GeoTagging Photos using Strava/ All Trails/ GPS and GeoSetter

We all know that mapping out our observations using the iNaturalist map can be tedious when uploading a large number of observations. Last spring, I purchased a Canon 90D so that I could sync the Latitude, Longitude, and Elevation of my phone with my observations (Connected through Bluetooth/Wifi). It worked well for some of my hikes and saved hours of manually locating where I was while taking photos.

Recently, I have had issues using the Canon Connect App and my Canon 90D Camera while out in the field. I have found that if I am using other apps such as eBird, reading emails, or even opening Instagram (@Citizenblitz) that the Canon app Bluetooth connection is lost and requires a few seconds to reconnect. In some cases it does not even reconnect meaning that I might be taking photos with no location associated with them. Besides the issues of connection, using Bluetooth is compromising the battery power of both my phone and camera (~25% reduction in camera and 25-50% in Galaxy S9). I've also been more interested in learning more about my outdoor activities (like birding) as a form of "fitness". So! I have been recording my walks using apps such as Strava and All Trails.

Strava and All Trails are interesting because they record a route or "track" that includes information about speed, elevation gain, and distance travelled. Tracks can be downloaded using the app websites. eBird has a tracking feature that can be set when you begin a Checklist, however, as far as I can see there is no way to download your personal track. Currently, this feature does not exist within iNaturalist.

I decided that if I were going to attempt to make 1000 observations during the upcoming City Nature Challenge I would need to experiment with geotagging my images using these fitness apps. It would also allow me to note where I was and the effort (distance and time) while attempting to blitz the entire city.

There are multiple applications both free and paid that allow for geotagging images. One of the easiest to use is Lightroom Classic in Adobe Creative Cloud. It's simple and you can also edit your images while in the app. The problem is that it's a subscription service and other iNaturalist users may not have the means or desire to pay for it!

Most recently, I have been exploring a free software called GeoSetter and have found it to be super easy to use for geotagging hundreds of photos in a couple minutes. The latitude, longitude, and elevation are all saved to the metadata of the images without compromising the image quality, size, or image locations on your computer.

If you are wondering how all of this works, it's quite simple:
1) Sync the time of your phone with the time settings on your camera.
2) Get outside and use an app (such as Strava, All Trails, etc.) or a handheld GPS device that can create a track. Make sure to begin recording the track before you start taking photos and to stop your recording when you are all done. Any activity including walking, running, biking, driving, canoeing, etc. can be used.
3) When you get home you can visit the app website and download the track in the form of a .GPX file.
4) Using Lightroom or GeoSetter you can instantly sync the time stamp of your photo with the times recorded in the .GPX track file. The locations recorded in the apps have a timestamp that can then be synced to the timestamp of your photo.

After conducting a few tests the past couple weeks this seems to be a great alternative to using the built-in iNaturalist geo-locator when doing a batch upload.

Benefits for geotagging images before uploading to iNaturalist

  • You do not need to have a modern camera with Bluetooth/WIFI capabilities.
  • More Accurate locations for your observations (NOTE: remember the location will be associated where YOU were and NOT necessarily the organism was).
  • Time is saved batch geotagging before you enter lots of observations into iNaturalist. All you will need to do is combine your images, add the species, and flag any that may be "Captive/Cultivated".
  • You'll have some fitness stats on your activity unavailable in apps like iNaturalist or eBird. These stats can be used as reference for travelling checklists in eBird (distance and time (effort)). Carrying a pen and paper will keep your eyes on the birds rather than your phone ;).
  • You will save battery power! Both on your phone and on your camera.
  • Strava and All Trails do not appear to interfere with other apps in use on your phone.
  • The apps are free compared to a GPS attachment for your camera allowing you to keep the money in your pocket and weight down on your camera.

    If you are interested in trying this out, Here is a link to a document I made that walks you through the entire process of using Strava and All Trails to track your outings, obtain the .GPX track file, and geotagging your images before uploading to iNaturalist

    I am working on a YouTube tutorial for this process and hope to have it done next week!

    Please share any comments or questions you may have.



Posted by wowokayyes wowokayyes, April 24, 2021 05:18 PM


Great advice! I have the same problem with by WiFi connected Canon camera.

Posted by mathis3 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Thank you for posting this suggestion, I frequently have issues with the GPS locations in my (older and probably less functional) camera and this looks like it could be a very helpful solution. I'm looking forward to trying it out!

Posted by msnewel almost 2 years ago (Flag)

@mathis3 and @msnewel I can assure you this is WAY faster than any other resource I have found. I also like that it provides stats on your distance, elevation, and time while out exploring...because aren't we all just trying to be outside and healthy to begin with? :)

Posted by wowokayyes almost 2 years ago (Flag)

I've been using GeoSetter for years to edit the meta-data on my photos. For various reasons, photo locations are often incorrect, confusing, or missing. GeoSetter is a quick and effective way fix problem locations and add additional information such as camera orientation.

GeoSetter also works seamlessly with GoogleEarth, and it's invaluable for adding meta-data to historic images.
I have to admit I seldom need this service when posting images to iNaturalist with a smart phone. It only takes a few seconds to add or correct locations with the app.

Posted by tonyblake over 1 year ago (Flag)

@tonyblake Yes! You're right that the app works great with a smartphone. It's not possible to do a batch upload from the app but a person can plug their phone in and upload all the observations that they made with their phone. In the case of the City Nature Challenge and a personal goal to make 1000 observations, using the phone app can only compliment using a DSLR.

Posted by wowokayyes over 1 year ago (Flag)

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