bit off, drag the pushpin to reposition it correctly. If several possible locations are found, as shown in Figure 5, iPhoto lists them for you in the sidebar. Click the one that's accurate to show it on the map, and then click the "Assign to photo" button in the lower-right corner of the window.
  6. If iPhoto failed to find the location for you, drag the map to reposition it and find the right location; click the Drop Pin button when the general location is shown. Drag the pushpin as needed to refine the location, and then click "Assign to photo."

Figure 5 Some location names that you enter will bring up a list of possible matches. Choose the one that best matches your photo, and then click "Assign to photo."

Copying Geo-Tags from One Photo to Another

To copy the geo-tag information from one photo to another or to multiple photos, follow these steps:

  1. In iPhoto, select the photo that has the geo-tag you want to share.
  2. Hover the mouse pointer over the photo and click the Info icon in the lower-right corner. The photo "flips over" to show the location information.
  3. Control-click (or right-click) the location name. From the pop-up menu, choose Copy (see Figure 6).
  4. Figure 6 To copy location information from another photo, Control-click the "show location" field, and then choose Copy.

  5. Select another photo that you want to geo-tag with the same location. Click the Info icon to flip this photo.
  6. Control-click in the empty location field. From the pop-up menu, choose Paste. iPhoto displays the pasted location name with a blue highlight, as shown in Figure 7. Click this name to set it and show it in the map window.
  7. Figure 7 This photo will now show the Granada, Nicaragua location that was pasted in the "show location" field.

  8. Click the Done button in the lower-right corner of the window.
  9. Repeat the same steps for each photo.

Showing Locations in Places View

In the iPhoto sidebar are four categories of different ways to view your photos: Events, Photos, Faces, and Places. To see the locations of all geo-tagged photos, click the Places category to show a world map (see Figure 8). Pushpins appear on the map where geo-tagged photos were taken. Click a pushpin to show photos tagged with that location information.

Figure 8 Select Places in the sidebar to show a navigable world map of all your location tags.

The Places view also provides some other useful tools in the toolbar below the map:

  • Two View buttons let you choose a map view or show the geo-tagged photos that are on the map.
  • The Zoom All button resizes the map to show all geo-tagged locations.
  • The Show Photos button shows all photos that are in the current map view.
  • The Smart Album button creates a Smart Album that includes existing (and future) photos tagged with the current map view location information.
  • Use the three tabs beneath the right side of the map to switch the map between Terrain, Satellite, and Hybrid views.
  • To enlarge or reduce the map, drag the resize slider in the lower-right corner of the window.

To display a specific photo location in Places view, select the photo, hover the mouse pointer over the photo, and click the Info icon. The photo "flips over" to show a map with a location pushpin, as shown in Figure 9. Click Show in Places in the lower-left corner, below the map. The Places map opens to show this location, along with all the other geo-tagged locations.

Figure 9 When viewing map-location information, drag within the map to scroll around it. You can also click the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons to zoom in and out, and click Terrain, Satellite, or Hybrid to choose a map style. Use the arrow button in the bottom-right corner to move to the previous or next photo.

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