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Sep 15 2011

A Tool for Georeferencing Field Photos

Bridge Site Visit in Nevada

One piece of software in our toolbox that gets utilized nearly every time an engineer in our office heads into the field, is GPS-Photo Link. What does this software do that makes it so special? Essentially, it can take your time referenced digital photos (from any camera) and synchronize them with a field GPS tracklog of virtually any kind. The latest version (5.0) is the most user-friendly evolution of the software to date.

GPS-Photo Link Photo Importing

GPS-Photo Link will walk you through the entire process of importing your photos from the field and pulling in your track log. There is just one item that it needs: either the camera already time synched with the GPS unit, or a picture of the time on the GPS unit. If you take a picture of the time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done while in the field, you just need to know the difference. GPS-Photo Link will then use that to geotag your photos. Once your photos are geotagged, you then can input attribute data for each photo, in bulk or one photo at a time. You can also edit and rotate your photos. If your GPS handheld has an accurate compass, you can include the directional data as well for each photograph.

GPS-Photo Link Output Options

Finally, your output options are numerous: ArcGIS (see below) shapefile or geodatabase, Google Earth, or simple web pages or PDFs. You can customize the size of the icons and also add watermarks to each photo (which could include the title, date, lat/long and so forth). For ArcGIS, there is a free extension that enables you to view the thumbnails and open the photos directly from within the program.

Viewing a Thumbnail in ArcGIS

There are a lot of options out there now for getting georeferenced field photos, from cameras with GPS to handheld GPS units with cameras, so why go through the trouble of taking a track log and using GPS-Photo Link to synchronize and geotag? The reason is that with GPS-Photo Link, an engineer or scientist or surveyor heading into the field can simply use whatever tools they’re comfortable with. I may take a Trimble GeoXH handheld but a coworker may just want to take a Garmin Rhino. Either way, we can get a tracklog and easily georeference our photos. Upgrade your camera or GPS unit and the software package will still be just as effective. A GPS camera like a Ricoh or a GPS handheld with a camera like the new Geoexplorer 6000s are very slick tools, but how much more will you have to pay and how many of those tools will you be able to purchase?  GPS-Photo Link lets you use the tools you have for a concurrent license (internet based) for around $300! We genuinely could not live without this software in our office. It’s definitely worth your look!

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